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‘God’s table’ – Andrew Hulley

Mealtimes are a big deal for us as a family. We have a large table – deliberately so. It is a place where, together with our three children, friends, family, members of our church family and previously lodgers but now foster children, many meals have been collectively enjoyed. Our table has been the setting for laughter and tears, stories retold and re-enacted, candles on birthday cakes blown out and both awkward silences and flowing conversations interrupted by over-enthusiastic children talking about the favourite part of their day.

Like an actor filling the stage with their presence, my wife exercises her mastery of hosting in our kitchen diner. Whether someone is a life-long friend or someone we have met for the first time, she lovingly prepares the food and eating environment. When we are together around the table hosting whoever is around it, our guests have all they need and feel welcomed, loved, well fed, listened to and encouraged.

My wife stands shoulder to shoulder with an unmet hero of mine in her ability to host. Nicknamed ‘the apostle of love,’ R.C. Chapman was a church leader whose life straddled the 19th and 20th centuries. He constantly had people staying with him or taking up his invitation to ‘come and eat’ in his home. In an excerpt from the book Agape Leadership by Peterson and Strauch, this is what a young missionary who stayed with Chapman for two months said about him and his home:

I am inspired by these two giants of hospitality, just as David was about God’s invitation to feast and being attended to with the fragrant oil greeting reserved for special guests of honour. Time and again, I am humbled by the lengths God goes to in order for us to know and experience His love.

David’s own intimate relationship with God brought him into the revelatory understanding that – even when times are tough, when it feels as if everything is closing in on you, when the general environment is hostile rather than hospitable – a lavish time of feasting can be experienced. The table God sets before us is the setting for an outpouring of His thoughtfulness and care, of provision and refreshment. The invite is to come and be. The host is the King of Kings. Having prepared the eating environment for us, He communes with us, sharing His life-giving and nurturing Word and presence.

God knows our needs and is attentive to every detail of our lives. But, there are times we need to be reminded of this. Such as moments and seasons in life when various ‘enemies’ spring up. Uninvited into our life, their presence shakes us to our core. Our inner sense of peace dissolves, our stomach churns, the pressure seems unbearable. Whether it is grief, physical, mental or emotional pain, pressure from others, the reality of constant price increases or the many injustices in society, we can find ourselves with enemies squaring up to us. Yet precisely in these moments, God encourages us to have a meal. Receiving the welcome and care reserved for special guests, communing deeply, being refreshed and nourished so we can continue.

My encouragement is simply that we would be both recipients and givers of the lavish hospitality of God. Let’s be intentional in our interactions with each other, and with people in prison. Let’s reveal our true identity and the purpose of God so that His love would be seen and experienced. The supernatural love of God that continually shapes who we are can be the very invite enemy-surrounded people need. It enables them to find the welcome and peace they may never have experienced but so desperately desire.

Andrew Hulley is PF’s Head of Volunteer Engagement.

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