By Jim McGee
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”
— Acts 2:46-47
Many denominations and faith traditions celebrate a “Love Feast.” You may call it a pitch-in, carry-in, potluck, community meal or simply, lunch, but it is more than just a meal. The purpose is to “break bread” together to celebrate God’s love. While some denominations only celebrate Love Feasts on certain holy days according to their church calendar, early Christians, as in the passage from Acts above, celebrated every day (or at least every day that they participated in community worship).
Last fall the Holy Spirit allowed me to see what makes our meals together as a community of faith a wonderful tradition.
On fifth Sundays, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, we have lunch in the fellowship hall after our worship service. It is always a great time with great food.
On this particular Sunday the service seemed flat and the preaching uninspiring. Unfortunately, I was the preacher and had planned the service. I thought to myself as I walked into the fellowship hall, God, I don’t know what you wanted revealed today, but I failed you pretty well. God, however, decided to rely upon his Spirit, rather than me.
In the fellowship hall, seated at the far end of one table, was a young mother. Next to her was her baby in a carrier. A middle-aged man brought the mother a plate of food. He sat down next to the baby and began to play peek-a-boo with the child so that the mother might have a brief respite and be able to enjoy her food.
Further along the tables, which were set up in the shape of a “U,” was a teenage girl giggling with her friends. Their conversation was of an ease that one can only share with people you can truly trust. It was non-stop chatter between bites of fried chicken and sips of Carolina sweet tea.
Milling around and under the tables were a host of small children listening solemnly to an admonition from a grandparent, then boisterously banging and bouncing off to hug an unsuspecting adult. A six-year-old shared the meaning of life with another adult, an amalgam of SpongeBob, Sunday school theology and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Finally, in the far corner, a group of people hovered over and around a greatly loved member of the church. His wife and granddaughter seated by his side, people listened to him share about his latest cancer surgery and treatment. As he spoke people would quietly reach out and touch him or simply hug him. All had their eyes filled with tears, fearing that this might be the last dinner with him. Suddenly he shifted from what he was saying and started to tell one of his famous jokes, famous for always being terribly bad. The group roared in laughter and suddenly it seemed all was right with the world. One person leaned over after the laughter and laid their hand on him and began to pray for him softly, others gathered near did the same.
As I surveyed all of this, I recalled the words from 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Those moments in the fellowship hall celebrated the communion of the saints as they shared, cared and prayed for each other. The tables were made just as sacred as the table Christ shared with his disciples — sacred by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Love Feast is more than just a meal; it is for everyone who finds God in the moments and experiences of shared food and love.
Jim McGee graduated from The Salvation Army’s Evangeline Booth College in 1987. He has been married to Donna for 25 years. They have three boys, a daughter-in-law and a black Labrador Retriever named Tuba. He is currently a major in The Salvation Army living in Snellville, Georgia.