Fear of dining alone – proof we are made for the Gospel?

This weekend my wife traveled out of state with members of her family for a niece’s graduation. I have avoided these graduation trips from the start, and this year I successfully dodged my obligation once again (though not without blame – and a little guilt).

The 48 hours alone were fine except for one thing. I cannot abide eating alone.

Breakfast? No problem.  I’m the early riser in the family, and I am long accustomed to a quick solo breakfast, with a book to read.  The emptiness of a solo lunch or dinner, however, I cannot stand. How do other people stand it? Both of our widower fathers admit to leaving their TV sets on at meals – to fill the air with human conversation during their lonely repasts.  For me it always comes down to a book or a good magazine – at one solo meal this weekend I tried music. Not bad.

But the fact that I have access to distractions does not change the fact that without them I feel very raggedly disconnected with my higher self when dining alone.  Eating is an act I find to be a very desolate, very mechanical, almost senseless affair – almost like a force-feeding – when I do it unaccompanied by another human being.

Not to prolong this – I think there is something interesting lying at the root of this feeling of desolation I get when dining alone. I can feel in my angst a primal anthropological fact about our humanity and about the interesting rites which surround our human institutions of table fellowship.

Less feasible – but no less interesting – is the possibility that the Son, in his varied table ministry (i.e. both before and after the Passion meal), consciously utilized the power latent in the feast of fellowship to convey to us the communal bedrock of his good news of forgiveness and fellowship with God.  If Jesus was himself cognizant of the anthropological fact, it makes sense that he decided to spend so much time eating and drinking with sinners while on mission. As I suggested in a previous post, maybe that was the mission.

Preface to a theological turn

With the blog little over 60 days old I am pleased to have two good pans in the fire, with the series on the Priority of Mark and on John’s historical value for the trials of Jesus .  Meanwhile my earlier topics – the pre-Calvary Gospel, Das Messiasgeheimnis, the indwelling Kingdom, and Jesus’ refusal to be a Text – are simmering on the back burners, and will get more bandwidth soon.

However, I haven’t featured any Peter or Paul, or any Old Testament, and virtually no theology.  So I want to inaugurate my ‘theology’ category, and I believe I have a topic that will lead to a sustained series of posts, both from personal interest and because it is related to so many points of Christian reflection and doctrine in its own right.

So when I can get my ducks in a nice row, I will be looking at the whole NT tradition of Jesus’ prevalent and varied table ministry.  My aim is to unite the theological content inherent in ‘the Lord’s Supper’ with all those many examples of  Jesus’ table fellowship we find before (and after) the Passion meal.  I want to see how far a single theme – God’s unabashed presence and free communion with sinners at table  – may be understood to unify such diverse theological concepts as atonement, forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, Eucharist, communion, Christian love, inclusion, prayer, approach to God, and fellowship with God.

In honor of this theological turn, I have established a new banner atop the blog, from Paolo Veronese’s celebrated “Feast at the House of Levi” (Lk 5:27-32/Mk2:14-17).  I look for this really remarkable painting to set a tone that is at once both in this world and not of this world.