“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God.”
- Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
Thanks to The Byrds, most people know what comes just before this little passage from the book of Ecclesiastes; that there is a season for everything that we experience in life. All of our ups and downs, all of our joys and the sorrows, the entirety of the vast landscape that is the human experience…there’s a time for all of it because its part of life.
And then after reflecting on that Truth in such beautiful poetry, the author says that in the face of all of life’s realities there is nothing better for us than to be happy, to eat and drink, to be satisfied and fulfilled. That happiness, that fulfillment, the author says, is a gift of The Spirit – in whatever name or form that resonates with you.
It is a remarkable reflection on the inherent goodness in the very staples of life that we too often take for granted every day: our times of food and fellowship together.
I am intimately aware of the stressful cacophony our lives can become, and one of the victims of that reality is our time of being at table with one another. Too often we either rush through it, or we miss it altogether; at least on a daily basis.
Yet there is a deep connection we have with times of food and fellowship, and it applies to all of us in every time and place throughout history.
Food, in all its forms, has been a central part of the world’s sacred scriptures and practices from our very beginnings. Food has been offered as sacrifice, food has been given as a sacred gift of survival, food is lovingly prepared for celebration, and solemnly shared in times of remembrance.
But above all, food is shared in fellowship. In fellowship with family, friends, and the wider community.
It is only when we share the joy of eating that which has been lovingly prepared with one another that the food takes on new meaning. It becomes part of what connects us in those moments, and when we remember those moments by reliving them and sharing the food again, they become part of our rituals; personal and communal, secular and sacred.
It is a very special thing, the way we can discover one another around the table. At the table, we are renewed and refreshed in every sense. Being in fellowship as we break bread, we are reminded of our deep connection to each other in such moments, and that we have been bound together in such ways for an incredibly long time.
Being at the table is indeed a gift, and a joy, and a source of sustenance, as the author or Ecclesiastes reminds us a few chapters later:
“And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”
- Ecclesiastes 8:15
Eat, drink, be at table in fellowship…and discover joy.