Moderator’s column: We are who we eat with

Someone once said, ‘we are what we eat.’

I am not so sure. Maybe we are who we eat with.

I have shared two meals recently that made me think more deeply about the faith we are called to practice every day. One meal was a breakfast. There were over 100 homeless people present; it  was a fried breakfast, the best kind. It was at Tranby Day Centre, a service provided by UnitingCare West on Aberdeen Street, Perth, just around the corner from the Uniting Church Centre.

It was a Friday summer morning and most of those enjoying the bacon and egg had spent the night out in the park, on a bench or in a shelter if they were lucky. I witnessed an outstanding  ministry that demonstrates in practical ways the care of God and the compassion of Christ. Everyday, God calls us to care about others, especially those who are so easily forgotten or  neglected. One of the traps of living in an affluent and materialistic society is that we can so easily overlook people on the fringes and only eat with people who are like us. Jesus demonstrated a  radical hospitality, dining with all kinds of people.

The second meal took place in Morawa, a small country town about five and half hours north-east of Perth. This time it was lunch. The occasion was a meeting of the Anglican and Uniting Churches in Morawa, Perenjori, Three Springs, Coorow, Carnamah, which includes the North Midlands Shared Ministry. I had never been to Morawa before and it was fascinating to walk  around the town to get a feel for some of the issues that face country people.

Lunch was followed by the induction of the Anglican priest, Rev Jill Gleeson, who will serve both the Anglican and Uniting Churches. This was a very special occasion and I felt very privileged  to share in the service with Bishop Jeremy James; I am encouraged that we as a Uniting Church can work in ecumenical co-operation in our rural and remote regions. We need more of this.

While I waved the Uniting Church’s banner, I was also conscious that in country regions congregations are often communities of Christian people who come from all kinds of churches and  theological persuasions and we need to be as open as we can to other Christians, whatever tribe or denomination they have affiliation to. We are, after all, the body of Christ – deeply connected  to each other.

I wonder who you will eat with this week? Maybe you could think of someone to invite for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even a simple cup of coffee or tea. Somehow, food and drink draws people together, deepens friendships and strengthens relationships.

Jesus spent the last evening of his earthly life sharing a meal and reminding us through bread and wine of the ground breaking, extravagant, life-giving hospitality of God. We can creatively and  prayerfully follow this pattern of Christ.

It is not a case of ‘My Kitchen Rules’, but of the hospitality and kindness of Christ ruling our lives and lifestyles.

Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA

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