Posted by: Catherine Weston | June 28, 2011

A meal with friends

One night in April we sat around a circular table laid for an elaborate feast.  The restaurant’s dining hall was set in courtyard gardens, formerly part of a Qing dynasty palace complex in Beijing. To describe our attendants as waitresses doesn’t do them justice.  They were gracious hostesses dressed in elaborate costume of the historic imperial court. Following an exquisite imperial era meal, accompanied by a Beijing Opera floorshow, one of the hostesses escorted us through the gardens. Whenever we passed another host or hostess on the way he or she would bow towards us and say a few words of greeting, to which our attendant responded with a gracious dip at the knees.  (This took some doing given her long robe and platform slippers.) Truly we were made to feel like royalty!

Our trip to visit David in China entailed a great number of meals out eaten with friends. The following day we moved from the imperial court to a restaurant themed around Mao era peasant food (also delicious).  On another occasion we sampled Peking Duck, with the chef carving the bird in front of us. The Chinese place a high value on food and shared meals and know how to look after their friends!

It was our experience at the Qing era restaurant that got me thinking again about The Feast that is still to come – now surely that will be a royal feast to beat any earthly imperial court, no matter how splendid! Sharing meals with our friends in China and with many guests in our home since our return also reminds me about how we can use meals for the Kingdom of God. Thanks to our new house, sitting around our dining table has provided us with plenty of opportunities to share life’s joys and struggles with church home group, international students, lodgers and other guests as well as, most recently, a bride-to-be about to enter a cross-cultural marriage!

I have just finished reading Tim Chester’s new book, entitled A Meal with Jesus: discovering Grace, Community and Mission around the Table. The book unpacks the saying found in Luke 7 v 34, which reads, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking”. The author shows how meals were integral to Jesus’ ministry and how they could be to ours.  See if you can count the number of stories Luke relates about meals Jesus ate with different people.  Or you could buy Tim Chester’s book.  It’s well worth it!

Dining Hall

Set for an imperial feast

Costume of Imperial concubines, Qing dynasty


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