Setting the Table – Intro

image     Did you know that part of the Jewish Passover celebration involves setting a place for the prophet Elijah at the Seder table? An extra chair is put at the table, the door is opened, a place setting is fixed, an extra glass of wine is poured, in the hope that he shows up. The Bible tells us in Malachi 4:5 that Elijah is coming to herald the return of the Messiah. So, just in case, the adults let him know that he is welcome and expected. They pour him a glass, and in some cases the parents drink it when the kids aren’t looking and then show them the empty cup, like any other parent might take a bite from “Santa’s” cookies or leave “reindeer” tracks in the snow at Christmas.

     I am in love with Jewish traditions. They’re beautiful in their simplicity and their longevity. But most of all, I love how they point to our Messiah. My question is this: if our Jewish friends put this much effort into welcoming a mere prophet to their table, what would happen if WE invited Jesus to show up? If the God of the universe has indeed invited us into a personal, close relationship with Him, what if we dared to set a place for Him? What if we opened our doors and invited Him?

     What if our children came to our table every night holding their breath to see if Jesus was going to appear? What if the conversation at the table had Him there, present in their everyday lives? What if they felt that every minute they might hear His footsteps? He might swing open the door? How would their opinion of Him change? How would our actions change?

     The aim of this cooking class/Bible study is to do just that: to set the table for conversations about God and righteous living while you have a captive audience with full mouths! After all, Malachi also explains that the role of the herald Elijah will be to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). So the purpose of Elijah’s return is to make children look to their parents for spiritual wisdom and make parents more concerned with the spiritual well-being of their children. Take advantage of the time when you are completing one of the most mundane tasks associated with basic survival and teach our families that God is present even in these. Teach them the Law of God “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Let’s also teach them God’s law when we create a four-course meal from scratch or when we’re serving Hamburger Helper.

     In each lesson, we’ll make a full meal from scratch. I’ll provide a shopping list (organized by where to find things in the store!), a recipe with pictures, a “tip list” of handy things we learned that day, and most importantly, a very short Bible lesson that relates to what we’re eating. Those of you following along online are welcome to print out the material and use it in any way you find beneficial. Those who attend sessions can ask questions and take photos/video to use when you’re cooking the meals later. Use the verses as talking points with your family as you eat, or write it on an index card to be a blessing for someone you’re providing with meals. Let’s provide a little “soul food” along with some good cooking!

     This idea is not original. There are many times God used food to make a point. From providing a spring for Hagar in the desert, to lifting dietary laws at Pentecost in the book of Acts, God has always been concerned with His children’s physical needs. And He has always used food to make spiritual points: to show His provision and care (1 Kings 17), to demonstrate what our lives should look like (Ephesians 5:9-11), to explain His relationship with us (John 15:1-8). Food, like everything else in our lives, is merely an allegory for how God loves us.

     So let’s use food the same way. First Corinthians tells us that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”(10:31). If we’re doing everything to the glory of God, then everything (even our cooking!) should reflect His gospel and point others toward him. I once had a Sunday School teacher, James Mintz, who said it this way: “the message of the gospel is this: that Christ died for us and rose again to live in us. Everything else is ancillary.” The gospel is simple, plain, and full of love. Let’s make our meals that way, too.