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Reform Magazine | August 18, 2017

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Chapter & Verse: Luke 7:34

Chapter & Verse: Luke 7:34

Jack Dyce enjoys table fellowship

The 1987 film Babette’s Feast, based on a short novel by Karen Blixen, is a visual delight. Babette, a former chef at the renowned Café Anglais in Paris, having taken refuge with two sisters in a small coastal village in Jutland, cooks a fabulous banquet for them and for the pious community to which they belong. Only one diner, a famed general, is able to appreciate the food – recalling a meal he once had in the Café Anglais. For the rest, they anxiously agree to consume the meal, fearful that sensuous sinfulness will enter their fellowship through this food.

The community resists any pleasure that fine dining might offer. A combination of Babette’s generosity and the general’s spiritual awareness slowly breaks down the community mistrust of the experience – and indeed of one another. The meal, the mellowing of the wine, the companionship and the reconciling action of the Spirit all exercise the power to put right old wrongs, reawaken old love, break down barriers and create a new spirit in each and amongst them all. What the eaters had feared would be an opportunity for sin to enter their community brought instead the Spirit of love, reconciliation and renewal into their lives and their living.

The culmination is in the supper as a recapitulation of the Last Supper and an anticipation of the celestial banquet. A Christian viewer will be constantly aware of the symbolism and imagery. If one’s first reaction is to the visual delight, it is likely to become a deep consciousness of the capacity of the physical and the spiritual united in transforming power.

Table fellowship is central to Jesus’ engagement with others. To take the Gospel of Luke alone: Jesus is at the banquet thrown by Levi where he eats with tax collectors and sinners; at Simon the Pharisee’s, while at table, he accepts anointing by a sinner; there is the feeding of the multitude; he receives hospitality from Mary and Martha; he has dinner with a Pharisee and argues about ritual washing; he uses a dinner with Pharisees to speak against wrongheaded status play; he eats with Zacchaeus to the irritation of others; he sits at a table with his disciples on the night of his betrayal, and he shares in the breaking of bread on the Emmaus road. These are occasions of learning and confrontation, of hospitality and hope, of remembering and anticipating, of creating community and a new social order, of redemption and reorientation…

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This is an extract from the July/August 2016 edition of Reform.

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