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Chester: A Meal with Jesus, Review

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A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission around the Table, by Tim Chester, is the latest book on theology and food, that I have been dipping into recently. Content-wise I place it between the Karris book on Luke and Willis-Clements book on hospitality.

Chester book cover
The cover photo of A Meal With Jesus by TIm Chester

Chester: Meals as an Enacted Theology

After an introduction entitled: The Son of Man Came Eating and Drinking, Chester breaks the book into six chapters. Each of these chapters deals with meals as enacting some aspect of Gods relationship with humans. The six aspects are: Grace, Community, Hope, Mission, Salvation, and Promise.

In that introduction he focuses on three phrases involving the Son of Man. From the Gospel of Mark: The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, but and to give his life a ransom for many {Mark 10:45}. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost {Luke 19:10}. The Son of Man came Eating and Drinking {Luke 7:34}.

For each of these six aspects, he ties in one chapter of the Gospel of Luke.  Chester tends to delve a little deeper than Karris into each of the major passages in the gospel. That is one of the strengths of the book. 

Two subheadings in Chapter 2 stand out: The first is Jesus Welcomes Sinners. The second is Sinners Welcome Jesus. We may claim a welcoming attitude as a Christian Community. However, do our lives as Christians make us welcome in the everyday world when we enter into the lives of people outside our building walls?

In chapter four, where he writes about Chester covers many of the areas that are talking about by Willis and Clements. However, the stories he relates show a broader understanding of hospitality. This is particularly true as it relates to connecting with people we would relate to as other than ourselves.

Another thing I really appreciate in he book is that Chester takes time, in chapter 5, to identify the ways in which we misuse meals and food. This is section is not about the foods we eat. Although he does write about that in chapter 3. Rather it is about the ways in which we make m eals about ourselves at the expense of others. 

Chapter 5 also deals with the role of the Eucharist in our eating. I really appreciate his emphasis on moving the Eucharist from a taste of bread and a sip of wine, to placing it into the context of a broader meal.

One aspect of this I really like is that it locates all our eating within the context of the Eucharist. In doing so, the meals that we would eat at home would have a more Eucharistic focus. 

Throughout the book Chester refers to the heavenly banquet that we are anticipating, In chapter 6 he returns to this theme, and how we are living in the time between Good Friday and Easter. How our meals look backwards and forwards at the same time, while reminding us that we are in the present, which is neither/both.

Chester also does a good job here, of putting his readers in the place of the disciples on the Emmaus Road. They are are still in the shadow the cross and the tomb. They have heard that Jesus is no longer in the grave, but not that Jesus is risen. This is where we often find ourselves as we live out the Gospel in the world. 

It is only after Christ breaks the bread at the table, they realize that Jesus has risen. It is at the table that the risen Christ is revealed 

I would definitely recommend this book for inclusion in any church library. 

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By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.