If I were a seminary President, the first person I’d appoint as professor-pastor- sage would be John Koenig. John Koenig, built like Abe Lincoln, is a rare combination of Episcopal priest, New Testament scholar, anabaptist character, and gentle spirit — not to mention Elisabeth, his gracious wife who is a scholar herself. I have known John for years, but a couple years back we had dinner together and I have become an admirer of his wisdom. And my admiration begins with the observation that he has learned, as few have, to write academic books that can be read by lay folks. And Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation is pure gold. I won’t survey the book in detail, and this is why:
As some of you know, I’m scheduled to speak at Willow Creek’s fall conference on small groups, called Ancient-Future Community. So, I’m catching up on some books about table fellowship, and I just had to begin with my friend’s, John Koenig’s, book. I can’t survey it all because I’m still sorting some of it out.
I’d like to know how significant table fellowship and meal settings (not to omit coffee!) have been to you and are to you and to your faith community. Any significance? And, here’s a big one: what do you think the table can bring to a community that nothing else quite brings? And, what have you learned about what happens at meals — good and bad? What to avoid? What to work at?
Let me simply mention some themes that emerge from “soul banquets” or from our table fellowship:
Fellowship: Mark 2:13-17
Conversation: Luke 15:1-2
Eucharistic shaping: Mark 14:25
Symbolic of kingdom: Matt 8:5-13
Missional: Luke 10:8-9
John’s book is filled with solid biblical teaching and wonderful, wonderful stories from mainline churches where meals and hospitality and table fellowship have been practiced. And I really like John’s long-time emphasis on meals being missional and his clear emphasis on the importance of the Holy Spirit and spiritual giftedness at the meal. (And, not to be neglected, is that John ties all meals to the Lord’s Supper.)
Notice these five themes of meals that John emphasizes:
1. Meals are to be served graciously.
2. Servers are to serve in the Spirit.
3. Settings for meals matter.
4. Meals feature role reversals.
5. Missional elements are long-term projects.