IVP - Strangely Dim - The Lost Art of Dining Together

March 4, 2005

The Lost Art of Dining Together

by David A. Zimmerman

More than anything, my memories of Lent involve McDonald's Filet of Fish sandwiches. My parents weren't enamored with the idea of replacing a meal time at a table together with empty calories eaten out of a bag. But back in the day, fast food was a luxury for kids, and Fridays during Lent were meatless for us, and McDonald's was selling fish sandwiches for cheap.

For all I know we only did this once, but it dominates my reflections on Lent. We stood in line amid the bright colors and hustle and bustle, and two minutes later we had freshly fried fishstuff and Shamrock Shakes. You don't get memories like that everyday--Filet of Fish sandwiches really only sell during Lent. I liked them with cheese.

Meals are not typically events in the classic sense. Each day we are given our daily bread, and something so routine and so foundational to our survival as food and drink cannot be thought of as special in and of itself. The idea of ingesting food in between events--so loathsome to my parents when I was a child--is now a matter of course. More often than we might care to think about, we eat out of individual bags in bucket seats, at best facing the backs of our loved ones' heads.

But a meal together is something special; it might even be considered a lost art. On the night he was betrayed Jesus brought together his disciples for a meal not unlike the meals they'd have from day to day, except that this meal was an event--the remembrance of the Passover meal that marked Israel's exodus out of Egypt. Sharing that meal that night was a reminder that beyond our mere sustenance, God provides for our deliverance.

In retrospect we know that this particular Passover meal was a profoundly more significant event than even that ancient one: the bread that was broken at this table, the wine that was poured out, would mark the deliverance of all God's people from the burden of sin and the prison of death. Emmanuel--God with us--read his own epitaph at the Last Supper, and he did so over a meal with the people he loved.

I haven't had a Filet o' Fish sandwich this year. This year my Lenten observance involves preparing to play Matthew the disciple of Jesus at my church during Holy Week. The setting is a table, all of us disciples eating together with our teacher, like we would have every day. But what I'm learning is that a meal taken in communion with God, however routine that meal becomes, is never less than an event to be celebrated.


I continue to meet wildly interesting people by virtue of having written a book. Most recently Aaron Uglum posted a comment to Strangely Dim, and I read his very clever online comic, "The Flying Banner," about a duck with the uncanny ability to fly. Check it out.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at March 4, 2005 8:24 AM Bookmark and Share


Thanks for the post. I'm glad to see you have a khaki version of the "Amerika is devouring its children" t-shirt. Should sell well in the suburbs. I'm not clear on how buying this t-shirt is going to stop the killing, however. Care to elaborate?

Comment by: dave at March 8, 2005 8:57 AM


Comment by: jenna at March 21, 2005 4:33 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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