The “All Church Fellowship” was the one announcement at church I looked forward to when I was a young single guy. The invitation typically went something like this: “Come enjoy a potluck lunch. Please bring an item to share. It will be a great time of food and fellowship. You won’t want to miss it!”
I really did not want to miss the food part. When you are lacking in culinary skills, these words are like music to your ears. You didn’t know what was going to be spread out on the buffet tables but you could imagine: A pot roast would be sitting next to some tamales. Fresh, fluffy dinner rolls would be next to a loaf of Mrs. Baird’s bread. A homemade cherry pie would be placed next to a container of store bought cookies.
Then there would always be some “manna.” That would be the dish that no one knew what it was and everyone was afraid to try because they didn’t know what it was. If they asked me I’d just say, “Must be manna.” The inquiring mind would then ask, “Why do you say this is ‘manna.’”
That’s when my Bible degree would pay off. I’d look them in the eyes and say, “Well, when the Israelites in the wilderness saw the frosted flakes on the ground for the first time they called it ‘manna.’ And ‘manna’ means “What is it?” Some older lady in the church would then go home with a smile on her face because she heard we were saying her dish was heavenly.
And then there would always be a large bag of Lay’s potato chips. They would be right in the middle of a table, as conspicuous as a man waiting for his wife in the lingerie department. Everyone would know where they came from. It would be my contribution to the “all church potluck fellowship.”
That was the great thing about the invitation. Everyone was invited. And everyone brought something to share. The scene was a modern day parable of the first Christians.
In their early meetings you might see another potluck. But this one is comprised of people. You see a slave. But he isn’t serving anyone. He’s sitting next to his Roman master. You see women and children. You notice a Jewish woman and a Greek man. There are Romans who lived the full Roman lifestyle but are now learning the ways of Jesus. There are Jews who still practice their Jewish ways but have embraced Jesus as their Messiah.
And there is a table spread with food for everyone. Before there were ever church buildings and pulpits and praise teams there were houses and kitchens and tables.
More importantly there was fellowship. The Greek word for “fellowship” is koinonia. It means literally “that which is shared in common.” What we traditionally call “fellowship” involves sharing some time together. But biblical koinonia encompasses more.
Koinonia is first a spiritual sharing. It existed from the beginning as the Father, Son and Spirit shared life together.
Then it is a social sharing. Jesus had koinonia with the Father, but he showed us that it was to be shared through invitation to others. Jesus was always at table with “sinners”: tax collectors, prostitutes, the immoral, the blind, lame, and diseased. Everyone was welcome at his table.
John put it this way: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” If you are a “whoever” you are invited.
And then koinonia is also a financial sharing. John writes that we are not walking in light if we see a brother or sister in need and close our hearts against them. True fellowship means we will use our financial blessings to help others.
You may experience some fellowship around a Thanksgiving table this week. When you do, let it be for you a picture of the church, a place where everyone is invited to the table with Jesus. And everyone has a place to belong. That’s something for which to be thankful.
Question: Who might you invite to the “table”?