6058638_sIt’s confession time again. I didn’t go to any worship service on Sunday May 27th, 2012. No, I wasn’t sick and neither did I participate in a Saturday evening service the night before. It was quite last-minute. I had to bless a restaurant. Here’s the plug. The restaurant was:

My Elephant +
22, Jalan PJU 1/43,
Aman Suria Damansara,
Petaling Jaya 47301
(For more information please call 010-2201283 / 03-62010649)

Ok, the confessions continue. One of the owners is an old friend. The chief chef is my brother-in-law and he is ably aided by my sister. Thank God for Firefly (airline) that flies me straight to Subang from Singapore. The weekend was hectic. But we were in time to bless the premise and the crew before they served their first meal. Bernice and I were delighted to be part of this. Of course some of the people involved were very dear to us. But we feel that it is just so right that Christians should be involved in the restaurant business.

Imagine how healing it is to go to a restaurant for dinner after a hard day’s work, to encounter friendly waiters who are genuinely concerned for your welfare, to feast on great tasting food creatively prepared at fair prices, in a place with an inviting and relaxing ambience. You can go alone and enjoy the solitude or you can spend the evening with a few old friends. I had no qualms blessing the restaurant, calling for God to bless “My Elephant +” and all involved because I desired the restaurant to be a blessing to all her customers. I also hoped that people would get a glimpse of the divine as they feasted on good Thai food.

Have you noticed how often people encountered God over a meal? Remember the two disciples on the Emmaus road?

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:30-32 NIV)

And here is Jesus’s invitation to the troubled church at Laodicea:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20 NIV)

In fact Jesus had a reputation for being a glutton (Matthew 11:19). This passage from Mark may give us some understanding as to why:

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17 NIV)

Jesus ate with folks because He wanted to relate to them. And somehow something as universal as our need for food is a powerful metaphor for our need for God. Here is God’s invitation through the prophet Isaiah:

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
(Isaiah 55: 1-3a NIV)

I am not suggesting that we train the waiters of My Elephant + to whip out the Four Spiritual Laws with the Tom Yum. I am hoping that when customers encounter “friendly waiters who are genuinely concerned for (their) welfare, (and) feast on great tasting food creatively prepared at fair prices, in a place with an inviting and relaxing ambience …” they will know something of a God who loves them.

Followers of Jesus Christ however will find that meals are excellent places to present the gospel and, when the moment is right, to invite friends to feast on God’s grace and become followers of Jesus too. I will always remember leading a friend to Christ over fish head curry at a place called Jaws on Gurney Drive, Penang. Jaws has since closed but my friend continues to be an enthusiastic follower of Jesus. (Maybe folks who have led someone to the Lord over a meal can write in with their stories.)

And so I am glad to hear when friends and family start up restaurants. I hope they will do well. I hope that all who eat at their establishments will experience grace and get a glimpse of God and His love. And I hope that there will be divine moments when some will respond to God’s invitation to His personal table. And so, yes, I was not part of a worship service on May 27, 2012. I was blessing a restaurant. But somehow I think the Lord understood.