Dr. Nathan LeMahieu
The concept of “companion” undergirds relationships throughout Clapham School. Most obviously, classmates become companions over the course of months and years, walking side by side on their shared educational journey. In a move less common at other schools, Clapham teachers and students also have a companion relationship of sorts. Instead of teachers functioning as talking heads or mere disseminators of information, both teachers and students alike are fellow learners, seated at the feet of great texts and inspirational ideas.
In our chapel series this year, we have the opportunity to mine the etymological and biblical roots of companionship. To share bread is, literally, to be one’s “companion” (Latin com panis), and so, it is fitting for the Bible to repeatedly use feasting and table fellowship as a means of representing and actualizing our relationship to God and to others. It is in the context of a shared meal with three (divine?) strangers-turned-friends that God details his promises to Abraham (Genesis 18). Later, shared meals create the covenantal gulf between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27) and bring into motion deliverance from bondage (Exodus 12; cf. Luke 22). Jesus’ ministry is characterized by his questionable choice of tax collectors and sinners as dining companions (Luke 5). After Easter, his victory over death becomes recognized in the breaking of bread (Luke 24), and the biblical storyline culminates with a great banquet (Revelation 19) begging one simple question: Will you be on the guest list, or will you be on the menu?
Anthropologists and sociologists have repeatedly noted how, across cultures and time periods, meals function as a kind of social grammar. Just as the building blocks of words and grammar ultimately serve as signs, so eating together is a behavior that points beyond itself to deeper realities. Our chapel talks this year will focus on these deeper realities signified by the Bible’s many feasting and table fellowship texts. We hope you will join us on Tuesday mornings as we learn how something as seemingly ordinary and mundane as eating can be used by God and his Word to deepen our relationship with him and with others.