Subversive Meals: An Analysis of the Lord’s Supper under Roman Domination during the First Century

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Subversive Meals

My first awareness of the Lord’s Supper was attending a church event on a Sunday afternoon. No one had cleaned up after morning worship and communion cups were still in their holders. I looked at the small glass, turned to my church-raised friend, and asked, “Do you do shots during church?”

At the moment, that was all I could imagine. If I had only known the origin of that “meal” was far more subversive than that!

Since all meals in the Roman Empire were political as well as social functions, what political function did the Lord’s Supper serve? This book seeks to offer an answer.

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A Man Once Gave a Great Banquet

Al Streett makes a well-researched case for communal meals of the first-century church being Roman-style banquets but anti-Roman at heart. His thesis holds together through many scriptural examples as well as some broad scriptural and historic applications.

One of my favorite chapters was chapter 5 on Jesus’ Lukas Meals. I’m currently preaching through Luke, giving particular focus to the meals that Jesus shares. The chapter was excellent, but I could have used it two weeks ago!

In Luke, meals are occasions when Jesus breaks down ethnic and sectarian boundaries, and calls for a more inclusive table fellowship, one which reflects God’s social vision for his kingdom.

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By the way, chapter 5 makes an excellent companion to Tim Chester’s A Meal with Jesus, one of my favorite reads from this year.

Dinner and Music

I also enjoyed chapter 7, “The Anti-Imperial Nature of Christian Meals.” I especially enjoyed the attention Streett gives to the early Christian hymns we have recorded in Paul’s letters. He provides some much-needed context for hearing those songs as the original audience must have heard them.

To assert that “Jesus is Lord” meant that Caesar was not! This pronouncement was an insult to both Rome and those Jewish elites who conspired with them to put Jesus to death.

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A Lot to Digest

As a book, Subversive Meals is a lot to take in. There were a few spots where I felt I was in over my head. As a supplement, I listened to Streett’s interview on the August 26, 2020 episode of the OnScript podcast. Listening to the one hour interview was a great way to re-center the book in my mind and keep from getting lost in the weeds.

I was left wondering, “what do I do with this information?” Does it inform how I do communion every week, or does it inform how I consider politics and government every day? For me, it was a reminder that if I’m praying, as Jesus taught us, “YOUR kingdom come,” I’m not going to be looking for my hope and salvation in an earthly kingdom.

Election Day, 2020, is less than two months away. I needed to hear that message again.

Christ alone is God’s anointed choice as king. He, not Caesar, is Savior and Lord. Therefore, Caesar is a usurper who does Satan’s bidding. And his days are numbered.

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Subversive Meals–Supersized

Subversive Meals is a juggernaut, weighing in at 342 pages. It is available through Amazon where the hardback will set you back $67.00 and the paperback $39.00. The Kindle version is currently available at $9.99. Somehow I managed to get it for $2.99, so your mileage may vary.