Posted by: Postordinandy | March 4, 2010

The parable of the restaurant

We continue to journey through Mark, and the following is a reflection that came out of chapters 3 & 4, where – amongst healing done and mastery over nature displayed – Jesus tells a few of the parables he is so well-known for. [See also here for a helpful video clip!]

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The Kingdom of God is like this:

There was a family of people who knew the ancient God of Israel, and counted His Son as the Messiah. For years they laboured long hours, in all weathers, preparing and running a restaurant where God and his people could meet and eat together.

For a while, this seemed sufficient…

Every week people would make the journey to the restaurant, to sing the community songs; eat the sacred bread and share the blessed wine; tell the stories of God’s great works; ask God to meet their own needs and those of others; and depart in various states of enthusiasm – determined to tell the stories of their God (and live lives that echoed these) in the week ahead. The restaurant did so well, that it was quickly able to expand and build new branches in every major city, town and village in the land. The people came, and life was good.

But, in time, less people came to the restaurant.

To start with, the hosts were mildly concerned, and spent some time talking about redecorating the rooms and reordering the menu – to see if a new branding would encourage those who had stayed away to re-enter the community mealtime. Some of the staff were concerned by the refurbishments – perhaps, they argued, it was the décor that had put people off? The seating? The background music? Accessibility? The Loyalty Card scheme?

An argument quickly broke out about which kind of paintings to display on the walls – or if to have any at all! There was a scuffle between those who wanted the meal to be silent and the various factions who wanted the DJ to play either Vivaldi and/or sigur rós and/or Johnny Cash and/or Gorillaz.

Others, tutting under their breath, made it quite clear that the menu was all-important. Amongst this group differences of opinion also emerged: should a vegetarian option be made available? (it was never like this in the old days…); how about non-alcoholic beverages? Or what about those with allergies? Some stuck to their belief that, if the old menu was good enough…, while others experimented with spices, alternative items and nouvelle cuisine-style presentation. Others still, frustrated by the dogmatic approach of the traditionalists – and patronised by those who ‘fiddled with the edges of the menu’ – argued that there should be no menu at all; that customers should be encouraged to bring their own ingredients and the meal could develop as it went along!

In time, each local restaurant developed its’ own style, usually according to the convictions of the manager and head chef. Often, there were multiple expressions of the restaurant in the same town; mostly they were able to encourage and even help each other in the day-to-day management, but – as so often happens in business – there was always the temptation to aggressively compete with one another. Some managers even suggested that the other restaurants offered substandard food, or that the pictures they so proudly displayed were forgeries.

Meanwhile, no one seemed to notice that less and less people were regularly eating at any one restaurant. A few spent their time at a number of different restaurants; others came only on Birthdays or at Christmas. More and more people, though, simply never ate out any more – some because they had eaten something unpalatable, or that a waiter had been rude to them; others simply got out of the habit of eating in public; still others made no concious decision to avoid the restaurants, they just never thought about eating in one.

God still ate with those who came to the restaurants – managing to cope with the ever-increasing variety of choice, and humouring those who considered their own restaurant to be the ‘best model’. But – unknown to many of the restaurant managers – God was increasingly to be found sharing packed-lunch and giggling with school children in the playground; having a mug of tea and a chat with workers on the building site; brushing the sandwich and crisp crumbs off the computers with office workers; supping soup and relaxing with the homeless; and sucking on boiled sweets and swapping stories with pensioners in the bus queue.

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Responses

  1. One might also argue that some in the restaurant community decided that fast food was a good idea… they attract huge numbers to their restaurants and so can talk of success – but have you seen “Supersize Me”?


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