Saturday, January 3, 2015

Review of "From Tablet to Table" by Leonard Sweet

I'm a foodie and a storyteller, so I was delighted to read Leonard Sweet's From Tablet to Table, in which he argues that God incarnate invites us to find our identity (how we fit into His story) and true community around the dinner table in our homes, churches and in the world.

This is a little book with ample white space and font size. For that reason, it was easy on the eyes and easy to gobble up the 162 pages in three sittings.  Sweet's poetic writing style and constant word play around the metaphor of the table also drew me in and played in my mind like a charismatic preacher's sermon-- not surprisingly, since Sweet is the lead writer of

In the first half of the book, Sweet establishes the superiority of the table over the tablets of law for nourishing and imparting God's story into our hearts. Jesus, he argues, was very interested in what was for dinner. He taught not from a pulpit, but while reclining at table with friends, inviting himself to dinner with sinners, providing a mountainside meal to thousands. The predominant "narraphor" of the entire Bible, Sweet argues, is God preparing a table before us.

Besides being inspirational, there's also a good bit of practicality in these pages. Sweet provides rapid fire statistics from modern secular studies that have shown that frequent family dinners around a table are the biggest factor in boosting children's intelligence, compassion, vocabulary and future academic success and in preventing drug-use, obesity, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. The mom in me was convinced, and the journalist in me was especially pleased at Sweet's extensive source list at the back of the book.

The second part of the book explores how we can continue to do table in remembrance of Jesus in our homes, in churches and while loving our neighbors outside the church. At this point, I was hoping for rich stories of real people with vibrant table time in each of these settings. Instead, I felt Sweet focused too heavily on the perils of modern life, in which children eat Big Macs while playing games on the iPad and where "two bodies eating together at the same table but on different planets in mind and spirit" (90) is a frequent restaurant scene.

To combat our struggles with the tide of the age, Sweet employs his table metaphor as a panacea. To any problem, he urges, "Table it. Table everything" (124). Yet, as much as I agree that the table promises a sacred time and space for family bonding, I don't quite know what that looks like (for me) practically. If I'm having trouble herding my three little children and busy husband to the table, if no one likes eating the same foods and if everyone is hungry at different times, how does "tableing it" solve my problem? How do I even get everyone to the table?

But, to be fair, this isn't that book. This is the anthem, the love song to true communion, growth, and transformation around the table. And Sweet eventually permits that could be a metaphoric table. As long as people are in the habit of eating together and truly connecting with those with whom they're eating, Jesus will be the food and the drink. While this book does not lay out a tablet of rules or the "7 steps to better family dinners," I find my heart is both fed and hungry for life at my Lord's table.

*Many thanks to Tyndale for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

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