Book Review: From Tablet to Table by Leonard Sweet
Author: Leonard Sweet
Reading Level: Leisure
“I used to think hospitality was a lost art. Now I’m convinced it is a lost heart.” (138)
The meal table is one of the most neglected elements of the modern family. It is amazing then that “frequent family dinners” remains the primary shapers of drug-free kids, advanced vocabulary, academic success, and lower percentages of depression and suicide (12). Apart from these benefits, author Leonard Sweet in From Tablet to Table believes that a return to the table will focus Christians in their homes (chapter 4), their churches (chapter 5) and the world (chapter 6).
Sweet’s writing is meant to be intensely practical. To this end, it is filled with personal stories, practical analogies, and carefully crafted word play. However, these situations, and Sweet’s emphasis to make quick points, often leads to statements of incredulity. Was eating alone really the root of Eve’s sin (80)? Why is Martha Christ’s favorite cook (70)? Statements like these reveal the intentional shock value being pushed upon a subject that should naturally be sustained from the Scriptures. Barely over one page is given to the extensive number of table related incidents in the gospel of Luke (110-111). Yet somehow an equal number of pages are spent stating that Nicodemus was a left-brain individual who just could not understand Christ’s right-brained stories and imagery (28-29). Despite the value in these provocations they consume too much of From Tablet to Table and result in fluff of the deeper Biblical substance.
These criticisms however highlight that Sweet is excellent at putting forth his opinion in a profoundly aggressive and articulate way. For example, in speaking about setting the table in church, Sweet states “Children belong at the table…They can be a pain, and they may ruffle the tidiness of the table. But if your eschatology is strong…they become a joy and a pleasure” (133). Throughout the book, Sweet present a counter-cultural Christianity (e.g. 123). Despite fiddling with the concept of metanarrative and an interesting redefinition of truth, Sweet is certainly not presenting a new form of postmodern, pluralistic “self-discovery” (50-56). Yet for all the good points, From Tablet to Table seems written to present a mild, tamed version of what Christ presented. Sweet has brought to the forefront contextual application while leaving behind the Biblical texts.
In conclusion, From Tablet to Table attempts to do with witty words and analogies what other books have done better through analyzing passages of Scripture (namely Tim Chester’s A Meal with Jesus). Sweet excels when focused on the ministry of Jesus Christ but fails to drive home the Biblical principles and ministries laid forth in the gospels and early church. A provocative read, laymen will benefit from this, but not as more than a brief taste of the real meal.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.