Families Should Eat Together More!
In years gone by families that ate supper together every evening were the rule, not the exception? How sad that this does not happen very often anymore. Families are so busy with various activities that eating together is usually limited to holiday events or shared in cars after going through the McDonalds drive through. I can‚Äôt help but wonder what effect this will have on our families.
Jonathon Yardley, commenting on the book, ‚ÄúThe Surprising Power of Family Meals,‚Äù by Miriam Weinstein, says,‚ÄúFor generations, (eating together as families) has been a ‚Äòbasic human ritual,‚Äô but now ‚Äòeveryday family supper is no longer a given.‚Äô Pressured by two-career households and soccer-mom-carpooling obligations, to cite two of the many distractions of contemporary life, more and more American families dine not at a common table but separately and/or on the run.‚Äù Weinstein claims, ‚Äú"Family supper is important because it gives children reliable access to their parents. It provides anchoring for everyone's day. It emphasizes the importance of the family nonverbally. It reminds the child that the family is there, and that she is part of it."
God understands the power of family meals because He created the family. It is no surprise that Jesus instituted a perpetual family meal and made it one of the twin peaks of our gatherings for worship. Along with the ministry of the Word, the Table is at the very heart of our sacred assemblies.
In God‚Äôs economy, His plan for saving humanity, God has chosen to relate to His people through covenants. As Christians, we are most interested in the New Covenant ushered in by the atoning work of Jesus. This covenant is the fulfillment of all of the others found in the Old Testament. Covenants consist of two very important parts.
First, is the word of the covenant. The word consists of the expectations of each party in the relationship. God says, ‚ÄúIf you obey my commands, I will be your God and you will be my people.‚Äù This common covenant language spells out what is needed to keep the covenant. Exodus 12 which records the institution of the Passover is an excellent example. God instructs the Hebrews what they must do to begin their exodus and avoid the curse of the death angel. They had to follow the Word of God ‚Äì which culminated in the sacrificing of a spotless lamb, eating it, and applying its blood.
The second common component of the covenant, after the expectations are agreed upon, is the sign of the covenant which is usually a sacrifice or meal. In sharing in the sacrifice and/or the meal, the covenant was sealed. After the initial acceptance, the Old Testament records that the people gathered at appointed times in the sacred assembly to hear again the Word of the Covenant. Then, a meal would be shared to renew the covenant.
This is the purpose of worship all through the Scriptures; to retell the Word and renew the Covenant. The New Testament records that Jesus holds out the cup and says to His disciples, ‚ÄúThis is the New Covenant in my blood.‚Äù In instituting this meal with His disciples, Jesus, is at the very heart of both parts of the covenant. He is the Word of the New Covenant ‚Äì the Word made flesh. And, He is also the second part as well. As our Passover Lamb, Jesus offers Himself as the sacrifice, and as the meal that sealed the Covenant. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:16, ‚ÄúIs not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?‚Äù In this divine mystery, we renew our covenant commitment to the Lord.
As we have observed, the Luke 24 account of Cleopas and the other follower meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus, is a wonderful lesson on the four-fold pattern. It gives us particularly poignant insight into the Gathering, Word, Table and the Sending Forth. You may recall that two followers gathered on the road with Jesus. They were lamenting the death of Jesus and had no idea that the very one they were discussing was now their walking companion. How many times have we come into God‚Äôs Presence and been oblivious to the fact? How many times have our eyes not perceived the Presence of the Lord in our midst? As the evening wore on, the time for supper arrived. Jesus was prepared to walk on, but the two asked Him to come to the table. Verse 30 tells us, ‚ÄúWhen He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. (At that very moment) their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.‚Äù What did it take for those followers to recognize the Presence of their Lord? Later they reported to the Disciples, ‚ÄúWe knew Him in the breaking of the bread.‚Äù
Is this also true for us? As we come to the Table to renew our covenant with the Lord, we can also ‚Äúknow Him in the breaking of the bread.‚Äù For two thousand years this lesson has been taught to Christians. Some might say, I can Know Jesus through prayer and reading the Scriptures. Indeed this is true. Let's see if this metaphor will communicate the difference. As a freshman in college I loved to call my girl friend back in Michigan. We talked for hours. I also cherished the letters she would send to me. While talking on the phone and reading her letters were precious, actually spending time in her presence was even more wonderful.
The disciples reported that they ‚Äúknew Him in the breaking of the bread.‚Äù Biblical knowing is intimate knowing. As Jesus, the groom, gives Himself to His bride, the Church, we can truly draw near to our Lord in a beautifully intimate way as we come to the Table. This is an amazing mystery, to be sure. Robert Webber used to tell us, "Flee to the Eucharist." That doesn't sound so strange anymore! According to 1 Corinthians 10:17, when we come to His Table, the family becomes one. We need more of that! What do you think?