Breakfast alone is not a big deal. Lunch is sometimes just a quick bite of food on the run or at my desk. But, dinner – that different. The evening meal was always, until 3 months ago, a communal thing in my life. When Bev and I raised our family, we made gathering at the table for dinner the priority event of the day. We sat down together at 5 pm every day. That 30 minutes provided the opportunity to create the best moments of the day in our home. The dinner table was place to offer support, to hand off values, and to stay connected with our brood. Even after the children grew up and left home, Bev and I always ate dinner together. We did not eat in front of the television or allow phones at the table. We talked to each other, sharing more than bread, and that is the time of day when I miss her most.
A poll of Americans showed that increasing numbers of people live and eat alone. And yet, dinner is still regarded as a time to connect. Three out of four adults still regularly eat dinner with friends or family. Why? Because eating is not just about food! How are deals struck? Almost always over a meal. How are romances born? On dates that usually include sharing meals. How do we celebrate major milestones? We gather for a meal.
One of the core practices of Christians for 2,000 years is a meal. We have ritualized it to a sip from a cup and a fragment of bread, but it is still a kind of meal that we share to remember our Lord Jesus, to celebrate our covenant relationship with God, the Father, and to remember that we are the family of God. The Lord sat down to a Jewish Passover meal with His disciples the night before He was crucified and left a legacy in His memorable words – “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28, NIV) Christians from the beginning, gathered on the first day of the week, for ‘love feasts,’ times when they shared a meal that included the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup.
Paul instructed the church to celebrate the Holy Meal reverently, for it was and is a proclamation of our hope in His work of salvation. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:26-28, NIV) Some bemoan the ritual aspect of our practice, claiming that it loses meaning when observed too often. My question in reply is this: What are you bringing to the Lord’s table? If you bring a heart of worship, if you anticipate honoring Him, if you are open to a conversation with the Spirit and God’s church – there is no such thing as ‘having Communion too often.’ If you merely come ‘to eat,’ then perhaps you will have no appetite for His holy Presence. If you come to fellowship, you will be eager to break bread!
Communion offers another powerful lesson for us, I believe. Just as dinner is best enjoyed in good company, Christianity is best practiced in community! Our best prayers are prayed in agreement. Our best understanding of the Word comes from shared study. Our strength in witness comes from standing shoulder to shoulder, the strong helping to carry the weak. Doing the Christian life alone is possible, I suppose, but it’s like eating alone! You can nourish your body while sitting alone, but ‘dinner’ is more than food. It is a time for renewal of relationship, for strengthening our ties to our ‘tribe.’
My prayer is that God will cause us to love one another more fervently, to make us long for those times when we can sit down together and share around His table.
As you read this word from the Word, pray that God will restore His Church and that these things will be true of us. “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-48, NLT)
Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page, I seek Thee, Lord.
My spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word!
Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me.
Give me to eat and live with Thee above.
Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.
Alexander Groves | Mary Artemisia Lathbury | William Fiske Sherwin