Eat and be family
A 2006 TIME magazine article titled, The Magic of the Family Meal, explained the significance of the family table thus,
This is where a family builds its identity and culture. Legends are passed down, jokes rendered, eventually the wider world examined through the lens of a family’s values…They hear how a problem is solved, learn to listen to other people’s concerns and respect their tastes.
When one is adopted into a new family, the family of God, a profound reorientation must take place around new family values, stories, and frameworks. In large part, this can take place at dinner. But not easily.
“head of the table”
A deeply embedded tradition of American dining is the role of the “head of table” to render toasts and/or prayers, carve the turkey, and lead the discussion at meals. This chair is typically occupied by the dad or eldest son in a family.
Although this role is now mostly unacknowledged, it provides some good insight into the role of elder (or Community Group leader) at the family table.
In the familia Dei, this involves inquiring about everyone’s life, leading significant family discussion, and modeling the family ethos. All while maintaining that the “head of the table” is not the Head of the family.
Because neither the Father nor the Eldest Brother are at the table, the “head of the table” is responsible for teaching about the family Head. Therefore, the story of God is spoken and passed on, and the gospel is proclaimed in gratitude to the Elder Brother who reconciled us to the Father.
You may be thinking that this is beginning to sound a bit bohemian, but it can all be done very naturally.
More naturally, in fact, than sitting around a living room with 10 Bibles open, showing off who knows more Greek etymologies and how Pastor “so-and-so” says it applies to daily life.
As head of the table, learn how to share the story of God just like you would share the stories about your dad growing up. Learn how to share it in timely, natural ways with others. This is how the gospel is brought to bear on our particular situations in life.
In a study on families that eat together, researchers found that family dinner gets better with practice. It takes time to learn how to do family things with each other. Keep at it.
Just as it is more natural for families to share the story of God than it is to exegete a text, so too is it more natural for someone new to come eat with you than to come study with you. Family meals are missional.
Tim Chester, in his new book, A Meal with Jesus, explains, “Jesus spent his time eating and drinking … His mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship round a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread and a pitcher of wine.”
Eat and proclaim and the gospel
The Apostle Paul urges, “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). As a people brought to, and accepted at, God’s table through the gospel, we also share in the proclamation of the Lord’s death as we eat.
As you share your need of the gospel at the table, your brothers and sisters can proclaim Jesus’ death on your behalf, through the vehicle of food. And thus, the family of God is molded, taught, and enjoyed around eating. May we do it often.
the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said,“This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25)