Monday, March 16, 2009

Approaching the Eucharist as a family meal

This weekend our church had a gathering for parents to talk about how to cultivate our kids' experience and practice of the Eucharist/Lord's Table/Communion. And something that struck me is that there's a qualitative difference between fast food and a family dinner. There's a difference between merely eating and truly partaking and communing together. We are so used to just munching, snacking and eating only for caloric intake that to have extended mealtimes of relational building is rare and countercultural.

We discussed the practice of the daily examen (asking questions like "What was good about today? and "What was hard about today?") and how this relates to our corporate practice of the Eucharist. As we cultivate the habit of simple daily examen with our children and in our own lives, we deepen our experience of meeting God at the table.

It struck me later that something I really appreciate about the Anglican liturgy is that the confession takes place at a different part of the service so the Eucharist is truly a time of celebration. Too often in many evangelical churches, the Eucharist is more of a mournful time of remembrance - remember Jesus' death, remember our sins, say you're sorry. Not that those things are unimportant, but Eucharist is a time of thanksgiving and celebration as well.

If family meals were just times that we got together and only talked about how we were sorry for all the bad things we had done to each other, something would be wrong with that. That might be appropriate on occasion, but it would get flat and one-dimensional pretty quickly. Family mealtimes should be places of sharing all the things of our days, the joys as well as sorrows, checking in about the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Meals should be sharing of all of life, not just the penitential, but also the celebratory and relational. Eucharist can be the same.

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