MOUSEY MOMENT … BREAKING BREAD
Needs are water for drinking, food to eat, clothing to keep you warm, and shelter to live in. On the other hand, a want is everything else. Wants are there to make life a little more enjoyable. And, we should all be enjoying our lives.
A common practice of Jesus that we find in the New Testament is that of Jesus eating and drinking at meals. Some commentators even jokingly note that Jesus ate his way through the Gospel! Joking aside, much of what we hear from him comes during the context of meals. Meals are a central element in the Gospel. During meals (as opposed to merely eating), conversation occurs and relationships are expanded and deepened. You get to know a person better and what’s going on in their lives. They get to know what is going on in yours. You have an opportunity to discuss issues of importance.
This month we begin our fourth Holy Habit: Breaking Bread. “Breaking bread,” as the phrase goes, is a time of sharing and the opening up of ourselves to others. It is a time of truly being present.
It seems that many a family has lost the sense of regular family meals and spending quality time together. True, there are times such as during Easter and Christmas when this does happen, however, given the various activities in which both parents and children are involved in nowadays, it is challenge to have regular times just to sit together to share a family meal.
Some years ago, the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University issued a report showing that teens who eat dinner with their families five to seven times per week are far less likely to use and abuse alcohol and drugs than those who do not have regular meals together. It stated, “With the recent rise in the number of Americans age 12 and older who are using drugs, it is more important than ever to sit down to dinner and engage your children in conversation about their lives, their friends, what is happening at school – just talk.” When families sit down for a period of time to share a meal, conversation happens. Those at the meal share what is going on in their lives and talk about any number of issues. If they don’t or won’t talk, it is quite noticeable and very well may indicate something wrong is going on.
Jesus certainly used such opportunities both to observe what was going on in the life of individuals with whom he was sharing a meal. He used the time to teach his friends about what truly was of value in life, what they want rather than just what they need. At the end of his public ministry, he used the context of a Passover meal to make a connection to the reason why he came, to offer himself for our sins. This was at his Last Supper.
I believe that meals can be opportunities (especially family meals) to be an extension of the Sunday Communion. To have a meal involves preparation and time. A meal needs to be got ready. It just doesn’t happen. Those who share the table need to be willing to spend quality time with each other. Those at the meal need to be engaged with the others at the table as the meal is shared. A meal involves more than just fuelling up. Time is one of the reasons why it is difficult for many families today actually to have regular meals. There are just too many distractions and activities pulling members of households in different directions.
In the Sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus shares his last meal with his disciples. He had already shared many with them during the time of his public ministry. He declares to them four times that his flesh is real food and that his blood is real drink. It must have been a startling declaration. It was a proclamation, as well as an invitation, to have faith that he was from God and, in fact, he was the Word of God become flesh.
Most Christians have a special “family” meal they share together which has a number of different names depending on which part of the Christian family you belong to: Mass / Eucharist / Communion / The Lord’s Supper / Breaking of Bread. But they are, basically, the same act of worship where we remember what Jesus did for, and said to, his first disciples on the night before he was crucified. This special meal is very important as part of our worship as a Christian family and we usually celebrate it once a month. We are told that the Christian family has done this since they first came together:
Acts 2 v42-47 The Fellowship of the Believers
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’
Flamingos are large reddish-pink birds with long necks and legs. When they want to fly they must run a few steps and take off facing into the wind. Their long necks stretch out in front and their long legs trail behind. Quite a sight! Flamingos are very social birds. They like to be together, sometimes in flocks of thousands. They fly together in air currents in a way that makes it easier for each single bird to fly.
Crows fly over large areas to find food. Just before sunset, especially in the autumn months, crows gather together and roost in trees for the night. There may be thousands and thousands of them in the same forest. They do this for protection, warning each other of danger. They also communicate with each other about where to search for food. They find warmth and friendship being together.
When we gather together we have the opportunity to be helpful to each other. We learn from one another how to live in the world. Gathering together in church, and also at home sharing meals with others, is often a happy time. We learn how to give thanks and praise God. We learn how to have generous hearts, sharing our love and happiness with others. So, the next time a meal opportunity arises, it would be good to remember that each of us, in some way, is to be as Christ to and for each other. Whether it be on a Sunday at Church or any day of the week, let’s ‘Break Bread’ and enjoy that time together.