22 Jan 2017

Family Meals

My favourite part about family meals is the chaos and confusion. The imperfect-ness of it: overcooked carrots, a disproportionate quantity of gravy, a hair in the soup. The people bring their own flavour to it; the baby throwing crackers, a spilt drink, a banged elbow. Start to finish, family meals are seldom ascetically perfect.
It happens. To everyone. It's a cacophany for the senses.
Ultimately, it is in those imperfections where the truth about family comes in: we come together, for better or worse, to intentionally share a meal, as family, as companions.
This is exactly the experience of the Holy Eucharist. It is God's holy meal for God's holy people. And all are welcome at that meal, regularly, to be fed. We remember and follow Jesus' example of breaking bread with his companions (from Latin com and panis; literally "with bread", a companion is one who breaks bread with another).
In the Communion, we are companions, we are community, we are family; we are eating and drinking together, in remembrance of Jesus, as he instructed us to continue.
And, as with any family meal, it's sometimes chaotic, and full of earthly imperfections.
And I love that. I love what it represents, when we come to the table aware of our imperfections and aware that we are loved despite them. At the communion, all manner of people come: wearing designer clothes and ripped jeans; introverts and extroverts, young and not-so-young; with confidence or trepidation or awe. I've seen the 'oops' moments of dropped wafers and spilled wine and banged elbows. I've watched people focus on the reredos or the bread or on my eyes. I've shared the meal in cathedrals and homes and hospitals and on campsites; with 2 people and 4000 people.
(I'd say I've seen it all, but when it comes to the family meal, there's always room to be surprised!)
By earthly standards, I've seen chaos and confusion at the Lord's table, and I've seen everything go according to plan. And I know that it's all okay, as the spiritual nourishment matters more than anything our earthly bodies might do. Because in this family meal we meet Jesus; and it is perfect.
I love that we are all invited to participate in this meal, this foretaste of the heavenly banquet, where everyone belongs. Rachel Held Evans puts it this way: "The church is God saying 'I'm throwing a banquet, and all these mismatched, messed-up people are invited. Here, have some wine.'"[1]
I pray that we all hear God's invitation to come to the banquet: on days when we feel exuberant or exhausted, faithfully convicted or questioning, grieving or celebrating, inspired or apathetic. The table of grace is waiting for you: you who are made in God's image and have been adopted into God's family, you are welcome and wanted and part of the family. Come to the table: the family meal is ready.

[1] Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 153

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