10/6/2014 12:03

The Family Meal

Over the course of half a century I have become less and less happy with the theological ramblings over the family meal. The theologians have named the Good Gift a 'sacrament' and argued about how the rite should be 'performed' and what effects ensue from the ceremony and who should be permitted access to this particular gift and in what way (if at all) such correct performance is necessary for a Christian to arrive in a state of grace.

It is all nonsense.

In actual reality we are talking about a family meal. What, after all, was the origin of the sacred meal? It was the Passover supper, a family meal with the express purpose of connecting the family identity with the community, the community's history, and the community's future. Who eats the family meal? Everyone in the family, of course.

Some families do set a separate table for the younger children at some of the more special family meals, but having 2 tables never excluded the children from the turkey or the adults from the pie, at least never in my family.

Nor did we forbid our guests from joining the family. On the contrary, it was not uncommon to invite guests from outside the family to join us specifically for the special meals, the birthdays, anniversaries, and Thanksgiving Dinners.

When the host is someone famous for saying 'let the little children come' and 'welcome the stranger' it hardly seems appropriate for us to become more exclusionary than we are when we ourselves are the hosts.

As for entering into a state of grace, I'd say that getting a free meal with no strings attached is about as close as human experience comes to a state of grace. A free meal with no strings attached is very nearly the definition of grace. It doesn't much matter whether the meat is turkey or ham, whether the meal ends with pie or with pudding, whether we drink coffee or wine or milk.

We are not reciting incantations or casting spells. We are not drawing distinctions or setting up boundaries.

We are sharing the experience of being a family. We are remembering how vast our family is, that our family is all of creation coming together in Jesus Christ. That experience, that memory, that grace, that is the actual reality of the Good Gift.