When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.
I love the picture of Christ and his disciples reclining at the low table. Sitting on large pillows, leaning against each other as familiar friends can do. Sharing bread and wine. Maybe they are talking about how crowded the streets of Jerusalem are during this particular Passover. Maybe they are still amazed and bewildered about the impromptu parade that just happened when they entered the city. Maybe they are sensing that something significant is about to happen and they are each speculating about what that something might be.
The Table. In scripture, the table is a sacred place. Eating a meal together was a holy event. Mealtime was the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise according to Exodus 16:12 “Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” The meal was a tangible reminder of God’s daily provision. “Give us this day our daily bread” as the Lord’s Prayer reminds us.
In our modern, busy everyday lives, we seem to have lost the sacred practice of gathering and sharing a meal together. Families are going in a hundred different directions. After school activities, sports, social events, etc. seem to take more and more time away from the family table. Meals are picked up at drive-thru windows and eaten in cars between activities.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has conducted surveys regarding the benefits for children when eating family meals together was a priority. Here is a short list of some of their findings:
- Families eat healthier meals
- Children less like to be overweight
- Children more likely to stay away from smoking
- Children less likely to try alcohol
- Children less likely to try marijuana
- Children less likely to use illicit drugs
- Improved school grades
- Improved communication between parents & children
- Parents more likely to hear about problems
- Children feel more connected to parents
- Less stress and tension at home
Dr. Anne Fishel of thefamilydinnerproject.org says this
“Most American families are starved for time to spend together, and dinner may be the only time of the day when we can reconnect, leaving behind our individual pursuits like playing video games, emailing and doing homework. Dinner is a time to relax, recharge, laugh, tell stories and catch up on the day’s ups and downs, while developing a sense of who we are as a family.
Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents. What else can families do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?”
When I was growing up, we had dinner together almost every night of the week. Some of my sweetest memories of childhood involved a gathering around a table. The food wasn’t fancy. I grew up in a family of 5 children plus my mom & dad. The meals were prepared with love and that is what made them memorable. The food and the fellowship both leaving indelible marks in my heart.
Today, my own family makes family meals a priority. It’s important. It’s the time when we sit down, as a family, share our day, slow down and nourish our souls and our bodies. (The above picture is my actual kitchen table)
Most of us have a table. It might be round, rectangular or square. It might seat 2 people or 10. Family meals don’t have to be gourmet or fancy. They just need to happen. We need it. Our children need it.
Turn off your cell phone. Gather your loved ones. Prepare a meal. Pull up a chair. Be present in the sacred moment.