Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus…When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:4, 9-12 NRSV)
“Jesus was a foodie!” Thus said Dr. Len Sweet, currently one of the most influential Christian leaders. Well I’m a bit of a foodie too. I love a good meal with family or friends. This is yet another way that it is good to be like Jesus.
I recently traveled to worship with Dr. Sweet and in his message he talked about the importance of sitting down together at the table. Sharing the results of a recent study, the number one indicator of whether or not a child will be successful (stay motivated, stay engaged, graduate high school, etc.) has nothing to do with all the typical predictors one would expect, such as school, economic advantage, and even IQ. The greatest predictor had to do with whether or not the child regularly gathered at the table for a meal with the family. That’s all. Simply sitting down together to eat as a family has much more influence than we might imagine.
How often? Three times a week. That’s the dividing line.
There are plenty of other studies supporting the link between the family meal and better outcomes for children. I think the family meal is a great resource to add to our parenting backpacks. Sitting down to eat together at the table is how we connect as a family. It’s where we share our stories about our day, finding nurture and support. It’s where we form social skills. It’s where we set aside the business and pressure of the outside world and say, “You are my top priority and I want to spend time with you.”
Jesus set his priorities around the table too. His ministry in the Gospel of John opens at a wedding feast. The company he kept at the table raised the eyebrows of folks who didn’t want to dirty themselves by association with sinners and tax collectors. He was anointed by Mary at a table in Bethany. The night before his arrest he gathered with his disciples at a table. After his death and resurrection he appeared to some of his disciples as they walked on the road to Emmaus. They did not recognize him until they sat down together at the table and he broke bread. In the Gospel of John we have the story of Jesus preparing fish at a charcoal fire on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Sharing table fellowship with Jesus is our promised future per Communion liturgy anticipating “when Christ comes in final victory and we feast at the heavenly banquet.” Dr. Len Sweet was right. Gathering at the table was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry.
How can we make family time at the table more of a priority in our daily lives? What gets in the way? I am curious to hear from my followers from outside of the USA about whether this is a uniquely American problem. I have readers from many countries, with several checking in regularly from Brazil in particular. If you have the time to share your perspective I’d love to hear from you!
Loving God, we are so grateful for the way that you nurture our hearts and minds with your holy presence. Help us to be that nurturing presence to our own families, whatever their shape or size. Help us gather more regularly around the table and create memories that form us as your people. Amen.
“Grilled Salmon” Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net