June 28, 2011

Communion of a Different Type

Christians everywhere are familiar with the rite of Communion, the Lord's Supper. And while we enter that Communion with reverence and devotion, it seems to me that we have lost sight of the importance of what the disciples thought they were about to do, have a simple communal meal. While there is a renewed focus on sharing meals as a family, as a society, we've come to look at sharing meals with several friends as a special occasion sort of thing, and not an integral part of our lives.

A few years back, I started a tradition of having a large Sunday dinner for my closest friends and anyone that they felt needed to come have a good meal and some fellowship. We'd sit and talk, eat too much, have some coffee, take a walk around the block, and then return to our homes to relax for a nice nap. It wasn't a thing meant to bring a different closeness to our relationships, it was simply a way to celebrate our lives and friendships, and enjoy life in the way written in Ecclesiastes.

I haven't been able to continue that tradition due to my current work schedule, but I got to cook a dinner for two dear friends last week. It left a longing in me for those Sunday dinners I used to cook twice a month. Just sitting at a table, enjoying food, with a lightness of heart and simple conversation than comes from enjoying a meal with friends touched my soul in a way that was not immediately visible to them or myself. It was the communion between people, the connection of our humanity. It's far greater than feeding bodies, it is nourishing our souls.

I need to feel that commonality again, that connection of human souls. Over the past few years, I have become very anxious in social situations, especially with strangers, but almost as much with friends. The dinners with those friends that I love made such an impact on me in quenching the sense of separateness and isolation that are all to easy for me to retreat into. I not only need to renew that sense of connection, but today, I want to. I must find another day to arrange some meals to share with those people I care about, and who care for me. I also want to use this to reach out to some people that don't have any connection of a shared meal. Ask any newly divorced person how hard it is to learn to eat a meal alone, and you'll get about the same answer from any one of them.

Sharing meals with the lonely and isolated ones around us is a ministry that we can all engage in, if we are willing to step just a little bit outside of ourselves. I'm looking forward to restarting my meals here, and also to feeding a new set of friends once I move and start my new life. The good thing is that it doesn't have to be a big production designed to impress those at the meals (although I will admit that I love that feeling, too!) An elderly widowed neighbor, a friend newly divorced or separated, a single parent and their children, or a younger single person that lives away from their family are all people that need to be touched by our human connection, and possibly be opened to reconnecting with God. The way to reach people in today's culture is to bring them to feel that sense of Emmanuel, the sense of "God with us." What better way to start doing that than to share a meal and simply be human?

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