Eugene Peterson and the Family Meal

I’ve been slowing reading Eugene Peterson’s book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, during my devotional time. This week, I read a passage and idea in his book that I’ve been thinking about ever since. Peterson is writing about the shape of the Eucharist (communion): take, bless, break, give. He moves on to talk about the importance of meals in the New Testament and in the life of Jesus- and that these meals take on this shape. Peterson writes,

“Settings of hospitality, especially in connection with meals, are the most accessible and natural occasions for cultivating the focal practice of the Eucharist in our daily lives. Our continuing witness to and fear-of-the-Lord participation in the work of salvation is formed eucharistically around our kitchen tables. Daily meals with family, friends, and guest, acts of hospitality every one, are the most natural and frequent settings for working out the personal and social implications of salvation.

I think many of us are aware of the decline of the family meal. Growing up, until high school, our family ate a family meal seemingly 7 out of 7 days a week. It was not that the family meal stopped in high school, but that we were heading in so many directions. The family meal was an anchor to who our family was.

Now- with young children, we eat as many meals as we can together. It is around the dinner table that we share about our day; teach our daughters to pray for and be concerned for others; talk about the mundane, the ordinary, and the extraordinary of our day. It is around the table that we have discussions about faith, unicorns, life and death, loving our neighbors, and which princess we want to be (I have two girls!). The family meal and where we can connect, know and be known, and practice the Eucharist in our lives as we take, bless, break, and give.

Peterson, on the decline of the family meal-

“The exponential rise of fast-food meals means that there is little leisure for conversation; the vast explosion of restaurants is evidence that far less food preparation and clean-up takes place in homes; in many homes the television set is the dominant presence at family meals, virtually eliminating personal relationships and conversations; the frequency with which pre-prepared and frozen meals are used erodes the culture of family recipes and common work. All this, and more, means that the meal is no longer easily accessible or natural as the setting in which to encounter the risen Christ in our ordinariness and dailiness.”

I am thankful for the family meals of my youth and the time spent around the table with my wife and daughters. It is a sacred time in the most mundane of rituals. I know that my faith has been impacted by eating together and I pray that our girls and our guest encounter the risen Christ as we share a meal, break bread, pray for God’s blessings, and live together in community.

How often does your family eat around the dining room table? Is it an intentional time to connect/encourage/pray or are their distractions present (TV, phones, iPads, etc.)? As a parent, how can you use the family meal as a way to pass along your faith to your children? To share your faith with your friends?

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
This entry was posted in Faith, Family and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Eugene Peterson and the Family Meal

  1. Pingback: Discipleship and the Family Meal | Exiled Community

  2. Myra Schouten says:

    I am reading again the book by Eugene Peterson and I am struggling with a new idea of the Eucharist. I so wish I could set down and talk to him. Do you have ideas on the ritual of the lords supper

    • Our church tradition celebrates Communion/Eucharist monthly- though John Wesley encouraged his flock to celebrate communion as often as possible.

      Within my post and interaction with Peterson, there is a sacramental nature to eating together. Think about how often Jesus ate with people. Meal times can be times where we “remember” and allow that “remembrance” of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to guide and inform our conversations around the table.

      I’m not sure if that helps- I’d love to hear back from you.

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