A recent survey, taken in a school for upper-middle-class American children, surfaced a startling statistic. When asked how many times per month each child sat down to an evening meal with the family, the average answer was once.
"Stay with us. It is nearly evening-the day is practically over."
We recoil at the long-range consequences of such informal family patterns. More positively, a statistic like that generates an immediate reaction in favor of the undisputed value that table fellowship has in building community.
"He took bread and pronounced the blessing...."
Whether it be the family, an intentional adult live-in community, the weekly or biweekly Bible study circle, the justice and peace solidarity groupwhatever expression of community one examines, breaking bread together is of its essence. There is something about preparing, serving, sharing, enjoying, and even cleaning up that makes the community table a place like no other in the life of the group.
"He broke the bread..."
A community meal contains little that is casual or offhand. Obviously, this is true of the preparation. The cook(s) plan well ahead of time what food will most benefit the group. (In one community even the cardiac patient can count on special "heart-healthy" dishes when the principal meal might prove problematic.)
"...and began to distribute it to them."
Things are readied so that the meal will go on the table at the appointed time; late meals drag down community spirits. Often the cook doubles as waiter, making sure that each one has what s/he requires, thus avoiding the "boarding house" atmosphere of everyone for him/herself.
"With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him...."