This spring, church members signed up to participate in dinner groups. Participation in these groups called, and still calls, for a six month commitment to sit at table together on a monthly basis. There’s no agenda other than to show up, to enjoy each other’s company and to be open to going wherever the Holy Spirit leads.
I remember that when I first pitched this idea to Session, the suggestion was well-received. The only discussion, which was playful and good-natured, focused on what we would call these groups. Among the names that we considered were “Taste and See” and “Table Groups,” but the name on which we, as a leadership team, landed was “Breaking Bread” groups.
Since then, five Breaking Bread groups involving a total of 44 church members were created, and, for the most part, have been meeting like clockwork. I go to as many of the dinners as my schedule allows and am grateful for opportunities to be with members of the congregation when we are not doing committee work or are otherwise occupied by concerns of the church.
Every gathering that I have attended has been marked by good cheer. What’s not to appreciate when one is surrounded by good friends and good food (I have noticed that the restaurants where members of this church chose to eat are, without exception, exceptional)?
I have come to believe that sharing a meal together is intrinsically spiritual in nature (and was reminded of this belief when members of our Bridge of Hope neighboring team treated our family to dinner this past Saturday). Sharing a meal is not communion properly defined, but, like Jesus’ commandment to love one another, it is a communal experience; it binds us together as the body of Christ.
Breaking bread is biblical. This morning, I plugged the term “bread” into a biblical search engine, and the query yielded 315 results. I will not rehearse all of them, but I would like highlight four of them.
The first story that I wish to highlight is told as part of the Exodus story. When God’s covenant people begin to wonder if God led them out of slavery in Egypt to starve, quails arrive, and a fine flaky substance, which the Hebrews interpret as bread, appears, and suddenly, the squabbling among members of the community subsides.
Then, there’s the reminder from the prophet Isaiah that the bread with which God provides us is not only for us. God calls us to share. Remember that Isaiah is the prophet who asks the rhetorical questions, “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the things of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
In the New Testament, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Please note that this bread is given to us, plural, not to you or to me, but to both of us and to a world full of people with whom we may disagree (and whom God calls us to love despite our differences).
At the Last Supper, Jesus offers his followers bread, saying, “This is my body broken for you.” For Christ, bread symbolizes holy sacrifice and divine love, and if we wonder about whether God is good or not, then all that we have to do is accept Christ’s invitation to eat and to drink at his table to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Now that our Breaking Bread groups are into the second half of their six month commitment, I am beginning to raise the question in both formal and informal settings like: What is next? And: What do we at the end of six months?
Among the possibilities that are being discussed are: 1) re-up for another six months 2) re-shuffle the groups to allow people to mix and mingle with a different group of members 3) expand the groups to include people outside of the church in hopes that some of them will like what they see and join us in ministry and mission and 4) divide existing groups and encourage them to fill in the empty seats with people from the community who may wish to join them.
At this point in our discernment process, I am not sure which way the leadership of the church will go, but, as always, I welcome your thoughts on the subject. Until we come to the next fork in the road (pun intended), I hope and pray that we will continue to enjoy being bound together as members of one body, the church, as we seek to share the bread that God bestows so generously on us with a world where hunger and homelessness still thrive.