APPETIZER Carry on a conversation with the whole table. Sample the appetizers according to the group’s appetite. Share one good, one bad, or one funny thing from your day. Which statement do you agree more with: I view eating as a necessary inconvenience. vs. I’m a hungry soul that craves the company and the delights of the table. Shared meals are not a priority for my family. vs. Shared meals are a priority for my family. Consider typical meals in your household. Meals likely fall between the cover of Good House Keeping vs. Throwing Pop-Tarts into the back of the minivan before soccer practice. What is mealtime like at your house? What are the most chronic intruders on family meals? How do these distractions impact your mealtime? Analyze the Common Table Prayer and the Returning of Thanks: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed. Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endures forever. Amen.” MAIN COURSE “In general, our culture puts busy schedules at the center of life and then tries to fit meals around them (Earley, p. 49). What evidence do you see that supports this quote? “The daily habit of one meal a day with others is a way of moving the table back to the center of who we are and ordering our day around the kind of people we were created to be: dependent and communal human beings” (Earley, p. 49). How can eating remind us of our dependence on God, each other, and creation? Is your kitchen table a central gathering place in your home? What would maximize the table's potential? “The table is where life happens. It’s where a household learns to love” (Earley, p. 54). Meals can be a great way to draw others in and share the love of Christ. How can understanding Christian vocation help in the midst of endless chores surrounding meals? DESSERT Brainstorm: list as many famous eating scenes from the Scriptures as you can think of in sixty seconds. Then categorize the list into three groups. Gratitude at the table “Every mealtime fills Christians with gratitude for the living, present Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Not that they seek any morbid spiritualization of material gifts; on the contrary, Christians, in their wholehearted joy in the good gifts of this physical life, acknowledge their Lord as the true giver of all good gifts; and beyond this, as the true Gift; the true Bread of Life itself; and finally, as the One who is calling them to the banquet of the Kingdom of God.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 67) Each meal a mini-Sabbath God cannot endure that unfestive, mirthless attitude of ours in which we eat our bread in sorrow, with pretentious, busy haste, or even with shame. Through our daily meals, He is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of our working day. (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 68). What we owe to one another “So long as we eat our bread together we shall have sufficient even with the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 69). DOGGY BAG Give yourself grace and start in a manageable way. “But like all work on formational habits, the background norms are far more powerful than the exception (Earley, p. 53). What could you change this week? Family Meals: Schedule one family meal together daily. Standing Coworker Lunch: Schedule one standing weekly lunch meal. Eat Communally While Alone: Become a regular at a local restaurant. How do we protect our house from being “a place where we teach each other how to do too much and be stressed about it” (Earley, p. 55)? Write two action items for your week as a result of your new learning. Discuss your action items with your table paying careful attention to what problems could derail your plans. Earley, J. W. (2019). The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.