What feeds you?

I love that we live in Canada.  It may seem trite, but I loved that a trending news story last week was how a three year old didn’t want to high five a stranger.  Of course, the three year old was Prince George, son of the Duke and Duchess, and the stranger was Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada.

But in amongst the wave of stories of fear and misogyny and pride and slimy political dealings out of the U.S., it was refreshing to read a story that a three year old acted like a three year old (and not just a potential presidential candidate acting like one).

Choosing the stories we tell, shapes who we are as a people; these stories form a part of our collective memory as through our stories

each of us learns who we are, where we come from, what we can be,
to whom we belong, and to what we are called[1]

This is why we as a church tell the story of our faith using Scripture.  Through these stories we connect with where we’ve all come from, and learn who we are and who we might be.  Because human nature doesn’t change.  We’ve all cried out “give us more faith,” as if we pulled into the gas station and asked for a fill up.  In those moments where God doesn’t give us more than we can handle (to quote a cliché) there are times when a little more faith wouldn’t hurt.  Even Jesus seems like he wants a little more faith, a little more gratitude, after healing the ten:

Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?”

These stories resonate with us because we can see ourselves.
As one of the 9 who didn’t return.
As one of the disciples wanting more.
As Jesus, shaking our heads at the ingratitude.

We are a story telling people.  We love to both lose ourselves and find ourselves in the stories in the Bible, books and comic books, television and movies.  Years before that we sat around radios, or if we were lucky, attended plays.  Years before that the stories were written down, transmitted, shared.  Years before that they gathered in synagogue and church to share stories. Years before that they gathered around campfire and offered the same welcome and belonging that we do around this table.  We are a story telling people; around this and all our tables, we share stories that connect us to one another.

Whether we’re trying to pull details out of our children to see how their days were, or catching up with old friends, or awkwardly staring off into space during that first date, or reconnecting as family, around table the story of our lives plays out.  This is the thesis of Leonard Sweet’s book From Tablet to Table, as he explores what it means to gather around table in our homes, in our churches, and in our world.

Just last week, my family gathered for a dinner at a local restaurant, just before they got a chance to meet our new son (their new family member).  Before we sat down, I wanted to pre-emptively apologize to the rest of the restaurant because, when my family gets together, we’re loud.  We’re either talking or telling inappropriate jokes or the toddlers are howling or we’re laughing at old stories.  I was thinking during that meal, how lucky I am.  My family gets along – even with all our individual eccentricities – we are able to gather, eat, and remember.  Around that table, we all belonged.

I realize how lucky to have grown up with that foundation.  There are many who don’t get along with their family long enough for a phone conversation let alone a sit down meal.  Or those whose meals are grabbed from the drive thrus because they’re heading from one thing to the next.  Or others still where one parent hides their hunger knowing there’s only enough food for their children to eat.  Meal time is not always blessed time, nor are there always moments to connect to the stories which unite us.  For many, meal time is a reminder that there’s not enough (whether it be patience, food, faith).  For others still it’s a reminder that they don’t belong.

I think it’s one of the reasons why we see these terrorist attacks in the name of Daesh (or Isis).  We see youth radicalized over the internet because they feel outcasts in their own homes.  They don’t feel that they belong in their communities and so they seek out communities where they can feel a part of something (even if that something is waging death and fear).

This is why Leonard Sweet wrote his book.  He identifies that we’ve lost this sense of belonging, this table mindset, not just at home, but also in our churches, and in the world.  He realized that gathering around a table where everyone is welcomed, fed, and reminded of their importance is not a universally shared practice.

There are many reasons why it can be complicated to create this table practice in our homes.  But we come up against the same complicated understandings in the church.  If you’ve ever been present in a Catholic worship service, you likely felt centred out for not being welcomed at that meal, even though you held deep faith and understanding of the sacredness of that meal.  Worldwide Communion Sunday makes me dream and yearn and work for a day, that we could finally join with our Christian sisters and brothers, and follow Jesus’ invitation to gather around table together.

It’s no wonder that so many people take issue with the Christian faith when we can’t even figure out how to share a meal together, because there are so many stories about Jesus and food.  Jesus didn’t just like to eat – he used those moments of eating to transform people’s perceptions, as he

redefined what it means to “be family,” just as he redefined what it means to “break bread” together at table. When Jesus fed five thousand people on a hillside, all of them became his “family” and the hillside became his “table.” When he cooked along the shore after his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples became his family, and some stones around a fire his table. (from Tablet to Table p14)[2]

In the sharing of the Passover meal, the setting for what would become Jesus’ last supper, they weren’t just filling their stomachs, they were a part of a new family through faith.  They were sharing the story of who they were as members of the Jewish faith.  They told the story of the exodus out of Egypt and God’s saving acts.  They imagined who they might become through the lens of Christ’s love and mercy.  Around that table they were welcomed, fed and reminded of their importance.

Around the communion table, we seek to create a place where everyone belongs and no one is outcast.  Around the communion table there is room for both Jesus and Judas.  (There is room for Mary too if you’ve been reading your Dan Brown) and room for doubters and disciples alike.

At the table we don’t just feed people; we build relationships—stories and memories.… At the table, where food and stories are passed from one person to another and one generation to another… each of us learns who we are, where we come from, what we can be, to whom we belong, and to what we are called. [3]

There’s so many of us that need a meal like this, uncomplicated by baggage, by hurt feelings, by broken relationships, by worry or judgment.

We need the unfettered welcome of Jesus to remind us how we must welcome others.

We need less arguing about minimum wages or job security or guaranteed basic incomes and more action to ensure that a daily bread can be enjoyed by all.

We need more people like Natalie Hampton, a 16 year old out of California who recently created a new app (for cellphones) called Sit With Us.[4]  After years of bullying and feeling like “an outcast and having to eat lunch alone every day,”[5] she created an

app [which] allows students to reach out to others and let them know they are welcome to join them at their tables in the school cafeteria. Kids can look at the list of “open lunches” in the app and know that they have an open invitation to join with no chance of rejection. ‘Sit With Us’ ambassadors take a pledge that they will welcome anyone who joins and include them in the conversation.

We need that app for churches.  For community gatherings.  Natalie quite literally created a table in the world, and offered welcome and acceptance.   For we go from this communion table to do the same.  This is our challenge – in our homes, in our churches, and in our world, to create opportunities so that

each of us learns who we are, where we come from, what we can be,
to whom we belong, and to what we are called[6]

To invite people into the story of our lives, and share around table that which unites us.  This is the hopes of author Jan Richardson, who imagines…

[That] the table

will be wide.

And the welcome

will be wide.

And the arms

will open wide

to gather us in.

And our hearts

will open wide

to receive.

And we will come

as children who trust

there is enough.

And we will come

unhindered and free.

And our aching

will be met

with bread.

And our sorrow

will be met

with wine.

And we will open our hands

to the feast

without shame.

And we will turn

toward each other

without fear.

And we will give up

our appetite

for despair.

And we will taste

and know

of delight.

And we will become bread for a hungering world.

And we will become drink for those who thirst.

And the blessed will become the blessing.

And everywhere will be the feast.

Amen

Today we also shared Communion and for the first time have posted the Communion Liturgy audio on our site so that you may find meaning in partaking it wherever you are.

Continue to Communion Liturgy here…

[1] Sweet, Leonard, Tablet to Table pg 8
[2] https://files.tyndale.com/thpdata/FirstChapters/978-1-61291-581-4.pdf
[3] Quoting Tablet to Table pg 8 and from http://wdavidphillips.com/book-notes-tablet-table-community-found-identity-formed/
[4] http://www.today.com/parents/teen-invents-sit-us-app-so-no-high-schooler-has-t103444
[5] ibid
[6] Sweet, Leonard, Tablet to Table pg 8

One Comment

  1. Glad to be back at church yesterday, especially to see so many children in attendance. Also thought Rev Chris’s sermon was so good. I am going to send a link to the website to friends in San Francisco. I think they will appreciate it.

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