Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tables

I've been thinking about tables a lot lately. Yes, that's right, tables.

I've been thinking about the holiday table at my Grandma's house in years gone by. There was one big, formal table for those who were going to be able to mind their manners, make pleasant conversation with the international guests that Granddad always seemed to invite to family meals, and keep from spilling the gravy. This was the "adult" table.

And then there was the "kids table," which was actually a couple card tables next to one another with one of Grandma's terry cloth tablecloths draped over it to make it look like one table. This would have worked if the legs of one of the tables hadn't been an inch shorter than the other table. However, this was the table for you if you were prone to making loud noises or falling off your chair or making naïve (yet inappropriate) comments at dinner.

I've been thinking about the "Seniors' Table" in my high school. There was one hexagon shaped table that sat on a landing atop a set of stairs in the lunchroom. This table was known as the Seniors' Table and the only people ever allowed to sit at the Seniors' Table were seniors...unless you happened to be a very pretty cheerleader dating one of the most popular seniors, but even then, you might be walking a tight rope trying to sit there.

There was nothing special about this table, in particular, or the blue plastic molded chairs that circled it. What made it special was the status it implied. When you sat there, you were a SENIOR. You had risen to the top of the school heap. You were really someone sitting there, looking down on all the other kids, with their lunch trays and cardboard cartons of milk, wistfully waiting for the day that they could sit where you were.

I've been thinking about the tables of the dining hall at my small, liberal arts college. If you'd entered the dining hall off meal time, all the tables would have looked the same--round and rectangular, cream-colored laminate, with oak wood rounded edges. But come in during meal time and these tables were owned. This table was the for a certain fraternity. The sorority girls that dated all the boys from that fraternity sat across the walkway at their table. Another table was for the football team. Over in the corner was the table for the multi-cultural students association. Most every table in the dining room was claimed by one social organization or another. Kids like me, who didn't easily fit into any particular category, took our trays out of the lunchroom entirely and ate in another room that was supposed to be for studying. Even sometimes in this space, I didn't know where I should sit.

And I have been thinking about the Banquet Table. The table that Jesus describes in the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14. The table that we anticipate whenever we take communion, the Lord's Supper.

Over a year ago, my dear church Renovatus began observing the Eucharist weekly. I'll be honest...at first I was a little annoyed. Communion takes a l-o-n-g time and I just really didn't get why once a week was so much better than once a month. Until this time, communion had just kind of been this checklist thing I did monthly...wander forward toward the altar while I examined my heart for any unconfessed sin, take the bread, dunk it in the juice, swallow it down with a sincere (but quick) internal prayer, "thank you, Jesus, for dying for my sins. Amen."

Along with the practice, our pastors have taught more on the Table, on the eucharistic practice and why it is central to the heart of Christianity, and more specifically, why it is central to the heart of following Jesus. In addition, God has given me the opportunity to hear other speakers teach on the Table and has given me authors to read about it. Through these things, He is showing me how His table is so different than so many of the other tables I've experienced in my life.

See, in God's home, there is no kids' table. You're invited to the table even if you are awkward or rude or clumsy. In God's dining room, there is no special seating for people of a certain status or rank of achievement. God isn't looking to separate us out into the cool kids and the misfits. No...what Jesus shows us through the communion table is that in God's reality, there is one table. ONE table. One table for the righteous and the sinner. One table for the well-liked and the loners. One table for the ones who have it all together and the ones who are a hot mess most of the time (yours truly). One table, one people, one family.

This practice of Eucharist is changing me. When I come forward to partake of the bread and wine these days, in addition to my prayer of thanks for the cross, I also add a prayer of gratitude for being invited to this table. I see God welcoming me in, whether I've been kind and loving or selfish or clueless, whether I come filled with joy or I come weary, whether I come with my heart bared or still hiding from God. "Come," He says to me. "This is where you belong."

And even as my heart begins to accept that this is where I belong, I'm seeing that you too belong at this table. You belong if you are my friend or if you are my enemy. You belong if you are "good" and you belong if you are not. You belong if you and I agree theologically and you belong even if we don't. We all belong at God's table, friends. We all belong.

PS-This is the invitation my church uses weekly as we come to the Table (I do not know the original source). God has used these words to change me, to woo me, to invite me home. May He use them in the same way for you, too.
 
This is the table not of the Church but of the Lord.
It is to be made ready for those who love him,
and those who want to love him more.

So, come,
you who have much faith and you who have little,
you who have been here often and you who have not been for a very long time,
you who have tried to follow and you who have failed.

Come, not because it is I who invite you: it is our Lord.
It is His will that those who want Him should meet Him here.
 
*written for and submitted as part of the SheLoves Magazine synchroblog for February.

1 comment:

  1. Jim and I met at a charasmatic Lutheran church (yeah, I know, weird) where they practiced weekly communion. Never thought I would experience it again on this earth! Thank you for this lovely piece of writing. It is an honor to share the table with you and Jamie.

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