Disciples News Service

What God's Table might look like

Table is a verb.” So says the Council on Christian Unity video “Table.” (www.disciples.org identity page.)

I see their point. I’ve seen this in action. Here’s an example: 

The buzz of conversation met the visitors before they completely descended the steps into the church basement. The smell of cooking food overcame the end-of-day odors emanating from the gathered throng. It was a motley crew. 

A bearded seminary professor, various retired faculty persons from the nearby university, church member volunteers from different walks of life chatted with people from the town. 

Originally the townsfolk came as guests to this weekly dinner. Several years into it, however, the Mamre meal[1] had developed its own community. Folks arrived by bus, on foot; a few carpooled. Word of mouth spread the invitation. 

A closer look revealed the worn shoes, mismatched clothes, broken teeth, and stooped postures of poverty. Just beyond the laughter and chatter of the moment, furrowed brows and worried expressions made ready to take their habitual place on faces. Denied disability checks, exhausted food stamps, the long trip across state to the VA hospital, the drag of mental illness all dogged these people in various combinations. 

At the Mamre meal, “guests” could also show a more empowered side of themselves. Some of them participated in the cooking and serving. It was hard to tell by role who was guest and who was host. The meal belonged to everyone now. The integrated nature of the community became even more obvious – and more touching – as the community sat down to eat. At these tables, not only food was shared, but also personal knowledge and experience. 

The meal had some ritual to it. Loosely based on a communion service, they thanked God and broke bread together. They remembered that Jesus broke bread with his friends, especially at the most difficult moment of his life. They recalled that Jesus had asked his followers to do the same. 

Later as the Mamre meal progressed, community members lifted a cup – of water, iced tea, lemonade – and thanked God for life. They also prayed for each other and for the challenges of their lives. And then came the most life-giving moment of all. In the midst of a meal offered for “the poor”, the very same persons heard the concerns and worries of their friends, and spoke up to offer each other advice and help. “I know a free clinic where a doctor who will see you.” “My friend has a couch he’ll let you sleep on.” “My brother can give you a ride.” “I have a coat you can have.”

At the Mamre table, all gathered as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, each reaching out to the other in love.

At the Lord’s table we meet the living Christ face to face. We become again the Body of Christ for the world. From the table we go out to see the face of Christ in our neighbors and to be the Body of Christ for them. As with the travelers on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24, we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread then make haste to follow where he has gone ahead and to serve him along life’s way. At the table, we see, receive, become, go, and serve. The table is a verb.

This story is an excerpt from Watkins’ upcoming book from Chalice Press, due summer of 2014.

 


[1] University Place Christian Church, Enid, OK sponsored this meal named after the story in Genesis 18: 1-8