It is a year of contemplating tables and as Christmas approaches I find myself reflecting on the tables of my youth, especially the tables at my grandmother’s house. Recently, I came across a card I wrote to my grandmother when I was maybe 6, the writing big and crooked, the spelling not quite on point, the message short: “School (spelled scool) is getting better. I am glad that we are going to your (spelled you’r) house for (turn over) Thanksgiving.” Since my grandmother’s death, we have found quite of few of her letters and several of them from me. I think my Grandma Brown was the person I told things to, the person I looked to for guidance on what it meant to be a grown up and after much reflections I am pretty sure she was one of the people in my life that seemed to get me. And I remember what it was like to be a child sitting at her table.
My grandparents had two tables: the kitchen table and the dining room table, well three really, there was a picnic table in the backyard where we spent a lot of time in the summer. At the kitchen table I watched her cook, make tuna sandwiches with butter on the bread, make gravy from scratch, use the meat grinder near the stove, throw together a snack, and I would write or color or work on my latest project, and we would talk. It was the place I sat to take a break, to rest and to watch everything my grandmother did. The dining room table was the place we would gather at during the holidays or if the whole family was present for a meal. On a holiday, setting the table was one of my favorite things to do: to prepare the table for the family gathering with all the fancy stuff. That table was a mid-century, clean line, dark wood table. I loved that table. Not only for the design but also because it could fit us all around it. We would gather around the table, we would pray and we would eat and we would laugh. For most of my growing up years, my aunt and uncle lived in Kenya, so holiday meals often found us listening to the tape they made, and then we would make a tape to send to them, letting them know how we were and what was going on in our lives. At that dining room table, we were family, and we connected with one another in ways we didn’t always do during the rest of the year.
At my grandmother’s table, there was always grace and always love—even in the moments when I needed to sit at the table and be scolded. Even her home office desk became a table where she could welcome her grandchildren to be themselves and be loved. Tables. They are powerful places.
The past few weeks, we have watched as 195 countries came together around the table to talk about climate change and how to slow/fix it. We have watched as countries have come to the table to talk peace. Families have gathered around tables to hash out difficult issues. People gather around tables to celebrate momentous events, newscasters sit at tables to keep us informed, faithful people gather around a table to give thanks. Tables are powerful places of change, hope and growth. They are places of connection and places of peace. As followers of Jesus, we listen when he bids us to come to his table where we receive forgiveness for our sins and our faith is strengthened for the work laid before us. We listen when he commands us to invite the hungry and thirsty and poor to the table of healing, which is to say we go to their tables and do what we can to make sure they are full of all the things tables can be and we work to make sure that our neighbors have what they need to put food on their own table. It is as if we are the ones preparing the table for them, setting it with all the fancy stuff, only instead of silver and the good water goblets, we are creating a community that insists on fair wages and access to clean water and heat and affordable housing, where children don’t fear illness or war, where all people are welcome and safe. We, the followers of Christ, are the ones who set the table where grace and love are always present, even in the moments where the table is a place for scolding.
As we here at First begin to build our actions team of hospitality and worship and community outreach and stewardship and education, which tables are you going to choose to sit at? What groups are you going to work with to make sure that the places where we gather are places of grace and love? There will certainly be no shortage of opportunity for you to follow Jesus’ command to love God and love your neighbor as you are invited to the table and as you invite others to the table. You could be part of the team that tells us the story of God by reading scripture, you could be part of the team that works to make sure teens are clothed, you could be part of the team that makes sure the hungry are fed, you could be part of the team that sets the altar table for all who come to receive the grace and mercy of God, you could be part of the team that reminds us that all we have and all we are belong to God. The possibilities are endless. The question for you is: how are you going to set your tables and engage with others so that they know they are loved and valued in this world? I am excited to see how God will bring us all together to further the work he has set before us for the next 5 years.