It’s summer again, the time of family gatherings. This is the time of year we put extensions in the table and dig folding chairs out of their dark corners so that there can be room enough for everyone at the table. Our table never quite meets the Norman Rockwell dream. There is always a bit of chaos when you bring so many people together. There’s the negotiation of who sits next to you and how to get more elbow room. Still, whatever the drama of the day may be, everyone has a place at the table.
As we’ve begun meeting in person at church again, it’s been cathartic to gather around Christ’s table for communion. It’s a shared space where each of us is given room to affirm once again that this is “Christ’s body given for you and Christ’s blood shed for you.” And you…and you…and you. It’s a beautiful and holy place.
Yet there can be drama here too. The “normal” questions of wine or grape juice, bread or crackers, communal cup or dipping or individual servings are now joined by new questions. How do we serve communion in ways that meet our CoVid protocols? How many people are allowed in a service? Is hand sanitizer required or suggested? Just like any family table, there are a multitude of deeply held and vehemently defended opinions.
For me, both the kitchen table and the alter hold questions. Beyond whether we use the fancy china or paper plates, a common loaf or crackers, there are questions of community. Who will we be to one another? What does love require of us here, in this time and space, with these people? What does it mean to follow Jesus here?
As I have been sitting with these questions, I have been thinking about Ephesians. It’s a letter written to a church that is struggling to become a true community in light of profound difference. They need to transform from strangers into family. Here’s what I gleaned from rereading the letter to the Ephesians recently.
1- The foundation of Christian community is being grounded in the grace we have received.
2- Christian community is nourished by what we share in common, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:5-6
3- We are called to practice a posture of grace “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Eph 4:32
4-We are to “Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ.” Eph 5:21. This is the beauty and difficulty of community. It requires intentionally choosing to lay down my need to have things my way. The decentering of the self isn’t easy but it is faithful work.
5-When in doubt, pray, pray and pray some more. Ephesians 6:8 calls us to pray at all times and for all the saints. Prayer invites the Spirit to take center stage. It breaks down barriers and upholds community.
Whatever tables we find ourselves at this week I hope that we will remember the grace we have received. May we embody that grace by making room for others. Expand the table. Scoot over. Listen well. Required to practice community, join together in a prayer of thanksgiving, then eat up!
We thank you for this table
We thank you for the food upon it
We thank you for the people around it
We ask you to be present here.
Sit with us.
Speak with us.
Knit us together
Through shared food,
Through shared time,
Through shared grace
And let all other cares be subjected to you.