It was my husband’s birthday last week, and my young daughter and I made an effort to get exactly the number of his age of his favorite dark chocolates as part of his gift. She had carefully arranged the chocolate pieces on our kitchen table, and they were left there when we went to bed that night. To our utter dismay, in the morning we saw that the chocolates were askew and only a handful remained! Instead, there were many deep scratches discoloring the dark wood top of our table and a couple of our wooden chairs.
Evidently, during the night one of our dogs had decided the chocolates smelled so good they were irresistible and he or she feasted. This despite the challenge of getting to the chocolates with slippery nails and paws on the table and chairs (I do not think the dog knew chocolate is bad for dogs and there was also a health risk!). To make it a bit worse, this table was our Christmas gift to each other only last year and it still feels new. We had chosen this table because of its size and ability to warmly welcome a few more people to our home for shared meals and holidays, reminding both my husband and I of meals our grandmothers held at tables similar to this one. It is the table that we expect to use for the rest of our lives, never imagining that we would be refraining from inviting friends and family to our home as the pandemic months continue. We could never have expected that half of the table is now our daughter’s desk for online school during the pandemic, and now the other half has boldly visible marks commemorating my husband’s birthday and our dog’s misdeed!
Jesus was teaching the disciples one day and shared this with them:
Part of me is very aware that this week our country is experiencing another presidential election, during the ongoing pandemic, with significant unrest in many of our cities and communities. There also may be noticeable distress among those closest to us, our good friends and family, those we might have welcomed to our table in pre-pandemic days. Do you notice any of the emotional currents inside you, if you are curious, sensing your own thoughts and perhaps even fears related to all that is happening around us and the election this week?
If you let yourself reflect back, did your family table hold the boundary of not talking about “religion or politics” as you were growing up? Did you have any examples of respectfully shared conversations with people for whom you cared deeply about what really matters, to include the themes and topics involved in religion and politics? Or did you experience a model of avoiding conflict, without permission to ask questions or share your own thoughts and opinions as you grew more and more aware of the world? Whatever your formation was, do you feel it is helpful to you now? Or do you want to do things differently? What might that look like, either way?
Jesus’s parable shared with the disciples seem to help me. The master knows the difference between the wheat and the weeds, and the master knew that the enemy mixed them. He who did the planting, preparing for the growth and fruitfulness of the field, is still there to care for it. In fact, the master tells the slaves to allow the two to continue growing together so that the good will not be harmed. I can feel the calm trustworthiness of the master planter, the confidence in his care for the field and everything in it, and his seeming persistence and patience as it all continues to grow and take shape. The master is there in the ongoing evolution of life in the task before them, with a perspective that the slaves did not seem to have. So, it appears the slaves then still have work to do, tending the field for the plants who were not yet mature.
We know that information will keep coming to us, regarding the election and our country and with respect to the pandemic. I imagine that there will be continued opportunities to speak and to engage, with those close to us and with those further away. Each of us cannot know the larger story that will eventually emerge, but maybe we can trust that doing our own part is enough as we continue during these uniquely challenging times.
Another piece of this could be invitation to share the meals at our tables with an intention to acknowledge politics and religion in whatever way is helpful to you and your loved ones, holding space and patience for yourself and each other so all feel heard and understood. Or perhaps it is to refrain from sharing one perspective too strongly, instead maintaining a curious and respectful space in our work and in our homes. And maybe it is to simply remember grace and the temporary nature of all things (including dogs, chocolates, and scratched tables!) in contrast to our eternal Creator working to bring the Kingdom and eternal life to all God’s children. All that, with Jesus’s promise,
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
Let us pray...
Thank you for allowing us to keep learning and growing even while those near us may think or act very differently from ourselves. Help us to trust you, even if things change in the night, or we are feeling overcome with fear or sadness. Remind us that each one of us is needed for your good purpose, and we are not alone. Amen.