From a practical perspective our table manners say a lot about who we are and what we believe about ourselves and others, love and life. In our dining rooms and living rooms, coffee shops and lunch counters, at school and work, fellowship hall and especially at the communion table who do we invite? Welcome? And include? Who do we see? Talk with? And Listen do? With whom will we break bread, share a cookie or piece of cake? Who do we follow? Who is the host? And who can lead?
Follow Jesus through story after story and one thing seems really, really, really clear; Jesus liked to eat! From wedding feasts to fish fries, while raising the spirit of friends and visiting strangers, in the upper room and the occasional flash mob in a field with five thousand. With saints and sinners, prophets and prostitutes, intimate friends and would-be-followers, he breaks bread with diverse people from all walks of life, genders, ethnicities, religions and spiritualities, economic status, ages and physical abilities. And along the way he upsets the comfortable, offends authorities, breaks rules, tears down walls, and violates polite practices that limit God’s grace, Christ’s life and the Spirit of Love.
I have been blessed over the years by serving congregations, including Greendale People’s Church, who invite all people to participate in communion and believe that all are called to participate in Christ’s ongoing work to heal broken relationships and our fragmented world. Over and Over again, I have witnessed the transformative power of God’s grace and Christ’s love resurrecting hope in persons who have been pushed aside and even rejected by society, family, friends and other churches and faith communities.
Just this week two very different people entered this building, found their way to my office, sat down, and courageously shared their story. I listened through their tears as these strangers and neighbors shared their hurts, hopes and fears. Would they be Unwelcome? Judged? Rejected? or leave feeling even worse off because they visits a church - our church; congregation; place of worship; community. You see, nothing about their experience in other faith communities, our space or signage indicated that they would be welcomed, included, celebrated or loved!
In one congregation we ended worship one Sunday by planting an Olive Tree from Israel as a prayer that God’s love and dream for peace might grow in our community, city and world.
As I stand and watch congregants add a handful of dirt to the base of the tree, I dust my hands together and try to avoid getting my clothes too dirty, a voice breaks through the background chatter and I hear - or think I hear - something like – “…learn how to do that…”
I look around and wonder if I’m overheating in the sun. I’m about to move on when I hear this firm, urgent voice, “I’d like to learn how to do that!” A gentle tug on my sleeve directs me to the inquisitive, excited, wide-eyes of a nine or ten year old girl.
I search for words. She tires of waiting and repeats her question-request-plea once more; “I’d like to learn how to do that!”