Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Church of the Mountain:
This Sunday we will celebrate World Communion with Christians all around the world from all kinds of denominations. The practice began at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA in 1933.
As I prepare for the worship service, I am drawn to contemplate the one piece of furniture that is the most essential piece in any dwelling, be it in one’s home or in the church, at least in my opinion: the table.
For me, it is the centerpiece of a home, the place of gathering, of feasting, of long conversations. It’s a place of daily communion that transpires when family and friends pull up a chair and sit across from one another, break bread, and share their lives.
I think back to all the tables I have sat around and still do, like the one in my mother’s house. My family grew up around this table that she has owned for probably close to seventy years. The varnish has worn off in places, and my mother has leaf inserts that weren’t meant for the table, that slip and slide out of place so you have to be very careful where you place your glass. But she’s needed her table to grow to accommodate the large number of people who still come to her home—her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, her friends whom she has met with weekly to pray for the last thirty years, a bible study group that meets around it every other Friday; not to mention all the cups of coffee and tea and cookies, crackers and cheese, she’s offered anyone who just pops over.
What is it about the table? For one thing it gives us space apart from one another to remain individuals, and yet, if draws us ever closer to one another through storytelling, through laughter, through sharing burdens. It’s a level playing field both visually, literally and metaphorically.
I have many memories around my mother’s table, of holiday feasts, or sitting long after everyone else was excused because I refused to eat my peas, and of my brother pitching a glass of milk over my sister’s head when she teased him about a girlfriend.
Later in life, many of my friends came to that table and discussed faith, and prayed for one another. I remember sitting around my mother’s table and weeping with my brothers and sister after my father died and we were preparing his funeral. And joyous times like sharing breakfast after having a surprise 80th birthday party for my mother; or the time we had a surprise wedding anniversary party for my grandparents who came down from Syracuse, New York, for a visit and found their friends had come from far away places to celebrate with us.
My mother has the gift of hospitality. Her arms are always open wide. Some how or other, God has always provided enough food to go around. Every meal has been a Lord’s supper—cooked and baked with gratitude, served with love, and for those who have had the privilege of being served around that table they have been given sustenance to go forth into the world and bring the gospel of generous grace to others because in one small way, they experienced that kind of generosity around her aging walnut table, whose joints sneak and whose surface is scratched.
As we come together to celebrate World Communion may we envision our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe sitting at all kinds of tables, and be awakened to their plights as they continue on their faith journey through many diverse wildernesses. And may each one of us see our tables, both in church and in our homes, as the Lord’s, where we willingly nourish one another body and soul.
In Him, the Bread of Life,