October 2009

All at the table

I guess my fondest memories of family gatherings – the times when various in-laws, spouses, nieces and nephews etc. get together – is the meal. Often at Christmas, but just as ‘infrequently frequent’ at special birthdays or anniversaries we would all get together for a great time of food and family. The table would be groaning with food, and afterwards we would be groaning that we had eaten too much. Usually, because of the press of relatives, it would be necessary to set up a second table at the end of the usual dining table to fit everyone in. Frequently, if the dining area was too small, the second table would be placed a short distance away, and become the children’s table.

I remember once, one part of the family couldn’t come and we were a fewer in number than usual. The second table was still set up and the children relegated to it. One of them after looking around said, ‘Surely we can sit at the same table’. So, after a moments consideration and a shuffling of plates and chairs, we squeezed in for a joyful meal. Our elbows knocked, there wasn’t quite enough room, but the meal was shared in closeness of body and heart. Somehow the celebratory meal took on an added dimension.

Our commission from Jesus is much more than sharing our news, or our long-distance nods of recognition while queuing for a cuppa after the service. It is sitting down at the table together, sharing the love of Christ with one another, letting that love transcend all differences and disagreements. Yes and sometimes the closeness will mean a knocking of elbows, ideas and personalities.

I know for myself that it is easy to think that I have done my bit by turning up to church and singing and praying and listening. That’s good and necessary, and before I became a ‘professional Christian’(i.e. a minister) when I missed church I knew that I was missing something. But I have also come to realise that my faith and discipleship is both challenged and encouraged when I put myself in situations of rubbing shoulders (and elbows) with other Christians. At house groups, prayer meetings or just actually talking - really talking - after a worship service, God takes a normal situation and gives a bonus by his grace. And I am changed.

So spend some time over a cuppa with a Christian friend or in a house group etc. to discuss life’s problems and also what makes you tick. And also to wonder out loud where God is in all of this. And my guess is you’ll learn more of each other, and more of God.

October 2009