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The Power of the Table

The Power of the Table

Like the sacramental use of water and bread and wine, friendship takes what’s common in human experience and turns it into something holy. — Eugene H. Peterson, Leap Over a Wall

The Lord’s Table

I find it interesting that the same kind of pull I have toward my table, Jesus Himself had toward a certain table in the Scriptures. A physical table is not actually the point. But creating value around intentional time to sit with each other, to listen, to respond, to break bread, to laugh, or to cry is the point. For me, my kitchen table invites me into this space frequently and freely.

We have been given a precious picture in God’s Word when, just before Jesus’ greatest suffering, He gathered His disciples around the table and He broke bread.

In other words, He pulled together His precious friends (and one enemy). He gave thanks to His Father, and in doing so, He continued His personal preparation for what would ultimately be the greatest moment in all of history:

Then came the preparation day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us, so that we may eat it.” They asked Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” He replied, “When you have entered the city, a man carrying an earthen jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house that he enters. And say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ Then he will show you a large upstairs room, furnished [with carpets and dining couches]; pre- pare the meal there.” They left and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

When the hour [for the meal] had come, Jesus reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. He said to them, “I have earnestly wanted to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” — Luke 22:7-16 AMP

Jesus Himself eagerly desired to be with His friends, and together they gathered around purposed food, that is, not just for their bodies, but food that was meant to nourish their souls and their spirits. I love the picture of Jesus reclining, perfectly at ease in the moment.

And so they shared in the service of Communion together, a spiritual meal that prepared all of them for the upcoming days.

The days in which we live, when many of us mistake busyness for purpose, and followers for friends, it is important that we have a sacred place where we can gather with others. We need to be able to share time, food, prayer, laughter, and challenges with just a few people or more. We need a place where our families and loved ones know they can come and relax in our presence. It does not have to be a pristine presence, but it needs to be a place that represents life with others, and a place where you are free to be yourself.

Some of you may not have a home where you can make this happen, but you may have a favorite coffee place or restaurant, or some place in the beautiful outdoors where you can sit, relax, and simply be.

At the kitchen table in my house — or while sitting at my kitchen bench — people feel free to walk in and pull up a chair while I put on the coffee (or they do!), and that place of safety immediately brings security and the sense of selah, and an ease around conversation begins.

Welcome at the Table

Over the years, my kitchen table has been filled with sewing machines, painting projects, coloring books, pages filled with song lyrics, fresh flowers, cookie dough, and cookbooks, and women’s magazines — and more homework than you’d ever like to imagine!

But what I’ve loved the most as my family and friends have learned how to work together is that we’ve learned how to talk over the kitchen table.

Part of building a family is learning how to work together, how to be quiet together and how to be noisy together, depending on what is appropriate for the occasion.

Writing out party invitations, addressing hundreds of thank-you notes over the years, poring over kids’ birthday cake recipes, planning great meals and actually cooking terrible meals — throughout all of it, our kitchen table has been the backdrop to many learning opportunities.

Brené Brown, a professor of social work whose major study has been conducted around vulnerability in society, had this to say about our deepest relationships: “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued, when they can give and receive without judgment.”1

With our kids and our friends and our spouses, it is so beneficial if we can create a space where there can be vulnerability, a sense of openness and honesty, without the pressure of having the perfect answer, and without the threat of experiencing an immediate rebuttal.

Such is the beauty of the kitchen table, where we have permission to be ourselves with each other. A sweet friend sent me a saying that has become one of my favorites: Let’s build longer tables and not higher fences.

Oh, my heart.

Are people welcome at your table? Jesus taught profoundly around the topic of the Great Banquet:

When one of those at the table with Him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” — Luke 14:15-24 NIV

We all have times where we feel we are simply too busy to come and sit at someone else’s table to share their lives and experiences with them — or to even think about making room for another at our own kitchen table. As pastors we find people in all walks of life who are simply lonely. Many have no “village” to turn to, no communal table to feel welcome at. This challenges me to the core. In the developing world, many have very little in the way of worldly possessions, but the village is strong. They share food, resources, parenting advice, and the table. Even if the table is a floor, they share life together there. On such travels, I have always been welcomed to come and just be part of the family vibe. And when food is scarce and water is muddied, they always wait until the guests have eaten as a sign of honor, and then they eat what is left. Super humbling to say the least. And the lessons our family has learned through experiences like this are timeless and of eternal significance.

Back when we were a family of four, I remember thinking, There’s still room at our table for more! We tried to adopt a little boy. Our hearts broke when just before we were to take him home, government policy changed, and we had to yield to a decision taken out of our hands. Then we lost a long-awaited baby through miscarriage. Our hopes were dashed again. But after a long wait, the day came when we finally welcomed Zoe Jewel into the world. There was such a sense of completion in knowing the chair that had been empty at our table for so long would now be filled.

But we weren’t done. I ended up buying more chairs. And then more chairs. There’s still room at our table!

Make Room!

May I encourage you today to make some room in your heart and in your mind, at your kitchen bench, in your church, in your life group, or in your friendship circle — for others? Open yourself up to new possibilities in your life, new people to love, new people to learn from. We were meant to nourish other people and to be nourished by others.

To nourish means so much more than just eating in the physical realm; it means to feed, to encourage, to nurture, to help something develop spiritually and emotionally and relationally.

Theologian N. T. Wright said: “The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world… The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.”2

Some of the most valuable times of fellowship happen as we break bread with others at our well-worn kitchen tables. It’s time to declutter the space, open the door of your home and the door of your heart, and simply say, “There’s a place for you at my table.”

We learn this from the best. Jesus eats with everyone.

  1. Brené Brown, Daring Greatly (New York: Avery, 2015), 145.
  2. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperOne, 2006), page 211.

Excerpted with permission from The Golden Thread by Darlene Zschech, copyright Darlene Zschech.

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Your Turn

I have a long farmhouse table in my garage. I stored it there because it’s big and makes the room feel crowded and I had a small table perfect for my family… but I’ve missed having seats available at the table. I think I need to drag that baby back in and make room for more. Who can you invite to the table whether it be your kitchen table or a few chairs drawn together at a Starbucks? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full