Kristen Bredenbeck Mayer
I once wrote a story about a table, specifically the table around which Jesus
celebrated the last supper. I was in 5 th Grade. I imaged the life of the table, what
happened to it after the Last Supper, where it went, who gathered around it. I
guess I have been interested in tables for awhile. I love the tables we have in our
house. My dining room table is from my grandmother and I can remember many
a holiday dinner around it, enjoying her German cooking. And now we have
Steve’s family table in our kitchen, a table he remembers well as a gathering place
growing up in California.
I’ve been thinking about tables in preparing for this service. And of course there
are passages in the Bible about tables. A familiar one to all of us and one of my
favorites is: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies
Thou annoitest my head with oil; my cup runneth over…from the 23 rd psalms.
Look at the cover of your bulletin. This artwork is done by Jan Richardson, an
artist, an author and poet and a Methodist minister. It is called “The Best
Supper”. Why do you think it is called the “best supper?” For me I see a large
table which seems to have room for more and more people. The people are
diverse and the painting evokes a table of welcome and solace. I can see different
kinds of bread, like we will have today in communion.
It reminds me of the tables where I’ve been welcomed and where there was
always room for one more. WCS reminds us that Christ calls us to a table where
the welcome is wide. He offers us a space with bread and wine in abundance to
give solace to our sorrow and to stir our joy. Even as Christ invites us to this table,
he does not mean for us to linger here forever. He gives us sustenance in order to
send us forth, carrying a space of welcome within us, called to offer it to those we
meet: one more, and one more, and one more…..
Listen to this poem entitled ‘And the Table Will Be Wide: A Blessing for World
And the Table Will Be Wide: A Blessing for World Communion Sunday
And the table
will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
And our sorrows
will be met
And we will open our hands
to the feast
And we will turn
toward each other
And we will give up
And we will taste
And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
will be the feast.
— Jan Richardson
I love this poem. I love thinking of this wide, wide table.
But can you really fit more and more people around the table? And how does the
table change with more and more people? How is the conversation different?
Can you talk with everyone? Is it as intimate a conversation? Does it get too
noisy? There may even be times when you aren’t heard because so many people
I’m wondering if we need two tables. One table is the ever expanding table,
maybe one with a lot of leaves that can be added as more and more people are
welcomed and invited. This is so important, especially as we welcome those with
whom we don’t normally eat. Here at PCC most of us are comfortable at this large
table. We are good at welcoming new folks to our table, to eat our familiar food.
But as we’ve been saying a lot lately at PCC– maybe this large table is not always
our table but someone else’s large table to which we are welcomed. It is harder
to come to someone else’s table. We don’t know everyone. The food may be
different. This large table will be ever wide and welcoming.
But I think we need another table also. We need to remember that intimate,
small tables serve another purpose that doesn’t replace the purpose of the large
table but enhances it. This small table is one in which we know each other well,
can hear each other clearly and can really be present to each other. For me, this
small table would be one in which I could become both vulnerable and brave as I
share myself and know that you, you who know me, would not judge if I say
something out of my ignorance or unawareness and that you would gently share
with me your own stories so that I could learn. We may sometimes have different
or unusual food at this small table but because it is a comfortable, familiar table
we eagerly try new things. I think of the table conversations we had last week.
Now some of us need the larger table more than the smaller or vis versa but I
believe we all need both in some degree. This is a balancing act and as Steve
Hammond often says it is not either/or. Perhaps we could envision a flow back
and forth between a large noisy table where everyone is welcomed and a small
intimate one where we are each known. Where do you find the experience of
both the large table and a small table in your life?
And where do you spend more time—at the large table or the smaller one? Can
we challenge ourselves to move to the other one a little more? Or maybe it is
simply one table, sometimes large and sometimes small. I think you know that
this reflection on table size is a way to remind ourselves that we need a balance
between our outward justice work and our inner spiritual work which can be done
individually but is also important to do communally. Why can we imagine that
worship happens in community, activism happens in community, yet healing, self
care and spiritual growth is done alone? Yes, we need space for both.
So far we’ve been talking about what happens around the table. Usually when we
think of communion we think of Communion with a capital C: the sacrament that
Christians all over the world are sharing in today. I want to end this meditation
by sharing some stories of communion with a small c. This kind of communion is
a sharing or exchanging of a spiritual nature. I know you all have stories of this
kind– of “everyday communion.” Let me share with you and maybe it will inspire
or remind you of your own stories.
Last week I came home from a busy day and my Steve called to me: “Kristen,
come see who’s here!!” And there was someone who I hadn’t seen in awhile,
who has been seriously ill, sitting at a table with Steve and they were playing
chess. As I put away groceries I could hear them laughing and talking. Dinner was
a simple one of heated up left overs but it felt like a feast as we talked and shared
and it was indeed everyday communion.
There are lots of everyday communion stories from my travels. A recent one
happened this past February when we decided to cross the Rio Grande in a small
rowboat. An elderly man rowed us across to Mexico where there was a small
town. The story of this little one dirt road town is an interesting and sad one but
suffice it to say that we meet folks from this tiny village, had lunch at one of two
houses serving lunch and had an amazing conversation about walls, rivers and our
common concerns. Everyday communion.
Where have you had everyday communion? May we be mindful of and thankful
for these times of everyday communion and may we think about and challenge
ourselves around the tables in our lives. Amen
As we prepare for communion, I want to share another poem by Jan Richardson
called Table Blessing.
To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine,
and there is always room,
for one more.
And so we come.
From the streets
and from the alleys
From the deserts
and from the hills
From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghosts.
We hold the seeds of healing,
we dream of a new creation,
we know the things
that make for peace,
and we struggle to give them wings.
And yet, to your table
Hungering for your bread,
thirsting for your wine,
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
O God of Wisdom,
Prayer © Jan L. Richardson from In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in
Update: Thanks to everyone who has requested permission to use this blessing or
“The Best Supper” artwork. For worship services and related settings, you are welcome
to use the blessing without requesting permission; all that’s needed is to include a line
with this info:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com