Today we’ve gathered around a table in a humanistic tradition that spans millennia and crosses cultural lines: eating together. This simple, yet underrated act is an endangered custom in 2017, and yet, The Atlantic refers to communal dining as “the quintessential human experience.” I wanted to dive into that a little this morning.
As a child, I remember my mom or dad yelling, “dinner’s ready!” from the kitchen, and, recognizing that dinnertime was important, I would immediately spring into action. Arguably, dinnertime was one of the most important moments of the day. It was a time when we, as a family, debriefed our varied life experiences that day. Someone would bless the food by giving thanks for all that we had, including the meal, and then my parents would typically initiate conversation with my brother and me by asking questions like: How was your day? What was something positive that happened to you today? What’s the rest of your week look like? How are your exams going? Gradually, we modeled their questions, allowing us to engage with adults in meaningful ways. The table seemed to give permission to connect in some ways.
Yes, I lived with these people every day, but did I have many opportunities to pause with my family members and ask them questions about their lives? No. Sitting side-by-side, my brother and I were forced to work together to pass dishes and simultaneously felt drawn to look our parents in the eye...sitting just across from us on the other side of the table. There were traditions, too:
Dinnertime in the Johnson home set the stage for an appreciation for sharing with others on a deeper level. Today’s meal was an opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level.
Before any of us even arrived today, we were busy preparing a dish that would represent ourselves to the larger group. This morning, each of us has hand-picked items to bring with us with the intent to tell a story...you might have used family recipes reaching back generations in an attempt to share memories with the group or maybe you brought a new favourite dish to make new memories. Regardless, we are sharing of ourselves. We’ve carefully prepared food to fit the purpose - Thanksgiving -, and we’ve all brought these dishes to this specific table to feed these specific people. You might have even coordinated with others to ensure your dish helped to create a more balanced meal or checked in with others to see if they had any food allergies. If the holiday, venue, or list of attendees changed, our dishes would have changed in-kind. Cooking for others is a personalized ministry.
Each of you have provided a sermon this morning to this community, only instead of sharing individually through spoken word, we’ve created something special with everyone’s edible contributions.
You’ve followed all of the same steps as sermon writing:
While bringing a dish to a potluck might seem simple, I’d argue it’s far more complex than any sermon. You’ve carefully made countless decisions relating to the preparation, execution, and even presentation of a dish that will be eaten by friends and loved ones. When we eat a meal prepared specifically for us by someone else, we are taking into our bodies a sermon of nutrition, sacrifice, tradition, and care. I can taste, smell, and savour your sermon when it is in food form, and for many people (myself included) I associate smells and food with memories.
When we sit together at a table like this one, it truly is sacred. Sacred because though each of us express ourselves through food differently - selfless sharing is abundant. For some of us, we have a sweet tooth, others enjoy simple, no-fuss recipes, and still others enjoy the spiritual practice of highly-detailed concoctions. Whatever we choose to bring, we are still sharing.
The table makes us human by reminding us of our primal connectedness. We each ache for community, we crave good food, and we seek spiritual encounters. As we leave this table today, how can we continue to promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace? I challenge each of us (myself included) to think about the amount of preparation that went into today’s meal and apply it to other forms of ministry and outreach as well. Like we experienced today, are we allowing time to reflect on what individual needs a person might have? Are we being intentional with our actions and words when encountering others? Do we collaborate with others in our community to ensure a more balanced approach? Are we being astute to the needs of others? As we heard in the video...What the world needs now...is love. How will we respond?
May we each fill tables with friends, family, and strangers alike in all aspects of our lives as we learn to become better stewards of community through love.
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.