To Gather Around the Table

Let me tell you a little story from earlier this summer:

I was with my roommate in our favorite city, leaving our weekly yoga class in the park with the killer views of the skyline. As we drove towards home, all I could think about was tacos, so that's where we went. Straight to the favorite hole-in-the-wall taco place, and straight out back because the weather was too good to be stuck inside with too-dark ambience and too-cold air.

We were seated at the empty half of a long wooden table, next to another couple. We didn't know them, they didn't know us, and we arrived just as they were signing their check, so we didn't even overlap for long, but when they left, they leaned over to rave about the brussels sprouts tacos.

They're the special today, they aren't even on the menu, but they are SO GOOD and you must try them.

And then the guy from the next table over chimed in too, because he had eaten them, he could vouch for them, they really are that good. You should try them.

It wouldn't have happened if we hadn't shared that table.

If we hadn't sat down next to them.

If we hadn't put our phones down for long enough to look up and smile at the people near us and make eye contact and say hello.

I've been thinking a lot about tables lately.

I've been thinking that the table is the heart of the home, even though most people say the kitchen is. The kitchen is good and we gravitate there, but the beauty happens when we move from the preparation to the celebration.

When we sit down next to loved ones and strangers and acquaintances and break bread, we are building love. We are building community. We are building a rich kind of Kingdom from the ground up, starting with nourishment and ending in glory, reveling in the flavors and the stories and the laughter all the while.

When we gather together, we link arms and form a stronger bond, one that can push back against the darkness with a mighty bright light. Because community like this feels like pure light to me.

When we crack open the first bottle of wine, I feel the hard shell around my heart crack open too, and I feel free to open up. When we dig into the plates before us, I am prompted to dig deeper in the questions I ask of the ones around me. When we savor the sweetness, the saltiness, the blending of all the tastes, I remember to celebrate the diversity of our people here too, that we also are of different flavors, but we're best when we come together.

So I've been thinking a lot about tables.

Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?
— Psalm 78:19

He did, and He does.

I've been thinking about how Jesus gathered around tables too.

How he made a scene because he sat and ate with sinners at a great banquet. (Mark 5:27-31)

How he was invited by a Pharisee to have dinner, and he went, and he reclined at the table. It was then that the beautiful, pivotal story happens of a woman with a messy past anointing the feet and the hair of Jesus with the one worthy thing she possessed. (Luke 7:36-50)

How again he ate at the home of a Pharisee, the very people out to criticize and find fault with the way Jesus lived, even when it would have been easier to hang out with his friends instead. (Luke 11:37-53)

How it was after a dinner around a table with his betrayer nearby that Jesus knelt to show his closest followers how much he loved them, how willing he was to serve them, how he wasn't the master they had expected, but a servant humbly bowing before their dirty feet instead. (John 13:1-17)

Look at all that heart found around those tables. Look at all that love. Look at those examples of coming together and how mercy and grace and so much goodness flows forth in close community like that.

I'm in a new home now, one that we're still putting our touches on, and I just keep staring at that table in the corner of our kitchen. I can't wait to invite others to sit around it with me. I can't wait to make meals that are eaten there, can't wait for wine glasses to leave their mark on the painted wood, there can't wait for crumbs to spill out of laughing mouths there.

Who will you gather around your table today? How will that space become holy ground in the heart of your home?