Thursday, March 1, 2012

What We Need is Here (part 1)

Last night was out first adventure with Table Church. This is a Lenten worship opportunity that is outside the traditional box and is a combination of elements from an earlier experiment a couple of years ago when I was a seminary intern, and elements from St Lydia's Church in NYC.
The theme, if you will, for this experience is  "What We Need is Here"

The early Christian church gathered around tables, over a meal, to share in fellowship centered in Christ.  This gathering not only reflected the practice of Jesus gathering with the disciples, but before that, it reflected the Sabbath meals and Seder meal of Jewish tradition.  At the beginning they would have given thanks and blessed the bread, which was broken and shared.  During their time together they would have eaten, shared conversation and also listened to teaching. At the end of the meal, they would have blessed the cup and been sent forth in peace.  This is the shape of  our worship.

Everyone was encouraged to come and bring a munchie to feed 4 people. The food could be hot, cold, made by you, made by someone else. There was no advance sign up or preparation needed by anyone coming and if someone could not bring food- no worries. We shared in preparing the space- the tables were moved into the shape of a cross and covered, a cross and candles were brought out. Bread and wine were added.

Opening Prayer: Loving God we give you thanks that you have gathered us here and that you gather us in your presence in this place. Open our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you and our hearts to welcome you now. Amen
We gathered and lit candles. I distributed candles to people one by one and slowly, so we could power down from our day and all of the distractions we had brought into the room. Many of us had come from hectic days. We then began singing "What We Need is Here" - a paperless music song I experienced in January. We sang this song a bunch of times before moving to our table area where we placed our candles there and lit a few more.
After some opening prayer, we sat down and I invited the person closest to the bread at each of the four arms of the cross to lift the bread as we prayed a blessing. That person then broke the bread and shared it with the person next to them- "This is my body given for you." And around the tables it went.
We then blessed the cup and ate our meal.

After the meal was almost done, we had a reading of Scripture and some time for a message and discussion.

Bible reading:

He sat down to eat with them, took the bread and said the blessing. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the way and explained the Scriptures to us?”   Luke 24:30-32.

Our life together is about recognizing Christ in our midst. Even in our feelings of insecurity. In our time here in Worship, Study, Fellowship and Prayer we meet Christ and share Christ around God’s Table.

Since this was the first week, I did more talking than is intended for future weeks- it was a time for setting the shape.

We're Learning How Important the Bread Is:

Since there were some gaps at the tables, I noticed as people would turn to each side making sure to ask- "did you get bread?" The bread became necessary. And this shaped us. We read the lesson from Luke where Jesus breaks bread with the disciples after his resurrection and it is when the bread is broken that they recognize him and it lights a fire in them.

God provides our daily bread and is the Bread of Life.
What does it mean for us to know that Christ is here and that this is God's table?
Where do we recognize Jesus?
How is God speaking to us?
What fire is God lighting in us?

We provided time for silent reflection about how God might be speaking.

As I looked around the room, people were deep in prayer and thought.

Who else should we be looking for to ask-"Did you get bread?"

We can see daily bread as food and wonder who is literally hungry.
We can also see daily bread as a hunger for God
Who is hungry and needs to be fed?
 If what we need is here, and others also need this how will we respond?

We're Learning a Lesson in Trusting God:

We had to trust to come. We had no idea who all would come and how many.

There are obvious worries in this premise- how will we know if there is enough food? how will we know if we are the only ones who come? how will we know if people we want to be with come? how will we know what to expect? It was hard to not plan who was bringing "real food" as opposed to a bag of Tostitos. It was hard to not know what would happen ahead of time. These are legitimate concerns. In the end, there was so much food that one table was not enough to hold it.

While I had talked in advance with a musician to provide acoustic accompaniment to our singing, we only had three songs to sing- our gathering, a song during our prayer time and our blessing song at the end. We sang these songs by listening and repeating- there was no printed music or bulletin. There was the obvious worry about whether we would be able to sing the songs. We all shared our anxieties and the experience of having those anxieties overcome.
We worried about our needs but what we needed was provided.
And we experienced communion- when we share food and ourselves as those who have gathered in Christ.

We are still learning from God and each other-

Tomorrow: Deepening our Prayer together at the Table

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