Thursday, May 30, 2013

Turning the Tables at Table Church

As I continue to post about Table Church, more people have asked what it is, so in part this is a flyover of what God is up to on Wednesday nights at 4th and Windsor Streets around 6:00. But first, let me tell you why you want to know. Because last night, after we had watched a snippet of the very popular "The Bible" series about Moses, one of the girls there who is about 10 got a quizzical look on her face and said-"It seems like God shows up on mountains when there are important things to say." So we then had a group conversation about other times God shows up on mountains and I asked where in the New Testament God shows up on a mountain that is connected to Moses, and it was one of our high school folk who knew it was the Transfiguration. Not the adults, not even the "cradle Lutheran" adults. A kid who long ago was a kid at the afterschool program and is now a gifted young person. But these two people taught us all. Golden moments happen on Wednesdays

So we started last year as a Lenten thing- evening Wednesdays- "bring a munchies, bring a friend." We had 5 the first week. By the end of Lent we had a max of just over 20 and talked about continuing in some way but for whatever reasons, we didn't get there. This year during Lent we started in the 20's and have on some occasions had in the 30's, but pretty consistently bounce around in the mid 20's every week. We gather with an opening liturgy where we light candles, and pray, and confess our failings in community and hear forgiveness. We talk about why there are candles, and the candles, bread and wine/grape juice are connected to the good news of Jesus. We bless our bread and wine/grape juice and commune each other. Then we eat what the community has brought to share and have conversation-all around tables in the shape of a cross.

Some weeks lots of homemade things bless us. Some weeks, people bring leftover food from office parties, or donuts on sale at the bakery outlet, or what you got at the grocery store because you had a little money and a little time. One week we were totally meatless and there was a plea for at least a little meat, please? There is always enough, but some weeks we have had to learn to trust and to wait. For some this is huge because insecurity is a way of life. I love watching this change.

Sometimes we sing some Taize songs, or paperless music. And sometimes we don't because we need to work on a better music component. But in any event, after dinner, we have a kind of informal study in a group that is decidedly intergenerational. We have talked about prayer, and stretched ourselves as pray-ers. We have used art, and small group times to engage what we are exploring. We have started to talk about our city and what we ought to try to do to bless where we are.

And at the request of one attender, we are now watching little bits of "The Bible" miniseries on DVD which he donated. We can then ask questions about the story, the people, hear parts left out, put things in perspective, and ask how we see God at work. So when we watched Abraham and heard how he is a very conflicted person and as one of the girls noted, often forgets about the people he is supposed to love, we could also ask what it says about God- that God would use really imperfect people to do God's work in the world.

We are a mix of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, and all levels of faith and faith formation. There are those who can read, and those who cannot, those who can move easily and those who cannot. Those who are financially Ok, and those who are not. Those who can bring food and those who cannot. Those who have gone to church their whole lives, and those who are still trying to figure it out, and those who have experienced "bad religion" but long to know God. And lots of people who are singles- widowed, divorced, separated, just here solo. I have learned a lot about real community from watching a large group of individuals ( as in not families) become family. That is a God thing for sure!

We have gotten more comfortable among our core group, as others move in and out depending upon work, and a lot of other factors in our transient neighborhood. And I have watched as Wednesday leads some to Sunday, or strengthens their walk, and how at least one other person has noticed that "the Wednesday people" look out for each other. We have gotten to a point where people can honestly share what they want us to pray for or celebrate- everything from upcoming surgery, or trouble at work, to prayers for tests in school, or fear about high school orientation.

We have had to remind ourselves that the concerns of all ages are worthy of being heard, but have also been able to be a support for those kids who come without adults but are drawn into our midst and we also can laugh together, and give hugs.

So on Wednesday nights, for about an hour and a half, we step out of the busy-ness and into a place where we are fed. And where I pray we continue to strengthen and grow in our own faith and together.

I titled this post "turning the tables"- in part because that is the first thing that happens to prepare our fellowship room for Table Church. But also because we are turning the tables on expectations of what is worship. Our time is decidedly relaxed, and a little chaotic when little kids are hungry. And when people are strolling in late, but the shape of faithful worship is there and there are people who are ready to light those candles, be readers, and serve as wine stewards. And with the exception of the wine, most of those are kids and people new to faith community- turning the tables on what we sometimes do which is to decide who is worthy, and who we will ask, and who will "do it right." And which prayers are the right ones.

And we turn the tables on what it means to share in the body- when you have turned and handed bread to someone, saying- "this is the body of Christ, given for you"  or have made the cross on someone's head and reminded them they are a child of God or have prayed with someone on a personal level- it turns the tables on incarnational community. "With us" and "for you"  are not just words we say, in a rote way- they are intimate.

The way I know this level of connection happens here is not only that I see changes in the group interaction, but when someone will be away, they say so- because it is important to them, and they believe it is important to the rest of us. Turning the tables on commitment and healthy accountability, and the common world vision that we are all just individuals moving through life.

So if you find yourself in our part of God's world on a Wednesday around 6- stop in- there's always a place at God's table- with us, for you.

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