TOGETHER AT GOD’S TABLE by Pastor Sue Palmer
'Pass the potatoes please!' Family meals are often the place where we have learned table etiquette. Chewing with your mouth closed. Offering someone else the last piece before taking it yourself. Remembering to compliment the cook. Good table manners help us show gratitude and consideration of those who matter most to us.
At church we talk about making room at the table for everyone. The idea of our congregation sitting at a big dinner table is great allegory since we all know how much we love to eat together. But The 'table' idea of course is not just about meal times. The ‘table’ is a symbol for how we interact with each other in all of our activities, worship and relationships, as a congregation. When we gather with Christ ‘at the table’ we become a part of His story and we become a part of the story of one another.
Sometimes there can be discomfort at the table. It is a reality that being together at God’s table can at times mean rubbing shoulders with people who you may disagree with, who you don’t understand, who may not understand you, or who you may not even like much. Diversity does have its challenges!
God does help us, however, to not only become one body, but to then go out and change the world together. The mystical happens when you honor your place at God’s table. Love with a capital L envelops us and connects us as brothers and sisters. The differences are still there but God’s Loving Holy Spirit empowers us in a way that we truly are woven together into loving community. We find that our diversity actually becomes our strength. The chefs, the waiters, the washer upper-ers, we all have our gifts that benefit the body!
I invite you to come to the table and find your place and sit together in faithful and enduring commitment not only to your God who has called you here, but to each other, and to the mission of Jesus Christ, the mission that matters most.
So what do good table manners look like? The best place to begin I think is with:
PUTTING OTHERS FIRST - the Good Samaritan Effect: Your brothers and sisters will feel valued!
Bringing blessing through the power of our words as well as our deeds: It is good to consider how we can bring comfort, upliftment, encouragement and strength to those at our table, just by thinking about the power of what we say. And when our words are accompanied by positive non-verbal cues and body language, we are on the path to creating joyful people around us!
Sometimes our words may cause pain. Even if we are not intentionally trying to hurt anyone, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise. It is sometimes difficult to stop in the heat of discussions, arguments or topics we feel passionate about to reflect on what we are about to say. But pre-conflict reflection – as opposed to post-conflict reflection, is a wonderful way to avoid the bush fire from starting in the first place.
o Are my words going to hurt my sister or brother?
o Am I speaking from a place of anger or pain? If so, does this justify me then to hurt someone else?
o Would it be better to communicate in a less threatening way
When our words are accompanied by positive uplifting actions, it’s a double whammy of joy that we are bringing to those around us.
Care, and Show you care
o Compliment someone (truthfully)
o Ask if anyone would like a cuppa, and make it for them!
o Offer to give someone a lift
o Call someone to just say hi and to see how they’re doing
o Let someone else have the best seat at the restaurant
o Let someone tell their story without interrupting them
o Invite someone for dinner
Be the difference to someone this week!