What is it about the dinner table that fosters community? Is it the good, hearty meal? Is it the way the plates and the napkins and the silverware are lovingly and purposefully set out? Is it the comfort of a well-worn chair to sink into at the end of the day? Is it because there is space and time to be and to be known and to know others? I think it’s all of it.
I’ve learned that worship and community and both the kingdom and the family of God look a lot like the dinner table. And not just any dinner table, but the kind where a feast is prepared and set out in all its glory – like Thanksgiving or Christmas time when families and friends set aside the day-to-day to simply relish in the beauty of food and celebration and conversation. These things look like the kind of feast where there is always room to pull up another chair and elbow-bumping is welcomed, if it means just a few more people begin to finally feel at home. These things look like the kind of feast where our brother and friend, our true love – Jesus – is seated at the head of the table, where He can see each and every face gathered around Him, and where He ushers them straight into the presence of the Father.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to lead worship in a variety of settings – in churches of thousands, and in house churches of few. In remote villages in other nations and cultures, and even in the airports and train stations and bus stations along the way to those very villages. And no matter the “where” or the “when” or the “how” of those times of worship, my favorite moment is always, always, always when I can quiet my own voice for a moment and hear the voices of those around me, in unison, singing praises and love-songs, and hope-songs, and even overcoming-the-sorrow-songs to a God, the Christ, the Savior, who is seated at the head of the table. With eyes closed I can see the feast spread before me. I can sense the pure fellowship and community. I can taste the sweetness of the honey, and the heartiness of the bread, and the gladness of the wine spread out on the table. And you know what? Every single person sitting at the table in that moment has brought something with them.
One friend brings the honey, and another brings the bread, and yet another brings the wine. A brother brings the perfectly roasted entrée, and a sister brings the perfectly steamed vegetables to go alongside it all. There is no lack at the table because every person has chosen to give what they have – to bring what they lovingly prepared – all to the place where we sit in the presence of a good, good Friend named Jesus.
What is it you have brought to the table? Is it your hospitality that beckons welcome to all? Is it your ability to teach and to guide that showed the way to the feast? Is it your compassion and kindness that reveals the heart of a loving Father? Is it your voice that carries melodies, singing songs of truth and hope? Is it your faith that shifts mountains and raises up valleys? Is it your ability to affirm and encourage and uplift the lowly? Because these things were given not just for you, but for your community. They were given to you by your Father so that you could turn around and offer back to Him those very things, and then to your family those very things. Because someone seated at the table needs to be taught. Someone at the table needs to know compassion and kindness. Someone needs to have sweet melodies sung over them. Someone needs to be affirmed and encouraged. And those gifts that your brothers and sisters have brought to the table? Maybe some of those are meant for you too.
The moment you accepted your invitation to feast with the King of kings you became part of a cross-cultural, multi-lingual, extravagantly gifted, and beautifully unique community of brothers and sisters and friends and family who are seated at the very same table as you. Look around you because you are not alone. You are gathered in the holy of holies, you are seated next to the Creator of the universe who became like us so that we could step into relationship, into kingdom, into eternity, into true living. Let your heart feast on the Presence of the One who beckons and calls us His family, because you have been adopted into a beautiful family indeed and there is always a seat for you at the table.
words by Rachel Miller and photo by Sarah Mohan