We are beginning as a Sunday evening gathering, to wonder together “Why we do what we Do…” (Intro here)
This Sunday night we will ask the question, “Why do we share a meal together?”
I guess I feel like I should be asking the question why places and groups that call themselves community DON’T eat together. As I was looking back over the Biblical story, I couldn’t really find a command that said, “Thou shalt eat meals together when you gather as a community.” Maybe it’s just that gathering together for a meal was simply a given. I think of the Earlier Testament where Abraham and so many more almost automatically seek to feed and provide for those who visit their homes. It was an honor thing… you give someone a meal when they are in your home.
The Newer Testament seems to shout even louder of the notion of eating together. Jesus used parables and stories so many times about throwing banquets, who is invited, and what it is like when we celebrate the kingdom of God here and now (even later, as he prepares a place for us… I can only think food is included!). He invited himself over to people’s houses for dinner all the time. Zacchaeus, especially was effected when Jesus said, “Hey, man, I’m having dinner at YOUR house!” And he ate with everyone… even the ones who disagreed with him most.
But what about communities? What about gathering times that some would call church… and others would fight to avoid calling church? Why do we eat together? I think it really comes down to honoring each other, serving each, and taking the time to settle in together. I know for me, nothing makes me feel more special than to know someone put in hours of work to make something that I am enjoying… immensely. And when I am cooking for someone else… there is not much that gives me more delight than to see people smile and say, “This is DELICIOUS!” Sharing meals together have become a very sacred thing for our community and I wonder what other people will add to my strong affirmation.
The questions flood in… Why do we do church the way we do? Why do we take communion? Why do we need a sermon? Why do we all sit in pews or face the front or have microphones? Can we ask questions? Can we talk back? For what purpose do we stand when we sing and sit down when we are done… on cue? Why is it that some people clap their hands and some people put them in their pockets? Why do we pass around an offering plate? How is it that we have come to be this way?
Many of us will have very different answers to all of these questions and so many other questions as well. We know why we do what we do and we feel there are quite good reasons for doing so. Many of our rituals and customs work very well for us, as we have grown up with them and find comfort in knowing that it will be the same, or similar, next week.
But for a person on the outside, looking in… a person who has not grown up in the church, and in fact, would rather have nothing to do with “church,” these practices and rituals are like an alien planet. “How could I fit there?” one might ask. “Why would I even think twice about going to a place that does all these things that are so removed from my normal life?” I must say I tend to agree.
Before any of you think that I am suggesting throwing out these things that many hold dear, relax… Traditional church works for many and that is good. An increasing number of people though, are finding that it does not work. Let’s face it… the culture is moving faster than we are. Some of us are called to think creatively about how we might jump ahead and meet people where they are.
Our Sunday evening Gathering will be discussing, questioning, and wondering together some of these many questions. I’ll also be blogging regularly around these questions as well. I hope that we might, together find a way to be intentional about ALL that we do together and have reasons for doing what we do. If we don’t, why do them?
As we met last night with our Sunday night gathering, we shared together the stories of those who have handed us the warm towel… the acts of love that have changed us at the core. Fred, our committed 85-yr old Emergent, spoke up with a story from 3 or 4 years ago. He told us of his experience at Men’s Rite of Passage, a retreat with Richard Groves. “We took our shirts off and beat on drums… We took imitation ox blood and splashed it on our chests. I was the oldest one there… at 83… and they honored me for that. I got to draw the sword out of the stone.” He went on to say that the youngest one there was a bit timid to join in the celebrations, but finally realized that “if ‘ol Fred could do… so can I.”
“That was my warm blanket… and I still remember those times we shared.” I am consistently amazed at Fred, who reminds us to “always believe in miracles.” He would know too, as he just remarried this last January… 84 yrs old! Week after week, he shows up at our gathering, always wanting to be where the action is. And truly, I am reminded that if Fred can do it, so can I.
Thomas Merton wrote in My Argument with the Gestapo, “If you want to know who I am, do not ask me what I eat, where I live or how I part my hair. Ask me what I live for and ask me in detail.”
My hope, my dream, is to be 85 years old and still showing up for the action. To be so full of life, to have lived, and know that my purpose is not yet done. To have the full and lively heart of a warrior, until the day I die… that is my desire.
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature
instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up
when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch
which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
George Bernard Shaw
This week, at our Sunday evening gathering, we will be asking the question,
“What does a community that offers a safe place, a place of discovery, for each other and others, matter to the world around us? To what end does our community amount to? Is the impact only for those who find themselves within our embrace?”
It seems to me that this question is such an essential question to the reality of our communities. It is so easy for us to gather together, have some laughs, share a few beers, eat some food, hike, run, bike, watch a movie and never consider the difference we might make to those in the world who are not directly apart of our circle of friends.
I just watched the panel discussion from The Seeds of Compassion event in Seattle this last week. You can find the link HERE… scroll down to Tuesday’s event on Youth and Spiritual Connection. Doug Pagitt , pastor at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, told a story (at the 3:40:00 and 4:00:00 marks) about he and his wife’s adoption of two foster children. “There is no better way,” he said, “to make a difference in the foster care system than to adopt children out of it.” He also noted that in a training session he attended, there was a man there who said that his way of showing empathy and compassion to the foster children in his care was to run warm towels from the dryer to the children so that when they got out of the shower they had warm towels to wrap themselves in. (If you have ever wrapped yourself in a warm towel you know how this feels)
When the people at Solomon’s Porch have a desire to pursue a certain passion or vision for the community at large, the question that is asked is, Do you know anyone who is already doing it? Do you know those who are out there wrapping people in warm towels? Find these people and work with them. There is no way to institutionalize this kind of face-to-face relational empathy… we must get our hands dirty with the business of knowing those we want to reach out to.