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Something for Everyone

"Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors."

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Thursday's Thoughts
May 17, 2018

Eating together with those of like heart, mind, and faith is one of those great "mysteries of the universe!" It's far more than what Beldar Conehead called "the consumption of mass quantities!" A meal shared with others is a way of participating in Jesus' most often used parable of the Kingdom of God! I hope you've noted the range of those with whom Jesus "broke bread." The 12 disciples, to be sure; but there were also Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. There were also nearly innumerable crowds on hillsides and plains, and an array of Pharisees (the strictest keepers of the intricacies of the Law), the "vertically challenged" Zacchaeus whom Jesus invited to "come down from that tree, because I'm going to your house for tea," like the song we've long-taught our children to sing. There were the folk who gathered around the woman at the well of Sycchar, when she called them to meet Someone who knew her thoroughly, and "must be the Messiah!" Then there were those in the stories He told! A king threw a splendid banquet and no one came, so he invited in the street people, the homeless, the ne'er do well's, and those of ill repute. Tabitha, a little girl whom He brought back to life, and the first thing Jesus did was to be sure that she had something to eat! That was the case with Simon Peter's mother-in-law too. Jesus took an elemental aspect of our humanity and raised it into a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Some of the first pieces of the New Testament were Paul's letters, and a significant portion of his Corinthian correspondence was directed to their "table manners." He admonished them to be sure that everyone was served, and that no one was excluded or ignored. Luke, in writing the history of the first days of the Church (whose Birth Day we celebrate on this coming Sunday), suggests that among the first ordering of their life together was the election of "diakonoi," or Table Waiters, to see that everyone was fed, and that no one went home hungry or missed.

Have you ever been excluded from a table with empty spaces? It's an awful feeling to be told "You don't belong. You're not acceptable. Your hunger is not our problem." Among my most fond memories from the years of growing up were those around the family table. There seemed always to be more than enough to eat, and an empty chair, just in case someone came unexpectedly! And I don't know if that model came from the Church, or if it was translated into the Church, when it gathered for fellowship dinners and receptions.

I may have shared with you a portion of a book I read sometime in the last year, Take This Bread, by Sara Miles. In it, she writes of being an active lay person in a congregation that became involved in feeding some of the homeless and hungry in San Francisco, CA. At one point, she made arrangements with the church's clergy to arrange the tables - that held the food that they were giving away - in a radiant starburst pattern around the church's communion table. People were invited into the sanctuary to fill bags and boxes with canned and banded items, as if they were receiving the sacramental elements of bread and wine! Remember how Jesus had said, "When you do this - eating and drinking - remember me!"? Maybe, just maybe, that's what He intended. It was for Sara Miles.

For almost a year now, we've been talking about establishing a Coffee Shop-type ministry in the heart of our city - near the intersection of Victory Blvd. and Wythe Creek Road - to offer just that kind of invitation to all who pass near to take a few moments' rest, to have a little coffee and a grilled cheese sandwich, and to find a place of hospitality, where all are welcomed, comforted, included, and nourished by an expression of the gospel. We have, I believe, a "golden opportunity" with the owner, who would like to encourage us to develop that approach... and find a way to open the doors to all of our city's residents - from those who've been here for 5 or more generations to those who are coming into the proposed "Legacy Woods" development near the Civic Center.

There was a woman (according to Luke in the Acts of God in the Church), who came to faith in Christ by the preaching and teaching of the apostles. Her name was Lydia, and she and her entire household were baptized (read: became members of the Church). She was, according to Luke, a woman of means; he says "she was a seller of purple." In that day, it was incredibly expensive cloth, because its source was rare and production was "labor intensive." (According to Dr. James Fleming, the dye came from a gland in a very small mollusk, and several hundred were required to fill "a thimble-full" of the purple secretion.) Lydia acted on her new faith by contributing generously to the needs and work of the apostles. I suspect that they shared the fellowship of her household's table on a number of occasions.

Perhaps we might name our faith-risky/faith-full outreach of hospitality in her honor, as "Lydia's Table," and have it be a place were all were welcome, all could be fed and nourished, all could find a moment's respite from the busy-ness of the day, and be immersed in a tradition that's as old as Church, for a while. It could be a place for community clubs, gatherings, and classes; a place for a mid-week devotional service, a safe place for the youth of our city to gather with their friends, a place for local artists and authors to exhibit their works, and even a place for some great, homemade ice cream to share with friends.

It is my hope and prayer that in the coming weeks, perhaps every time you are at table with family or friends, or perhaps "the present, yet unseen Jesus," you will remember this venture in your hearts, and ask God, "How might I help provide this gift of hospitality to others in our city and beyond?" Words of encouragement, offers of service and resources, and expressions of concern for all who are nearby will go a long, long way. You are invited to come to "Lydia's Table," and to bring a friend.... and perhaps meet Christ there, too, looking for all the world like a stranger, or someone down on their luck, or a wonderfully familiar person in your life.

Grace and peace.

Jim Earley, Pastor,

Tabernacle UMC

Responses? Send me an e-mail: RevsRUs@cox.net. OR Give me a call (571-239-3529). Or, meet me in worship on Sunday morning - 8:45 and 11:00 a.m. (2 settings).... or on Easter at 7:00 a.m., just down the lane next to the church cemetery, for our SonRise Service on the waterfront! I look forward to hearing from you.

Last update: April 14, 2018 3:35 PM