Family Dinner is an important time of connection. It has always been a big part of my family’s life. Even today, my young adult children live with us and we still gather around the dinner table at 6:00pm. It is a physical space and family ritual that feeds both our bodies and our spirits. It creates space to discuss the events of the day, funny stories, and laughter. Of course, it has its moments of conflict, sorrow, and fear, as well.

It is a beautiful and good thing.

Every Wednesday evening people at our church gather for a worship service called The Table. It is an alternative worship service for all ages. We set up the gym like a banquet hall, so everyone sits at round tables, facing each other. We always have art supplies on the Table and encourage everyone to doodle throughout the service. The music is led by our high school worship band. We share highs and lows and discuss the text as a regular part of worship. Then, we share communion at the tables. We are trying to simulate the family Table.

It is a beautiful and good thing.

I ran an experiment at The Table this past Wednesday. We had just read John 3:16, since that was in the Narrative Lectionary reading for the week. The emphasis is that God loves the whole world, not just a select few who fall into a certain category. I asked everyone to look awkwardly at the people at their table and reminded them of why we purposely sit around tables at this service. It is good and wonderful to be physically reminded that we are invited to God’s Family Table.

Then I asked them to notice their backs. How did their physical posture relate to the rest of the room? They responded that it closed them off from everyone else.

Sometimes the family table can become a holy huddle. Sometimes the church can get so focused on its own inner relationships and insider family jokes and stories that it completely cuts itself off from the rest of the world. I let them soak on that for a moment.

“Use your bodies to change this,” I said. I honestly had no idea what would happen, because, in all truthfulness, I was making this up as we were going.

Something amazing happened. People started standing up and moving around. Some people went to other tables and shook hands. The whole room was a sea of swirling motion. Then everyone ended up in one big circle around the perimeter of the room. All the tables were empty and everyone could see everyone else in the room.

It was a beautiful and good thing.

I felt moved to have everyone stay in that position while I spoke the words of institution. Then we joined hands and prayed the Lord’s prayer together.

It was a wonderful moment, for me at least.

As we continue to dwell in John 3:1-21 from last weekend’s reading and move into John 4:1-42 this coming weekend, let us remember that our families and our churches are called into a dance between sitting at the family table to love each other AND getting up to meet the neighbor and remember that everyone is part of the world that God loves.

Let’s make sure that our family tables never become holy huddles. How can you open up your family table this week?

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