Archive for the ‘table’ Category

exiles at the table

Some of our best “church” has happened around a table.

Michael Frost has a great chapter in his book Exiles called “Exiles at the Table,” in which he describes how food and drink — and specifically time spent by Christ-followers with not-yet-Christians in “third places” (like restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, etc) — has always been a catalyst for kingdom activity. (he talks about the dining habits of Joseph, Daniel, and Paul and what they can teach us about the role food can play in the kingdom. He doesn’t even get into the eating habits of Christ, however, who is probably the very best example we have of mealtime “mission.”)

Here’s an excerpt that I think is worth reading, then discussing:

The problem … is the fact that many Christians don’t actually go to third places. In fact … for many Christians, the church is their third place. All their leisure time is spent at church meetings or gatherings, belonging to church-based committees and occasionally socializing with their church friends. While not-yet-Christians are connecting over take-out Thai or whipping up a Moroccan couscous dish or barbecuing Atlantic salmon steaks, Christians are out several nights a week at church services, small groups, and leadership committee meetings. They have no time to engage meaningfully in third places, so the kind of excitin missionary table fellowship that Paul practiced is lost to them. Even when we do invite non-Christians to our table, often it’s on our terms. We invite them to our church breakfasts or our evangelistic dinners or our potluck suppers. When it’s on our terms, the guest rarely fully relaxes.

Exiles have freed themselves from the busyness of church activity precisely so that they can share food with their friends, neighbors, and work colleagues in a more mutual fashion. A meal should be an equalizing experience. It should be a time when people share in the truest sense of the word. Only when a guest feels welcome, honored, and safe will he or she open up to the host. The exile will be as equally concerned about creating such safe, welcoming spaces as about entering into such spaces created by non-Christians. And that means freeing our social calendars and enjoying the company of people who don’t share our faith. We should cook the freshest, healthiest fare, complementing it with great wine, supporting small businesses and family farms. Our menus should reflect our concern to avoid products made in countries that lack fair labor laws or produced or stored in ecologically unsafe ways. The exile’s table should be a place of justice, generosity, laughter, safety, and conviviality. Serve up something delicious, and then just watch the conversation flow and trust God to stick his nose in somewhere. (p167-168)

Describe a mealtime experience when God has “stuck his nose in.”

(here are another couple of posts I’ve written on “table”: 1, 2)

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more east boston friends

UPDATE: Today, I, Steve, was hired by Vantage Global Travel to be their newest copy writer! Praise God! This position is perfect in so many ways, which could only mean our Creator is responsible. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. So thanks to those who have been praying diligently for this…your prayers were felt — and answered!

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We ate dinner last night with a young couple that also recently moved to East Boston (in the last year) with the purpose of joining God’s work here. They moved from San Diego, where Matt (the husband) was involved in an organic, simple through-and-through, and completely incarnational ministry to the poor.

Here’s what it looked like: Christians living in six houses at the end of a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood known for its poverty, exemplifying Christ in word and deed. One day, they began handing out PB&J sandwiches to homeless people out of one of the homes, and after a few years, they were serving 250 families food every week. But that’s not all: They had huge “love feasts” every Saturday, where they would invite the poor, the homeless, the marginalized into their homes to sit at big tables and celebrate Jesus with them. They had an “open door policy” for the houses, where people could walk in and out. Now that’s extreme hospitality. Similar to the quote to which I referred a few months back. Very simple. Very relational. Very Jesus-centered.

Well, Matt met his lovely wife (Mary) in San Diego, was married last Fall, and soon after felt called to return to the Boston area (where he grew up). They have a vision for seeing God do in East Boston something similar to what He did in California. They are a Spirit-led couple who will become three next January with the addition of a new baby.

We have been praying with them and asking God what He wants to do in East Boston, and specifically what He wants to do through the four of us. Praise God for the ways in which He is leading us and confirming East Boston as the place we need to be right now.

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Thanks for your prayers about the job hunt. (or “job delivery,” as my friend Matt says…since God is going to “deliver” the perfect job…) The interview on Wednesday went OK — no big blunders, I was relaxed — but even better was the interview I had yesterday morning. It was to be a copy writer for a travel company, and I honestly couldn’t find any negative aspects about the job: easy commute, close to Chrissy’s school, flexible hours, fun team, great supervisor, deadline-driven, on-site fitness, travel benefits, good pay, opportunities to advance, yada yada yada… From what I could tell, I’m the leading candidate for the position. Don’t want to get the horse before the cart, but I’ll keep you all posted on any new developments. Keep up your prayers, though! They are certainly felt…

apart, but not separated

(from left) Cara and Travis Fry, Chad and Katie Allen, Houston and Kelly
Shearon, C & S

The human person is not an individual, not a self-contained being who at some stage in life chooses or elects to be in relationship with another and others. From the very first moment of existence, the infant is toward the other, ordinarily the mother or father, who is in turn toward and for the infant. From our origin we are related to others. We are from others, by others, toward others, for others, just as it is in God to exist in the relations of interpersonal love. — Michael Downey, Altogether Gift: A Trinitarian Spirituality

It began as a one-time thing. A prayer and discernment get-together for a graduate school couple we didn’t really know that well, Travis and Cara Fry. Five couples were there back in August 2005, worshipping, praying, and asking each other and God what to do next.

It went so well, we decided to do it the next week. Almost 10 months later, we’ve met every Wednesday night with three other couples to talk, pray, discern, and eat. Man, has the eating been good. We have celebrated communion together from time to time around the table. We have, at times, taken these gatherings very seriously, sharing tears or “firm discernment,” and have often allowed the Spirit to direct the gatherings as the Spirit willed.

But our group was not about gatherings, first and foremost. The initial gathering led to something so much deeper: Life together. It was about brake pad replacement on our Corrolla. It was about mountain biking every week down at “the trails.” It was about coffee together in the mornings. It was about “girls’ night” and “guys’ night.” It was about countless prayers that we lifted up for each other on a daily basis. It was about sharing together the frustrations, the joys, the anger, the sadness, the love of life.

Wednesday marked the last formal gathering our group will have (in its present state). On Saturday, Chad and Katie Allen will go to Atlanta to spend some time before they travel to Dubai, U.A.E., for a research trip in July. Chad is an accountant who wants to do bi-vocational missions in an Arab country. Travis and Cara Fry will leave next week for a backpacking trip in Colorado and New Mexico (including some much-needed spiritual “filling up” at a retreat center in N.M.) before they move to Tanzania in June to join God in his work there. Houston and Kelly Shearon will finish out a Vista internship with a local non-profit before pursuing further education in international development; they dream of creating sustainable development partnerships in some of the poorest nations in the world. The Holts, of course, will leave June 3 for Boston to join God’s “work already in progress” there.

We have seen God in this group over the last 10 months. We have drunk deeply from the well of Christian community, realizing for the first time the power of the Acts 2 account of the “fellowship of believers.” We have come to see one another as fellow travelers — pilgrims — on a Way that doesn’t promise safety or comfort, but does promise “life abundant.” Traveling with other pilgrims makes the uncomfortable times bearable — even sweet. While we may not gather as regularly from here on out, our little “fellowship of believers” will stay connected by the Cross. Across oceans, time zones, and cultures, we will be connected in our status as pilgrims on this narrow Way and in our passion for introducing others into this most perfect Way.

“come back to the kitchen”

I found this quote on a March 23 post from Tall Skinny Kiwi. It reminds me of what I said on this post a while back, except more concise.

The church began with a meal. The Church needs to come back to the kitchen and get itself sorted again. The Church needs to rethink the puny wafer and thimble ritual and get back to the love feast which is a MEAL that takes TIME and happens MORE than once a week and has LEFTOVERS which can given to the POOR (the justice element) and resembles a PARTY that is full of HOPE towards the FEAST that awaits us with our SAVIOR who is not drinking wine until we get there to toast with Him. Jesus said DO THIS in remembrance of me. We would do well to ask “[DO] WHAT?”

table

If New Testament scholars agree on anything regarding the nature of the church in the first three centuries, it is this: table was central. Christians broke bread together. They “did church” around the table, many times. Communion likely was part of the meal at large. Table was the central act of assembling as the “fellowship of believers.”

Think about our traditional practice of the Lord’s Supper. John Mark Hicks, in Come to the Table: Reinvisioning the Lord’s Supper, makes the point that many contemporary churches treat the Lord’s Supper as “altar” rather than the biblical image, table. People approach the altar as individuals, quietly, in solemn reflection on the death of Jesus. Hicks makes the claim that the real intention of the Lord’s Supper was celebration in community, joyfully reflecting on the resurrection of Christ.

I’d go a bit further and say that sitting around table in the context of a meal is probably even closer to Christ’s intention for the Lord’s Supper. There’s something strangely earthy and authentic about looking into the eyes of brothers and sisters in Christ as you celebrate Christ.

More and more, mission-minded people are realizing this. In the book Emerging Churches, authors Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger make the case for the centrality of the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, in emerging churches. This celebration, above preaching, song, or even prayer, is the act of worship that is most central to Christianity. Instead of the focal point being on a preaching podium on a stage, what if the focal point was the table of Christ? I believe this was the case in most of the house churches in the first three centuries.

Communing at table is a non-negotiable for our ministry in Boston. It is no accident that the table has served as a main activity point of life for so many centuries (this may not be the case as much today, unfortunately). The table is also where much of the life of the church has “happened” throughout the centuries. So much good happens at table. So much true “communion” occurs. Ministry happens at table. Healing occurs at table. Celebration occurs at table. Jesus is with us at table.