Monday, February 18, 2008

Table Fellowship

Episcopalian "worker-priest" Tom Ehrich is a great writer and observer of life. I look forward to his daily "On a Journey" devotional at http://www.onajourney.org.

In a recent posting, he made the following observations about "table fellowship":

I think we have made way too much of Sunday liturgy. Our people are hungry for engagement, friendship, personal faith encounters, story-telling, community - not for routinized, ritualized recitations of well-vetted words and stylized actions.

We have asked Sunday worship to do too much of our work. It would be as if Jesus experienced John's baptism and then stayed in the River Jordan and said, "Let's all be baptized today, and again next Sunday, and again the Sunday after that."

As you know, Jesus did exactly the opposite. He left the Jordan. He went off on an ever-changing ministry of teaching, healing and forming circles of friends. He allowed people to touch his life and to reshape his sense of purpose. He dared to get close to gentiles, women, children and other undesirables. He ignored Judaism's well-vetted rituals for who eats what with whom, and he simply sat at table with whoever wanted to eat with him.

That, in my opinion, is the missing element in our modern churchmanship. We have become purveyors of liturgy, not builders of community. Do we even notice that the energy level rockets higher when liturgy ends and people finally are free to engage each other?

Ehrich is on to something here. Jesus not only proclaimed his love for people, but he went on to demonstrate it by sitting down, breaking bread with them, and treating them as equals. This is the basis of community. We joke a lot about "Baptists meeting to eat" but that may be the best way for us to witness to the One who always enjoyed a party.

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