Thursday, 16 November 2017

My table is too full

I love my dining table. When I bought my first (and only) house, it was almost the first piece of furniture I bought. It's actually a desk, but too beautiful to be covered in paper. It's glass and it has a black design on it with flowers and butterflies. When I bought it I got everything else in my dining room to match - from pictures to chairs it matches. I bought lights to put under it so that when the main lights were dim, the lights would project the flowers and the butterflies onto the ceiling.... but they're long gone now because the batteries leaked and I couldn't find a screwdriver to get them out. 

I enjoy inviting people round to sit at my dining table (impractically small though it is, and despite the green carpet in my current house which really doesn't go....). I enjoy cooking for people and eating with people and talking to people and sharing with people and generally being round the table. 

But right now my dining table looks like this.....

And that's not unusual.

It's an easy dumping ground for washing before I get round to folding it and putting it away and despite the promising chopping board in the middle that is calling out for beautiful crusty bread to be dipped in homemade soup, it doesn't seem like a dining table anymore. My table is full, but not with food to feed others - it's lost its purpose, its focus, its meaning. 

I can't have anyone round to eat now. The table is too full.

A huge barrier to building community - which we can do so beautifully by sharing with others round the table - is when our tables are too full, or we don't make space for a table at all. 

Our busy lives mean that a quick bite is all we can manage and the less people around for the quick bite the better. 

Our schedules mean that we don't get to the room with the table at the same time, so we eat alone, or just with those whose schedules match ours. 

Our aim for perfection means that nobody can come round until we're tidy and we've got the time to cook our best food, otherwise they'll judge us, holding up Come Dine with Me score cards that shame us to never invite anyone again. 

We worry that we won't like the food and our hosts would be offended if we brought our own. 

We fill our lives with stuff so we don't have to do the things that are of most value. 

But why? 

I passionately believe that's not how it should be. Community is built through trust. Community is built when we learn to live and eat alongside one another whether we have tidied up or not. 

Jesus regularly ate with all sorts of people. He invited himself to Zacchaeus' for tea (I wonder if Zacchaeus panicked about all the piles of money on his dinner table). He went to Mary and Martha's, and Martha tidied and fussed so she didn't have time to sit at Jesus feet (her own pride and expectations piled up on the table).  

And after he was raised from the dead he sat and cooked breakfast on the beach for the dirty, smelly, tired fishermen who were his closest friends (I suspect they didn't even wash their hands).

If we're serious about being part of a community where trust and friendship that is like family comes naturally, where we learn how to live in a way that reflects our faith and values and where people can be welcomed whoever they are, then we need to clear all that stuff off our tables. 

And eat.

And talk. 

And laugh.

And let go. 

Because when we eat together, good things happen. 

(and just to note - my table will be cleared next week, and even before its clear, if you drop in, I'll feed you and if it has to be on the living room floor, then I'll give you my best cushion to sit on).

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