Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Table As Beauty

This is the second post in a series on table fellowship.

Beauty is defined as a pleasing quality associated with harmony, excellence of craftsmanship, a quality that is most effective or gratifying. The table can be characterized by each of these things.

Gathering around a table with friends or family promotes harmony, as food is passed around, stories are shared, and social skills are learned and sharpened. It is at table that real communication happens, and it is there that people get to know each other. Folks who gather around a table on a regular basis tend to be more accepting of each other, and more gracious. One of the ways Jesus showed his identification with the least of these was joining them for meals.

One of the joys of life is sitting down at a table that has been carefully prepared with lovingly crafted dishes. Whether the food is gourmet or "country style," served on fine china or paper plates, the craftsmanship of a well put-together meal is evident. If it's a large banquet, a family meal, or a group of friends at a barbecue, a meal is a thing of beauty if it is done with care and creativity.

Table fellowship can be very effective and immensely gratifying. Breaking bread together was one of the more important aspects of the life of the early church. Gathering at meals was so important that one of the things involved in church discipline was exclusion from the table. In my own experience, the times I have been challenged the most, the times I have felt loved and accepted the most, have been times when I have studied Scripture or just hung out with folks with whom I have just shared a meal, a cup of coffee, or a pint. Those are the times that have been most effective and gratifying in my journey.

It's been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That may be true, but I know that when I am gathering with friends or family around a table, I am in the midst of beauty.

Table As Goodness

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

It's been a while since I've done a weekend links post. The last couple of weekends were crazy busy, but things have settled down a bit. Here in the sunny South we missed the worst of Hurricane Sandy, but we are praying for the folks further north who are expecting to have a rough time the next few days. I wonder if any of the states have alternative ways of voting on Nov. 6, in case the power is still out due to the storms. Hopefully it won't be as bad as that.

On to the links:

Becoming sauce.
Pastor Romney?
Already but not yet.
The unmentionable one anothers.
After pietism.

Jesus loves even Chaplain Mike.
Have you heard about this?
Some good posts on this synchroblog.
Keith Giles has a series on leadership. Part 1 is here.
Len reviews The Art of Neighboring.

How not to interpret the Bible.
To be in Christ.
The pastor and politics.
On being wrong.

J.R. Miller has a series on elders. Part 1 is here.
Alan Knox has a series on the "body of Christ" metaphor. Part 1 is here.
Eric Carpenter lives in the tradition belt.
Frank Viola on half-answered prayers.
If you're a leader in a church, please don't buy this (HT: iMonk).

Beautiful (HT: Scot McKnight).
It's time to party.
Sacred times and places.
Caption this.
Get small.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a blessed week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

October 16 was World Food Day. Check this page out to see how World Vision is helping to combat child hunger and malnutrition, and how you can help.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Table As Goodness

In our fellowship, three of the things we emphasize are goodness, beauty, and truth. In this series, I want to look at table fellowship using these three ideas. This first post will focus on the table as goodness.

In the beginning chapters of Genesis, the statement was made that it was not good for Adam to be alone. Yes, he had fellowship with his Creator, but there was something missing. God brought Eve to Adam. They were put together for fellowship, for sharing life, and for caring for creation together.

All through Scripture, the theme of the goodness of fellowship is continued. The Hebrew word hesed carries the idea of both kindness and goodness, and many times is used in the context of relationships. Many times this fellowship is around the table. Hospitality was an important part of the Israelites' faith. When God delivered them from bondage in Egypt, he began their journey with a meal. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26, the people were told to take the tithe of their crops for the year and have a family feast at the Tabernacle. If they lived too far away, they were to exchange the tithe for silver and spend it on the makings of a feast at a closer location.

In the New Testament, Jesus came eating and drinking. His first miracle took place at a wedding feast, and he spent enough time at dinner parties that his critics called him a glutton and a drunk. Jesus spoke of the feast to be celebrated in the kingdom of God. The early church was known for many things. Two of these were a devotion to fellowship and a devotion to eating together. What we call the Lord's Supper today was just a part of a full meal the church ate together. In the epistles, we are told to practice hospitality. No matter what the enemies of the early church said, they had to admit that the followers of Jesus loved others. One of the ways they loved was by welcoming others to the table.

God said that it was not good for us to be alone. It's good for us to have fellowship with others, to share our lives with others, and to help and encourage others. One of the best places to do these things is the table. Whether it's a cup of coffee and dessert, a pint in a pub, or a full meal, spending time with people around a table is a good thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Back From Break

I'm back from my short blogging break. I have a few ideas in mind, so hopefully I can make some sense of them and write something worth reading. One of those is a series on table fellowship. Another is a series on the parable of the prodigal son.

In the meantime, here is something originally posted for the November elections in 2008:

1 Corinthians 13 for the Election

If I speak with a silver tongue and can sway hundreds, but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all polls,
and if I have a faith that can move political mountains, but have not love,
I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the national committee
and surrender my time to run a phone bank, but have not love,
I gain nothing.

Love is patient with those of the other party.
It is not jealous of opponent's fund raising,
it does not boast of its candidate, it is not proud.

It does not rudely argue political points, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered when others disagree, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in negative campaigns
but rejoices in the truth.

It always protects the reputation of Christ, always trusts God is in control,
always hopes for the best, always perseveres in living as a disciple of Jesus.

Love never fails. But where there are campaign promises,
they will be broken;
where there are silver tongued orators,
they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge of how to govern,
it will pass away.

For we have partial knowledge and we govern with that knowledge,
but when the True King comes, imperfect government will disappear.

When I was a partisan, I talked like a partisan,
I thought like a partisan,I reasoned like a partisan.

When I recognized who the True King is,
I put partisan ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection;
then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Break Time

I'm taking a bit of a break from blogging. Life has intruded, and made it difficult to find the time to write or even think about what to write. Nothing bad, just very, very busy. Things should slow down here in a while, and I'll be back.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Repost: Mustard Seeds

This was first published on June 4, 2009.

In the Gospels, Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a mustard plant. I had always understood that story as meaning that the Kingdom starts out small, but then grows into something great to which everyone will eventually pledge allegiance (this all would happen during the future millennial kingdom). Evidently, Jesus had something different in mind.

To the Jews of the first century, mustard was a managed weed. It could be useful, but needed to be tightly controlled. Evidently it was against Jewish law to plant mustard in a garden. If managed well it grew into a large shrub, but not anything we would call a tree. The Jewish concept of the Kingdom of God was something that was big and powerful, like the cedar tree. It was something that would come with a bang, and everyone would know it was here. When Messiah came, he would restore the throne of David to its former glory. Israel would take its rightful place as the premier nation. Jesus turned that upside down. He stated that the kingdom would be something that started small and worked its way along like a mustard plant, like a weed that grew in places where it was unexpected, and unwanted. It would be a large shrub, not a majestic cedar. The common fowls would flock to it, not the majestic birds like the eagle.

The Kingdom of God is not out there in front. It is not found in human glory or national pride. Many times it is invisible, as it works its way through society. It is found in unexpected places, inside the four walls of a church, and outside where people live their lives. Too often we miss it. Regardless of how small the kingdom may appear, it is powerful. It breaks down barriers as it works into the cracks. It flavors life for its subjects and those they encounter. It cannot be contained in our neat little gardens, sometimes it can't even be found there.

The Kingdom of God is open to all who wish to enter, even those who are at the bottom of the ladder. Many who are looking for a kingdom that arrives with power and glory may stand in danger of missing the true King. As Jesus told Pilate, his kingdom is not of this world.

Follow this King and enter his kingdom. Be part of the mustard plant.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Come As You Are, Bring What You Can

A few weeks ago a friend was talking with us about how she felt a little self conscious about bringing food to dinners and other gatherings because she didn't cook, and because she didn't shop at the same grocery stores as a lot of the other people. It's an understandable feeling. In today's culture we are bombarded with the message that what you wear, what car you drive, where you shop, and what you eat determines your worth. Unfortunately, this can even be the case within the church. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul addresses the problem of some eating the food that they had brought without sharing with those who had none, and getting drunk while others had nothing to drink. There were evidently wealthy individuals in the church who refused to share with those who were less well off. James writes about Christians who were showing favoritism to rich folks (possibly to get their tithes? :) ), while treating the poor among them like dirt.

Apparently, the early church hadn't moved far from the attitude of the Pharisees and those who gave and attended dinners to enhance their social standing. Of course, we here in the enlightened 21st century have moved beyond such attitudes, right? Right? *crickets* In a post titled, Accepting a Seat At the Table, Craig at Throwing Bricks writes this:

 It’s strange but I often find Christians who are hesitant to fellowship with other followers of Christ who don’t share their particular set of doctrinal beliefs, political affiliations, worship preferences, social / economic status, race, age or perceived level of maturity.  They are more concerned with being proved right than being with Jesus.  It’s as though we are still abiding by the old rules of table fellowship.  I have some old friends that border on fundamentalism and though we all believe in Jesus and strive to follow his teachings we remain distant due to certain interpretations of scripture.  What gets me is that I have no problem calling them brother and sister but I’m not sure they would reciprocate that sentiment and it sucks.

Evidently, accepting others is an ongoing problem in the church. Sometimes we reject others due to different interpretations of Scripture, sometimes because of social standing. We still seem to have a hard time accepting those whom Jesus has already accepted. Craig also writes:

Jesus didn’t discriminate based on any of these factors but rather invited anyone to come.  To respond to Jesus’ invitation and accept a seat at the table is to accept Jesus himself and everyone else at the table regardless of personal differences.

Our Rabbi, the one we are called to follow, invited everyone to come and accepted all who came. Should we do less. 

To finish the story, I assured our friend that I knew that the folks in her group wouldn't care where her food came from, who had cooked it, or what bag she carried it in. She is fortunate because she is part of a community of faith that loves her for who she is, not for any standard of "worth" the culture might try to put on her.   

Moving On

It's been a while since I've written here. Life has been happening the past few months. I have decided to start fresh, so I'm mo...