Just Us at the Table?
– Andy Wade –
When has it ever been just us at the table? It seems our house is always buzzing with extra people around for meals – and we like it that way. But even when the house is quiet and the table seems empty of people, it’s never just us at the table.
The table is teeming with past conversations, stories told and re-told, laughter, awkward silence, and so much more. But even beyond memories, it’s still never just us at the table. The food – picked, packed, shipped, prepared – each step along the way represents untold stories and lives. Dishes and utensils handled first by seemingly nameless, faceless individuals. But behind each a story and series of relationships. Even the table itself and the chairs we sit on were built by hands unknown.
At first it may seem silly to ponder these things. Yet in the interconnected and interdependent world created by God, there lies a profound and important reality: bound together by design, no one, not even the remotest hermit, lives outside of the fellowship of life woven together by the hand of our creator.
This most basic of realities is easily forgotten in our fast-paced, distracted living. Even the act of sharing Communion together, that Eucharistic (thanksgiving) partaking together of bread and wine, too frequently becomes detached from the deeper meaning behind the meal and the One who gave himself for the life of the world.
It is never just us at the table
Back at home, around my own table, I begin to wonder, how do I give life and voice to all those who made this meal possible? In a sense, every meal is a love feast, a communal gathering to share bread and drink giving thanks to God for the gift of life and the bounty of creation.
To be honest, in my early years of exploring this I did so with a heaping helping of guilt. To “share” this bread and drink with all those who made it possible meant that I must pay attention not just to what I eat, but also:
- How it was produced and made its way to my table
- Whether soil was destroyed and water contaminated to make this meal possible
- Whether the hands that picked it were treated with respect and with justice
- If I was eating something shipped from across the world, burning fossil fuels to make that extravagance possible
- Whether the company behind the product was doing business responsibly and the store I purchased it from was justly paying and supporting its workers
- And so many more issues!
It all seemed quite overwhelming and yet, to just sweep these questions under the rug also seemed like injustice toward the ones who sacrificed that I might flourish.
Where is Justice at My Table?
My grandmother’s prayer nearly every meal was, “Thank you, Lord, for this food. Please bless it and make us ever-mindful of the needs of others.” But what does it mean to truly give thanks to God in whose image we are all created? Beyond mere words, what does thankfulness look like? And what does it look like to be “ever-mindful of the needs of others”? As we share this meal together, can I point to places where Christ has been invited to join us?
These are all questions that inspired me to lead our Justice at the Table workshop. The format for the day begins with exploring our relationship with food and the land, unpacking our personal “food stories”, and then identifying the key food-related issues we’re aware of and that concern us the most.
From there we’ll explore these and other issues in the context of Eucharist/Communion; more specifically, what are the implications of community and thanksgiving made possible in and through Christ?
My goal is ultimately to help each of us craft a practical plan of action based not on guilt but on the specific issues each of us is currently wrestling with in the context of our very personal and/or family/small community journey of faith.
If you’re interested in exploring these issues with others and want to learn more, please join us Saturday, October 24th for Justice at the Table at the Mustard Seed House in Seattle, WA.