In Touch, Opening the table, Radical Hospitality, Ryan Cook, Table the place of possibility, The long repast, The Radical Gospel, The table is a symbol of the world put right, The Table is level, We are all guests around the table
The table is a place of possibility…
The table is level. It can be a symbol of the world put right.
This Canadian Thanksgiving, we anticipate getting back in touch with long lost friends and relatives around the table in this annual harvest festival. Of the many things that the pandemic has deprived us, the languorous enjoyment of a long repast has been an aching void.
Ryan Cook writes a timely article about his experience in “Things I’ve Learned from 2.5 Years of Opening Our Home on Monday Evenings.” Ryan describes himself as a “Dad. Amateur Thinker. Theology. Politics. Hospitality. Trying to follow the way of Jesus.” He writes:
“For the last 2.5 years we opened our doors on a Monday evening for friends, neighbors and strangers to come eat with us. No grand, mechanistic plan, we just wanted to know people. We were also looking for a way to live our faith — the love and welcome of Jesus — in a concrete way. Simple idea, really. Simple, yet it has been a powerful experience for myself and others, more powerful than I can probably articulate. Hundreds of beautiful people have come through our doors, all changing us in one way or another.
I am left pondering the many unpredictable moments of beauty:
The Table as a Powerful Symbol of a World put Right
I’ve learned that the table is a powerful symbol of a world put right. At the table you look people in the eyes. The surface of the table is level. It creates an environment whereby you reach your hands into the same pot, take from the same food, to sustain your lives in the same way. It’s a levelling act. You have come in need of the same thing, and you get that need met by performing the same actions at the same time. All while facing each other, in the flesh; skin and bones – real humans on real journeys.
Over the last 2.5 years the rich and poor, educated and non, young and old, highborn and low born have performed this common, levelling, act together. When the host has prepared the food, everyone receives as a guest, regardless of what one’s status is on the way in the door — we are all guests around the table. I often watched as people who would never connect in a hierarchical world spoke to each other, came to appreciate each other, and often became friends.
The Table is level
I’ve also learned that people often carry burdens that in the normal course of life there is no place to share. There are very few safe places to admit frailty. The number of people who came for weeks and then, maybe realising that this table was about more than food, that it was about family, shared the personal details of their lives and in the course of doing so were able to receive prayer and support from those who shared the space with them. It wasn’t a scripted counselling session, it wasn’t a therapists session, it was a community of friends who began to trust each other enough to ask for help in carrying their burdens. I didn’t plan this, but it happened all the time, especially if the person repeatedly came. Conversations that began at the table, often finished with quiet prayers, for issues I didn’t always know — but the context of food and friendship somehow created the context of burden sharing. So deeply beautiful.
The table is a place of possibility.
I can’t count the number of times that people would meet around the table and begin talking about what they wanted to do to make a difference in the world. Little projects became reality outside the table. A group of people decides to read a spiritual book together; another group decides to pursue a creative social justice knitting project; others spontaneously talking to each other about how they can help a mutual friend get through a tough time. The organic connection in the context of the meal, with no foreordained plan, resulted in countless good deeds done by friends. I couldn’t script this…
But over the last 2.5 years we had hundreds of people through our doors. We’ve had people that would never have darkened the door of a church unless someone died or was getting married. And I dare to say, even though I could not have planned it, that some have come and gone, not just with full bellies, but with the sweet taste of Jesus in their mouths; even if they may not have articulated it in such words.
While this journey has taken effort, opening the table to people is something we can all do… it’s as natural as breathing, and I would dare to say, as necessary as breathing.”
To read the entire article see “Things I’ve Learned from 2.5 Years of Opening Our Home on Monday Evenings.“
In a post by the heading above, I wrote about Jesus’ radical hospitality as expressed in Mark 2. I commented:
I don’t know what radical hospitality looks like – other than the ordinary ways we welcome people into our lives. Sometimes being hospitable means we are open to receiving it; accepting people where and how they are – and – being a person honest about where and how we are.
It’s not just about ideas and beliefs. It’s about the cost of discipleship itself. We pick up our cross – to join Jesus on His cross – to be part of what is most on His heart: to seek and save the lost through the generosity and hospitality of His friendship.