Friday, January 15, 2016

Church Around the Table

Church Around The Table
One weekend our LifeGroup gathered at the lake house that belonged to one of the members. Not everyone in the group could make it, and it was winter, but water sports and 100% attendance were not our goals.

We just wanted to be together.

Sunday morning we gathered around the table for breakfast. We enjoyed the cooking of our hosts and the warmth of the fireplace on a cold January morning. All the surface talk had been used up in the time we already had together walking, playing table games and watching football. Our guards were down, and we were relaxed to be ourselves.

My wife jumped into some story about our grandchildren and told of a podcast she liked where the host always ended her episode by asking her guests, "What are three things that make you happy now." She thought that would be fun for us to do. (Being an introvert married to an extrovert I have come to expect these conversational invasions into free-flowing conversations I can sit back and enjoy without participating.) The group accepted her idea, and she began telling her three happy things

The rest of the breakfast club shared. Someone said, "This makes me happy!" opening her arms as if to embrace the entire group. We agreed. Someone else mentioned their grandchildren, and another mentioned the beauty of the day and setting of the retreat. We laughed and told stories for about an hour. It was a truly happy time.

We had talked about having a time of worship or devotion that morning. It was Sunday after all, and we were brought together through our shared experience of worship on Sunday mornings. I had been reading and meditating on biblical passages about anxiety. It was my turn to re-direct the flow of conversation. I asked, "What are three things that make you anxious now?" A sort of downer, but as Joy learned in the film Inside Out, Sadness, like anxiety, completes our full range of emotions and are necessary for a full life. Anxieties are also issues we can confess to one another, receive prayer and encouragement and trust to the Lord. Without anxiety what's the point of faith and happiness?

We spoke of our anxiety over our jobs, our finances, our children and their children, the frightening world in which we live, and our illnesses. We were not maudlin about it all, but we spoke in sober tones of things like these that challenge our trust in God and drain us emotionally. Another hour had passed. When everyone had shared, I read without comment Matthew 6:25-34, the Word of the Lord. 

We then prayed for each other, got up to clean off the table and returned to our leisure activities. We had just been the church! Church around the table. Like the biblical images of church as home and family we read about, we ate, confessed, encouraged one another, and heard the Word of the Lord for our lives. I thought of my brothers and sisters in Christ in Vietnam, for example, who gather to eat, share their joys and hurts and pray for one another in a member's home.

Church as family. Church is sometimes around the table. Church around the table will take some time, intentional effort, and planning, but give it a try. You may find church is more real than you ever dreamed.



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