At the Table

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There is something holy about sitting on the floor in a dorm, with only the strings of Christmas light illuminating the room. And there is something holy about sitting there across from your best friend, splitting two cupcakes left over from the birthday celebration earlier in the week.

Maybe it’s all the Romantics I’ve been reading, but I couldn’t help considering the holiness of the moment–the place of God in this seemingly simple snack.

I recall another shared meal, a couple thousand years ago. A meal shared by close friends in their own small space. A meal of simple foods, preparing to remember a day of deliverance thousands of years prior. A meal where the Greatest of Friends began a tradition which has lasted through the centuries, a tradition of breaking bread that reminds us of what that Friend did in the following hours.

I think about the frequent meals that began just a few weeks after that ancient one. The meals where men and women fearing for their lives would huddle around a table, sit on the floor with their backs against the walls, or stand wherever there was space and pass around the bread and the cup of wine. The meals since then that have been held in grand cathedrals with gold adorning the altar. The meal shared among a group of teenagers who had just abstained from food for 30 hours in order to raise awareness for the plight of the countless starving around the world. The meal silently given from hand to hand in dark basements, in brightly-lit chapels, in school buildings, and out in the open, surrounded by nature.

But I do not only think of the strictly holy meal–that which is known as Communion, The Lord’s Supper, and the Eucharist. I also think of a meal shared with my youth pastor nearly 8 years ago as we talked about the significance of sharing meals in the Church–the community that happens over plates of burgers and potato salad at church picnics. There is something holy about baking cookies and sharing them with the group of girls that come over to study the Bible every week.

I remember the tradition a friend and I established around the time we went to college. Neither of us are good at making detailed plans, so when we found something we liked, we stuck to it. Now, every time we get back home and hang out, we meet up at our favorite pasta place and talk for a while before heading over to get ice cream at a fast food joint down the road. There is something holy about savoring the last bites of pasta while rehashing the joys, fears, and hopes of the past semester. There is something holy about admitting to pain and reveling in excitement.

Perhaps what makes the table so holy is the honesty that is available there. We are surrounded by the bounty of unmerited favor–a delicious meal prepared by our hands or by someone else’s. We typically eat with those people whom we trust the most. There is something holy about that trust. We feel–if not comfortable–less frightened of removing our masks during a meal. After all, how do you get a helping of chocolate cake when you’re busy holding a mask in front of your mouth? Something in the holy setting of a meal requires us to become more ourselves. Perhaps that is why America has become the fast-food nation. We are so terrified of sitting down and looking across the table at someone that we pull up in our cars, shove our debit cards at the kid in the drive-thru window, and reach for the greasy bags of food handed to us–all without looking a single person in the eye. We drive home, kids in the back seat munching on French fries and–for the first time that day!–being blessedly silent. But that is for another time.

The table requires us to become more ourselves. And in those brief holy moments, we see a glimpse of who we are, of who the person next to us is, and–perhaps–of who God is. At the table, we commune with the souls surrounding us. We reject isolation and refute loneliness. If only we will sit at the table.

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