Coming to the Table; Going With the Table

Rev. Joshua Patty
Regional Minister and President

It’s a new year. And it certainly feels like the old year. COVID. Widespread distrust. Fear. Economic Uncertainties. Unresolved grief. Anger. Exhaustion.

It’s hard to find hope with all of this heaviness. Worse, these challenges are fracturing our families, our workplaces, our communities, and even our churches. We are each becoming more isolated – more alone.

A few years ago the Christian Church began claiming this identity: “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”

These days it is easy to recognize the fragmented world around us. It is much harder to see wholeness. Frankly, it’s become easy to just throw up our hands and assume there’s nothing to be done to make it better.

That’s the opposite of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus did not come and tell disciples to sit quietly, try not to make any trouble, and wait for God to fix everything. Faith isn’t simply about listening to God; faith is learning how God wants us to live. Healing and wholeness are only possible if we act in ways that bring healing and wholeness.

The Lord’s Table exemplifies how we live into wholeness – how we can be the people God created us to be. Experiencing the fullness of the Lord’s Table requires us to actively participate. We accept Jesus’ invitation. We join others at the table and affirm Jesus’ invitation to them. We celebrate God’s presence in our midst. We eat and drink together. Somehow we glimpse a part of the body of Christ – a way of being which is so different from the broken world around us. Then we take that vision into activities beyond the table – loving, giving, forgiving, seeking peace, encouraging, hoping, finding joy, and much more. And then we share this vision with others and invite them to experience it too.

What does this look like in these troubled times? How are we behaving at the Lord’s Table?

Here’s a hard truth. If we aren’t careful – and frankly, if we don’t have some humility – the Lord’s Table can become just one more thing that reinforces the fragmented world around us. Worse, it can seem to justify that brokenness. It may be called the Lord’s Table, but it mostly represents human prejudices, anxieties, and score-settling.

Right now, we are enduring another surge in COVID cases. In our response we face again the decisions about how we will act. Will our actions be a way that we and others live into wholeness or will they simply reinforce divisions? Do your actions seek to expand participation at the Lord’s Table or limit it? Do your actions honor the health and spiritual needs of others in your community or ignore them? Do your actions value others or are they mostly for your own benefit? Do you ever advocate for other voices to be raised and heard?

These questions go beyond our response to a COVID surge. In light of racial injustice, do our actions help us and others live into wholeness or do they reinforce divisions? In light of economic injustice, do our actions help us and others live into wholeness or do they reinforce divisions? In places of profound loss and abandonment, do our actions help us and others live into wholeness or do they reinforce divisions?

I fervently hope that Disciples will be a movement for wholeness in this fragmented world. I worry, though. I worry that fear will cause us to circle the wagons. I worry that exhaustion will sap our energy. I worry that grief will keep us from truly hearing the experiences of others around us. I worry that some will give up and walk away. I even worry that some may take advantage of these mixed emotions and try to reshape the church in their own image.

To be a movement for wholeness, we must act. We must embrace how much God loves us and values us, even as we admit our mistakes and seek God’s forgiveness. We must see others around us through the eyes of a God who loves and values them as God loves and values us. We must learn to be worthy of others’ trust. We must learn to place trust in others. We must listen and follow. We can’t bury our head in the sand or stay put and wait for things to change. By embracing the changes God wishes to see in us and acting upon them, we participate in our own healing and we stimulate healing beyond us.

In this new year, may the Lord’s Table go with us in all of our actions. May we seek and offer healing. May we embrace and be embraced. May we glimpse wholeness and live in ways that create wholeness in the community around us.

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