The Unshakeable Table

imageWhen I go on vacation and leave my regular Sunday morning post, if I am in Dallas, I head over to an Episcopal church near downtown. It is one of those situations that was rather awkward at first; “When do I bow?” “Am I supposed to make the sign of the cross now? Not now? Oh, now!” “When you genuflect, which knee do you give?”

This Baptist turned Methodist was never taught these things, but I am slowly learning.

Something about Christian expressions rooted in a strong Eucharistic tradition  that has always compelled me is the centrality of the table within the context of worship. This is not a novel or new notion; earliest gatherings of baptized Christians were not usually as sermon-centered as many of our post-reformation congregations have become. There were certainly moments and times for teaching, but when the gathered community came together for corporate worship, it was usually Eucharistic in focus. 

This morning, the homily lasted 10 minutes. Ten. That was it, and usually, that really is it. The sermon today expounded on Hebrews 12 and the unshakeable vs. shakeable things of life. That which can be shaken will fall away, and that which cannot be shaken will remain. 

As we prepare to launch into the fall, for those of us who launch into such things at the close of August,  I need to be reminded of the unshakeable. While I continue to wrestle with the incredible tragedy these summer months have brought, both nationally and locally for our church family, I look to these places of stability not only for comfort, but for direction. I need to be reminded that inspite of the chaos swirling around me, what cannot be shaken will remain, regardless of how violent the rumble may be.

At the table of our Lord, we are taught to be community, to be family. We are taught to be servants, we are taught to receive Christ’s invitation and hospitality, we taught salvation and mercy, and we are taught to have hope. No matter how often we partake in this meal within our various traditions, and no matter what theological divisions stand to divide us, the unifying symbolism of coming together around God’s dinner table as Christ’s honored guests is profound. This communal act where theological theory and thought meets the grit and grime of reality is the very “stuff” I need.

The letter-writer comforts the Hebrews, reminding them that the Kingdom of God is that which cannot be shaken, that which survives the consuming fire. The church echoes this exhortation in her sacraments of baptism and communion (and maybe a few more or less depending upon which branch of the faith you sit). This reflection feels a tad rambly, but it has been knocking around my head for the greater part of the day as I continue feasting on this word of both hope and challenge.