by Dena Hobbs
THE TABLE WITH NO EDGES
We will sit down where feet tire from the journey.
We will sit down where grief bends the back.
We will sit down under roofs wrecked by artillery.
We will sit down where cries sound from cracked walls.
We will sit down where heat beats like hammers.
We will sit down where flesh shivers in cold.
We will sit down where bread bakes on thin charcoal.
We will sit down where there is no grain in baked fields.
We will sit down with those who dwell in ashes.
We will sit down in shadow and in light.
We will sit down, making friends out of strangers.
We will sit down, our cup filled with new wine.
We will sit down and let love flow like language.
We will sit down where speech needs no words.
We will sit together at the table with no edges.
We will sit to share one loaf, in Christ’s name, in one world.
© Copyright 2015 by Andrew King
“We will sit to share one loaf, in Christ’s name, in one world.”
Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit a Presbyterian church in Ghana, Africa. While participating in worship services there, I noticed many differences in American and Ghanaian worship styles. The sanctuary was painted a bright teal blue and hung with paper decorations for the Christmas season. There was so much joyous music and dancing. It went on and on. We even danced our offering up to the altar. Let me tell you how I surprised I was to dance up my way to the altar in front of God and everyone. Dancing is not my gift! Several kind ladies tried to help me fit in by putting their hands on my hips and lilting, “Move your hips, love. It’s okay. Move those hips!”
As odd as I felt dancing up to the altar with my offering, there was one moment where I felt right at home. When the congregation began to recite the Lord’s Prayer, I immediately recognized it though it was being spoken in the church’s native dialect. The cadence was so familiar I joined in with them in my own native tongue. In that moment I knew that despite our differences, we were truly one Body, one Church in Christ’s name.
Every World Communion Sunday I remember that day in Ghana and how even though individual churches may have their differences, we are all one Body through our Lord Jesus Christ. And that bond unites more than any difference can divide. (And I also get an urge to dance a little. It was fun once I learned how!)
This World Communion Sunday in particular, I think it would do us good to remember the unity we have as Christ’s church is not only worldwide, but also within our nation. I have heard it said that the most segregated hour in America is 11am on a Sunday morning. But though our country may still have “black churches” and “white churches” (and thank God some truly integrated churches), we are still one Body in Christ. And when one part of the Body is hurting as it is now, all of the Body hurts with it.
This World Communion Sunday, I invite you not to just reach out to sister churches around the globe, but to reach out to churches across town who’s majority racial make-up is different than yours. Call a pastor or friend in the church ask if it is okay for your family to visit with them for one Sunday. To show solidarity, to learn something you wouldn’t otherwise know, to grow closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you are a pastor, reach out to a colleague from a church who’s ethnic background is largely different than yours. Have coffee. Maybe even make a plan to gather your churches for a joint worship service or activity. Though there will be elements of your worship style and theologies that may differ, there will be something greater that unites you. And hopefully we can learn from each other’s differences and become stronger for it. I know I have.
Celebrate the diversity of the Body of Christ as a family. You may want to buy various types of bread that would be used in communion in different countries and sample it together. If you have a collection of crosses, nativities, or any items from other countries, add it to your table space while you sample the breads.
If your children are old enough, you could teach them parts of the Lord’s Prayer in another language. If your children are very young, learn a simple phrase like “Jesus loves you” in another language.
If you feel it is appropriate, you could visit a church comprised of people of a nationality or race different from yours. You could call ahead to help you feel more comfortable about your visit.
O God of us all, we thank you that you made such a big and diverse world for us to live in. Help us to look outside our own neighborhoods and countries and remember that the Body of Christ spans the globe. We pray for your Church in our nation and each nation. Help us to learn from one another and to work together to bring more of your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. And as we partake of communion this Sunday, may we have a foretaste of that heavenly banquet where all your children from all the world will gather at the table with no edges and no end. Amen.