Table Manners

My church engages in the Eucharist once a month … the first Sunday of every month. I think it’s a bit too infrequent, honestly.

Sharing the table is the most equalizing, welcoming, unifying, and hopeful ritual the church has, and yet, many of our churches practice it infrequently because of the time or energy it takes.

What the church does is inextricably connected to who the church believes it is. Our liturgical words and actions are preparation for life – we practice who and what we want to be when we’re in church, so that over time, the church literally becomes its weekly practices.

The church becomes its weekly practices.

What does your church practice when you gather? Is it a reflection of who you hope to be?

***

Since this Sunday is communion Sunday for my congregation, I’ve been reflecting on how I approach the table … and how often it’s automatic, even a little bit thoughtless.  If we become our practice … I need to re-evaluate my table manners.

In Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating, Norman Wirzba connects our everyday actions of eating to the ritual action of the Eucharist.

At the table, as well as in life, we can fail to practice eucharistic table manners. 1 Corinthians 11:18-21 sets the context for what it looks like to fail to eat eucharistically: “I hear there are divisions among you … When you come together to eat it is not really the Lords Supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.”

Eating eucharistically or being truly present at the Table is tangled up with learning to be present to and responsible for each other. 

The Eucharist is a manifestation of heaven on earth – a space where we practice abiding with each other without division, being mindful of our responsibilities of life together, and understanding food as healing and transformation rather than as mere continuation of life.

I wonder what would happen if we practiced Eucharistic table manners? If the church truly does become what we practice, then the way we feast in church should spill over into the way we eat outside of church. Is it possible that by transforming the way we approach the table in ritual we could transform the way we engage food in the world?

Perhaps transforming our practice around the table in liturgical action could transform the way we encounter food outside of the church: eating in ways that are just and sustainable, eating with a commitment to the social and ecological relationships that make food happen, eating as witness to life rather than death in our economies of food production and consumption.

In the story of feeding the five thousand in John 6 – Jesus fed the crowd “as much as they wanted,” until they were satisfied. He met both spiritual and physical hunger in that moment. Modern day Christ followers need the same kind of feeding – food that heals and transforms us rather than merely sustaining us for life as usual.

 

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