As I sat down to write this letter, I was very aware of the fact that the chair beneath me was not at all comfortable to sit on, the walls were sparse (and powder blue!), and the bookshelf before me was bare. I was – once again – in an unfamiliar space: this time my “new” little office at the Team Ministry Centre.
I took a deep breath and touched the familiar objects that I had brought from home in turn: a leather-bound Thompson Chain Reference Bible (like the one my mom gave me when I first started preaching at 18), a scented candle (a present from treasured friends), and a bowl of black and white pebbles (that I handed out throughout the Southern Region on Ash Wednesday).
Outside, the cars rumbled past. Inside, cups clinked as Annie put the kettle on for a cuppa and John whistled away as he looked over the finances. I smiled as I remembered the faithfulness of God who journeys with us in the midst of the everyday and the ordinary, as well as the new and the unfamiliar.
For me, the major seasons of the Christian Year – Christmas and Easter – should enfold us in this liminal space where things are simultaneously new, yet familiar. Christ’s cross and his cradle must bring new meaning to how we engage with the dailyness of human routine and relationship. And the old, old story which we hear again in this season has to be listened to with fresh ears if we are to discover its significance in a world which is constantly questioning its/our relevance.
This year, I find myself particularly drawn to the table at which Jesus sat with his disciples for one last, long conversation before his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane and painful death on Calvary. I keep thinking back to the laughter, the arguments, the teasing, and the sharing that took place over Sunday roasts in my childhood home. We never pretended to be a perfect family but the table was always a meaningful place of togetherness, whether we were at peace or warring with one another (my mom might have an entirely different perspective!).
I wonder what went through Jesus’s mind as he knelt before each of his disciples and washed their dusty, calloused feet …
… as he broke bread with his friends and predicted that one would betray him …
… as he anticipated being disowned by the one on whom he would one day build his church …
… as he comforted them, commanded love, and promised the coming of the Holy Spirit …
… as he prayed and prayed and prayed – for them, for himself, for all yet to believe …
… as he went out into the night knowing what cruelty and despair awaited them all….
I wonder what it means for us to be disciples at and of that table:
- what part does meal-sharing have in our worship, our decision-making, and our mission?
- how can we be wounded, imperfect people and yet break bread together and love one another with the same love that Christ had for us?
- who would be invited, excluded, or not even thought of?
- what challenging conversations would we need to have to prepare us for what lies ahead?
- what might Jesus pray for us? what would we ask for ourselves?
- where do we go when the meal is over? what do we do next?
In the midst of our familiar celebrations of Easter and Pentecost, I encourage you to read again the “table story” of John 13:1 to 17:25 and to engage with some of these wonderings – around your dinner table or the communion table – that we may encounter and offer Christ to one another and the community around us in a new way.
Yours in Christ