I love Chinese food. There, I said it, the world knows! I have a bit of an obsession with it…in college one year for my birthday a friend brought me my favorite Chinese for lunch between classes, and then another for dinner took me to the same place to celebrate one more year of my life. I didn’t mind in the least. It was tasty and memorable!
I am constantly on the search for the best Chinese traditional dumplings. (Panda Café, PF Chang’s and Po’s Dumpling Bar are my current front runners.) After the summer I spent in China I came home and tried to convince my parents they needed a huge lazy Suzanne in the center of the table to more conveniently pass food. All meals in China were communal events. No one ordered their own…everyone shared. My times in Africa and Haiti were the same…meals were done together, and as a family around a table.
Life was shared around a table. Square. Rectangle. Circle. Oval. It doesn’t matter the shape, but what does matter are the lives and the stories they have to tell.
Thinking back, even in high school I remember my friends and I joking about the ‘Round Table’ effect. As soon as we’d sit down around a table the conversations were endless.
In college I had a friend who was a self-professed atheist. We had lunch together every week like clockwork. He heard about my life, I heard about his…it was life shared around a table. They were holy moments that God had set apart for us, even if my friend didn’t want to acknowledge it back then.
Last week, two of my worlds collided…around a table…with Chinese food. College friends met KC friends, and I just couldn’t get over how excited I was to share a meal with these friends as they met for the first time. Awkwardness is taken out of the equation when your hands are busy with chop sticks…or forks!
I have an eclectic group that went through the Tangible Kingdom Primer last spring. One of the community days says, ‘Have a fondue party!’ We made fun of the author, Hugh Halter, for weeks, tossing around comments, ‘Yeah, right!’
‘Who does fondue anymore?’
‘Is he really in touch with ‘cool’ things to do?!?!’
Until one week…a brave soul said, ‘I can get a fondue pot…’
That night ranks pretty high for nights of laughter, teasing and food for me! Barriers broke down as we all started dipping into the chocolate fondue…and jokes galore came out of our raucous evening…around a fondue pot.
We then had to begrudgingly acknowledge…Hugh knew what he was talking about. Now educated, we center our conversations around a meal together quite regularly. We throw out questions about spiritual issues, give advice freely and hold each other to ‘Where does God want you to be for him?’ And more often than not…we are talking about God’s love, His Kingdom being restored and our role in God’s mission. I recently got an email from a group member that said, ‘Let’s keep God’s plan first. We ask where He is working, then go, and ask what He wants us to do.’ How right she is.
Several months ago I heard someone say, ‘God created us to be in community with each other. He didn’t create us to be alone.’
Read that again…it is incredibly poignant to me, mostly because it’s true. I thrive in community. Among people to love and support me…challenge me, remind me who I am and why I do the things I do when the world tells me I’m crazy. Community makes me want to be better…to love God more, love others for God more…be more.
When I read Hebrews 10:24-25 the thought strikes me that this isn’t a new concept…
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
‘Good deeds’ can be translated as: good that motivates others to embrace what is beautiful and praiseworthy. We are a part of a global family that is called to inspire others to embrace the living God. And what better way to do that than to be apart of a community that is a visual example of God’s family. We laugh. We cry. We are silly. We are real people who make mistakes, but are loved unconditionally by Jesus and those around us.
When you consider the groups that you are a part of…are they encouragement for you to love others for God in all circumstances? Do they challenge you to live out your faith? Do they confirm for you that you are in this world to do God’s work?
At Velikoretskoye orphanage, where WCC travels to each year in November, we started a tradition in the very beginning on our last day with the kids. We don’t get to eat with them on normal days, because there isn’t space for us all to eat at the same time. Our tradition is to have cake and tea together in family groups. Those moments are precious, because even when there is a language barrier, super sweet hot tea and more kids that Americans…God is present and alive and bringing us closer together as a family.
Lives intersect and relationships are born and deepened. The beauty of it is mesmerizing when you think about it.
It’s just a table…and it’s just food.
But the two together create a setting that draw God’s people closer not to only each other, but ultimately closer to God’s heart. And that is something I love being a part of…