A House Full: Relationship-Building Through Table Fellowship

(This post was originally written as part of a resource for the World Council of Churches Week of Action on Food)

As I drove my well-worn Honda Odyssey packed full of friends staying at the local homeless shelter, Ron, a particularly boisterous and often shameless individual, asked James, “Do you have any cigarettes?”

“No, go fish.” James replied. The whole van belly-laughed the rest of the way to my house.

We arrived to find a lively house. The sound of people introducing themselves and the smell of honey ham filled the downstairs. My pregnant wife was putting the finishing touches on our Easter feast. We set our table and brought a folding table from church to make room for everyone. It was an eclectic group: folks experiencing homelessness sitting with college students and former board room big wigs. Yet around the table, all were equal—hungry and eager for seconds of pie.

Church Around the Table

King Street Church was born in the midst of potlucks. When my friend Elizabeth and I asked ourselves how a church for those not interested in church might be created, we thought of the popularity of a local potluck hosted on what residents of Boone call “Hippy Hill.” What would it look like for us to host potlucks, invite our friends who are interested in faith but not church, and see what happens?

A few months and a dozen casseroles later, the conversation one morning around the breakfast table turned towards faith. It went on for an hour, people sharing their experiences with God and their frustrations with their interactions with the church. At the end a young woman asked, “Can we do this again next week?”

It was these meals that brought our friends together, and the conversation and community that formed around the table brought all of us closer to Christ and created friendships that will last a lifetime. Three of the young men that came even got matching tattoos. At the very least their tattoos will last a lifetime.

Crossing the Buffet Line

Every Monday night for the last four years, I ate dinner at the local homeless shelter before hosting a Bible study for the residents. Each week I walked through the buffet line, receiving the meal from volunteers. I’m pretty sure half of the church ladies in Boone think I am homeless.

One week stands out to me. I went through the line, thanking each person for the food they placed on my tray. A volunteer turned to another and said, “Wow, he is so polite.” It was as if she perceived the invisible wall between the haves and have-nots as soundproof.

Many churches are so close to Christ’s table, but they’re stuck behind the buffet line. The church is called not only to feed the hungry, but to eat together. When the table is set and all sit down, labels melt away and relationships are formed. That is the beauty of Christ’s table.

The Feast of the Coming Kingdom

When the Church gathers around the table, we see a glimpse of the coming Kingdom. Perhaps this led the religious leader in Luke 14 to proclaim, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God.” But Jesus expands his imagination beyond a meal shared by the religious elite. He paints a picture of a great banquet overflowing with people from every walk of life. The host gives the instructions: “Compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.”

The wedding feast of the coming kingdom will not be a buffet, it will be a huge table overflowing with amazing food and drinks. People from every nation and background will be laughing together and passing the food to their neighbor, perhaps to someone they’re surprised to see there.

Signs of the Resurrection

After our Easter dinner we transitioned to the living room to watch a short video. In the clip, Father Juan Hernández Pico, friend of Oscar Romero said this: “Friendship is the most important sign of resurrection.”

Looking around the tables that day at the surprising friendships being born, at the abundance of food passed around for seconds and thirds, the resurrected Christ was made known in the breaking of bread and the passing of green bean casserole.

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