My wife and I celebrate 32 years together this coming December. During those 32 years, we’ve called five cities home. Chattanooga, TN is where we met, married and rented our first place together – half of a two-story hexagonal duplex with a nearly vertical driveway halfway up Signal Mountain. We moved to Memphis when I was accepted into Graduate School at Memphis State University before accepting a position at a small Christian school in Perry, MI. We moved back to Chattanooga when things went south in Michigan (pun intended) and bought our first house there. We moved to North Dallas a dozen years ago and have been here ever since.
During each and every move, we did our best to purge ourselves of any unwanted clothing, unused household items and unnecessary furniture. Three pieces of furniture have remained with us throughout the moves: the cedar chest my paternal grandmother brought with her when she immigrated from Sweden in the early 20th century, the black walnut captain’s chair that my paternal grandfather sat in every night while he read his well-worn and marked-up Bible, and our large farmhouse family dinner table. As you might expect, each of the pieces are special to us because of the story that goes with them.
The table is a product of one of my wife’s weekend garage sale scroungings with her brother while we were living in Memphis. Notice that I said the table was a product of her scrounging. She didn’t actually find a table, she found and purchased four, hand-turned oak legs for twenty-five cents a piece. I remember her beaming face when she proudly presented them to me later the night. I don’t remember being as excited as she was about them but they were solidly made and since they cost only a dollar, I was happy that she was happy.
Those legs went with us when we moved to Michigan – though I suspect it was with an argument or two from me – and again when we moved back to Tennessee. It was there in Chattanooga, after we bought our first house, that we had a local craftsman build a table out of reclaimed Michigan barn wood with those legs. We’ve raised our four children around that table. We’ve held holiday celebrations around that table. Meals were shared and stories told around that table. We’ve even signed three mortgages at that table.
Tables are one of the most important places of human connection. My family comes alive when we share a meal around a table. It should come as no surprise then that throughout the scriptures, God has a way of showing up at tables. In fact, at the center of the spiritual lives of God’s people in the First and Second Testaments, we find a table: the table of Passover and the table of Eucharist. I love how noted Second Testament scholar N. T. Wright explains it: “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.”
As to the importance of gathering around a table, Dr. Barry Jones put it this way: “I’m convinced that one of the most important spiritual disciplines for us to recover in the kind of world in which we live is the discipline of table fellowship. In the fast-paced, tech-saturated, attention-deficit-disordered culture in which we find ourselves, Christians need to recover the art of a slow meal around a table with people we care about.”
Over the next couple of posts, I will be sharing more about the table as the center of our faith community as a place of blessing, a place of brokenness and a place of givenness. Stay tuned.