The most revolutionary thing we can do in the face of fear is to sit at a table and eat.
Every week as we gather at the Eucharistic table, we remember that this is just what Jesus did in the hours before his arrest. As he looked anger, hatred, and certain death in the face, he sat with his community of friends, including the very men who would betray and deny him, and he offered them bread and wine.
In September, I shared about my experience at Princeton Seminary’s Just Food conference. After listening to stories of churches and communities using the garden as a space for healing and racial reconciliation, I’ve continued to ruminate on the most powerful statement I heard that weekend: God is at work bringing us back to the very first command He gave: tending the garden and caring for creation.
In the past several weeks, I’ve spent hours on the phone with pastors of dinner churches across North America, continuing the research I conducted last year, in awe at the sudden expansion of this form of worship. “God is at work bringing us back to the very first way that Christians worshipped: around the table,” said Verlon Fosner, a pastor who trains others to start their own meal-based services.
Indeed, God is at work. Restoring creation through the basest form of human connection: food.
God’s work is always, always, always the work of restoration. Reconciling humanity to God, to one another, to our bodies, and to creation. And that a movement is underway in churches and seminaries across the continent and around the world, bringing Christians of all denominations, races, and sexual orientations, back to worship in the garden and at the table, spaces that have long been a platform for injustice and oppression, is no small thing.
I believe that this momentum is, in the words of the book of Esther, for such a time as this.
Fear has been the m.o. of our president-elect: amplifying the voices of those who fear their neighbors, those who fear their loss of influence or power, those who fear a changing world.
And in his election, that fear has been passed on to the most vulnerable of our society – men and women of color, those with chronic illness, the LGBTQ community, immigrants and refugees. Fear for physical safety, for access to life-saving healthcare, for families, marriages, and homes.
I’ve had difficulty coming to terms with the tensions of following a God who commands, “Do not fear, I have overcome the world,” with the knowledge that those I love are at risk. Jesus did not fear, but neither did he believe God’s being in control would buffer him from the death to come.
He grieved, he wept, and he ate.
I spent Wednesday grieving the political success of a man who spews hate, lamenting on behalf of my friends who stand to suffer in his wake, and confessing on behalf of my Christian communities who supported his rise to power.
I acknowledged the burden that doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly, that protecting the poor and the marginalized – people of color, the LGBTQ community, my Muslim neighbors, immigrants and refugees, those with chronic illness, victims of sexual assault – will demand more of me, of all Christians, in the coming days, months, and years.
It was fear that drove support for Trump, and fear that grasps those aching in his wake. But fear does not come from God, thus fear will not have control. And so, on Thursday, I sat at a table with my worship community, and I ate.
Anthropologist Michael Symons, whose work has been central to my studies of meals, writes:
“We might sit down together at a meal, but we must understand what we share. We must accept that we can never really share food. Instead, we share this animal need and we share the society and cultural forms that develop out of this need. In brief, we share the table.”
Our hunger, our animal need, I would argue, is not just for food or community, but for a God who reconciles. A need for a God that says while fear operates at the hands of scarcity, we worship at a table of abundance. We worship a God who suffered death but proclaims life, who says there is room for everyone at the feast.
So my Christian brothers and sisters, and all others who desire to join, while we do not shield ourselves from the need for grief, lamentation, or confession, we will also do the most revolutionary and basic things that we can: we will garden and we will eat.
We will get down in the dirt where we understand that life does not come without death, where fruit does not come quickly or cleanly, but requires patience and blisters and pain.
We will sit at the table with those who are frightened and those who are hurting. We will hold their grief, listen to and acknowledge the deep scars of oppression. And we will fight to bring such suffering to an end.
We will wash our dishes alongside those who are different from ourselves, those whose beliefs we do not understand, those whose life experiences we cannot comprehend. We will see the image of God in them, listen to their stories, and affirm that they too are beloved, blessed.
Lets share these needs where we’ll find them fulfilled: eating together at the table. Remembering the work Christ began as He stared fear in the face, sitting with those He loved, those who would hurt him, eating a meal of bread and wine.
Stare fear in the face.
Come to the table, and feast.
interested in joining a food-focused faith community? check out www.christianfoodmovement.org to find out more about the variety of organizations in your area.