Communion Thoughts: This

Yesterday, JD and I shared meditations one last time at our beloved church. We move on Thursday, and we wanted to be able to say goodbye to the collective church. I mean, there’s a reason we drove 30 minutes downtown each Sunday to see people that live on the other side of Austin. Here’s what we said.

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On our first day at church, it took us 30 minutes to get out of the auditorium—not because this place was so crowded that we were elbowing our way through a mob, but rather because so many people made a beeline for us to introduce themselves because we were new.

Over the course of our time here, we studied what it meant to be an apprentice to Jesus, and we shared our stories and our doubts with one another in the ever-changing balcony class.

We experienced hospitality from many members, whether it was a shared bowl of edamame at Pei Wei, or it was the exquisite cuisine and company of famed cooks in the congregation.

They celebrated with us in our great joys of new jobs and pregnancies. And then they mourned with us when we lost our babies, and they held sacred space for us to grieve by showing up at the hospital to hold our hand, coming over to bring us dinner, texting us every day to check in.

In a similar way, as Jesus reclined at the Table with his friends, they celebrated Passover, they reminisced about their adventures together, and Jesus prepared for the most difficult part of his journey. It was that night that he held up the bread and the wine and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

He took these common sacraments from the Table to symbolize a broader moment. When he said, “Remember this,” he wasn’t just talking about the taste of the wine.

He was saying remember how we cared for one another…

remember how we shared meals together…

how we walked miles together…

how we live side by side, hand in hand together.

Remember this moment where we are all here together.

Today, we raise our glasses in celebration of what the Table of God has looked like to us here.

As we leave our sweet church, and share this meal with other members of God’s family, we will remember this.

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Communion Thoughts: Come In

JD and I shared a few words at the Table this past Sunday.  I’ve been inspired by my recent reading of Mary Oliver’s collection of poetry, Thirst.  Here’s what we shared.

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How do we prepare ourselves for the Table? Churches around the world have rituals that intend to focus our hearts to encounter Jesus each week: meditation, prayer, Scripture reading, a song, two people sharing a few words before the bread. Most of these rituals have a holy shimmer, and we hold our breath wondering what Jesus will say to us at the Table, what we will say to Him.

Mary Oliver, one of our great modern-day poets, wrote of preparing ourselves in a poem called “Making the House Ready for the Lord”. She writes:

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice:  it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances, but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

Oliver illustrates that the way we prepare for meeting Jesus at the Table is to invite and welcome everyone as we get ready:
• The mouse, the squeaky creature who gets under our feet and under our skin
• The squirrel, the great taunter of our dogs and carrier of diseases
• The raccoon, the dirty and vicious creature who fights out of self-protection and fear
• And the fox, the great trickster seeking to stay alive for one more meal

Even the pests are welcome, perhaps especially the pests because the language of the Table is not “Invitation only, you’re late, sit up straight, get cleaned up, don’t talk about politics or religion, be seen and not heard.” Rather, the simple words of the Table are “Come in.” By saying those words to the mouse, to the squirrel, to the raccoon, to the fox all week long, we say them to Jesus this morning, and He in turn says to us, “Come in.”

Communion Thoughts: Elephant in the Room

Occasionally, JD and I offer the meditation for the Table at church.  We love doing this because we get to sit down together and talk about the Table, and usually one of us has already been stewing on something to say.  Being on the list of those who offer meditations has allowed the Table to be in the back of our mind as we go throughout our day, sensitive to the Spirit revealing a different way that the Table brings us together.  This is my favorite liturgical practice.

Last week, we read about the stillness of Mary at Jesus’ feet and the need to drop our Martha facade so we can sit down and hear Jesus.  I came across this poem in my daily poetry reading a few weeks ago and marked it for our next communion thoughts.  Perhaps our busyness is one of the big elephants in the room in the Church.  I like to share our Table meditations on the blog, so here it is:

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Reading: Luke 10:38-42

Some…have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.

One of us happens to touch the trunk.
“A water-pipe kind of creature.”

Another, the ear. “A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal.” Another, the leg.
“I find it still, like a column on a temple.”

Another touches the curved back.
“A leathery throne.” Another the cleverest,
feels the tusk. “A rounded sword made of porcelain.”
He is proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole that way.
The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark
are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together, we could see it.
“The Elephant in the Dark” by Rumi

When we sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary, we each experience God differently.

May the Table be a place where we all bring our candles of experience together to illuminate the dark room.

May in our interactions we say, “This is who God is. This is what I know to be true of Him.”

In this practice, that Jesus, the life and light to men and women, has set up for us, may we see the face of God in the candlelit glow of one another.

Communion Thoughts: A Community of the Spirit

This morning, JD and I had the honor of offering the meditation for the table at church.  The church service was the end of a meaningful Campus for Christ conference, hosted by our incredible church, run by the wonderful Cary and Jinny McCall.  Below are the thoughts we shared at the table.  May we bring the table to our kitchens, our break rooms, our coffee shops, our morning car rides together, and our Mondays-Saturdays.
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058As we prepare to come to the table, I want to share a few lines from Rumi, a 13th century mystic, entitled “A Community of the Spirit”:

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and
being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd’s love filling you.

Today, may we join in the shuffling to the table, the clinking of the glasses, the wiping of the crumbs, the quiet murmuring, the shy smiling, knowing we are a part of the community of the spirit.

May we drink the passion of Jesus, and allow ourselves to be disgraceful.  The table is not always a quiet reverence.  Sometimes it is a bench covered in dried macaroni with a toddler singing in your ear and another using you as a jungle gym as you try to talk with a loved one but instead end up laughing and cleaning up carrots that landed on the floor.  Come be a disgrace.

May we close our eyes in resistance to the constant stream of data in our culture so that we can truly see.

May we open our  hands in surrender and friendship rather than clenching them in possession and self-defense.

May we sit down in this circle.

May we stop acting like wolves–worried about our next meal and attacking out of self-preservation, and instead let the Shepherd love us and protect us.

May we come to the table, raise our glasses in celebration, and let the Shepherd’s love fill us up and unite us together.

A worthy life

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Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

The words above are from the prophet Isaiah.  As we work hard these last few weeks before Christmas, as we are tempted to buzz around smelling like peppermint and pumpkin spice, may we remember that all of this laboring and hustling for a worthy life is over.  Hustling and striving to prove we have value is like spending money on bread that is not really bread.

Jesus has come to give us food that is good, that is rich without us having to spend any money.  He is making our life worthy.  He is establishing a new life for us with the bread and wine, with his body, reminding us of his steadfast, sure love for his people.  For us.  For me.  For you.  He is saying, “I make you worthy.  You are worthy because of my love for you.”

So come to the table and eat up.  I’ll pass the bread.  It’s really good.

Waiting for Someone

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We spent a month in Hungary this summer for the first time in four years visiting family and friends. In many ways, our summer was full. We ate every single Hungarian dish we were missing in the States, and I have tighter pants to prove it. We hugged countless friends. I drank an unhealthy amount of coffee chatting with old friends at the café downtown and consistently stayed up past midnight–a feat in and of itself.

We spent hours cramming our bodies with desserts as we visited older family members, and in our sugar stupor we listened to their take on Hungarian politics and how we should be eating more honey cream dessert and they’ll get some more juice for us and when are we having kids. We road-tripped to other European countries, bowled, walked downtown at 2 AM after a World Cup watching party, took selfies with our friends at the Children’s Home. Time stood still.

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We stayed up late talking to our brother and sister-in-law about their boys, family, faith, and how hard it is to be Hungarian, to be human. We let our nephews climb all over us and steal our dessert and then retaliated by tickle fights and games of tag. We made food together, one of the world’s oldest bonding tricks, and took naps in the afternoon with full bellies. We went on bike rides, bought approximately one hundred $1 scoops of ice cream on said bike rides, and felt the reverberations of Hungarian techno beats rattle our brain for weeks after our return.

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But on the plane ride home as we ate packaged noodles and watched movies in between naps, we wistfully yearned for more time with our family and friends. One month is a long time, and yet not enough after 4 years of absence. We knew there was more to say. More hugging and reaching across the table for a hand. We felt a deep aching for a prolonged reunion.

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As JD and I talked about this, I imagined Jesus feeling this way as he sat down to dinner that last night. Did he feel like there was more to say to his friends? Did he long for one more carefree fishing trip? Did he ache for more time?

I suppose that at times we are acutely aware of the temporal quality of things in this life: funerals, diagnoses, dreaded midnight phone calls, plane rides home. This was one of those times. During our trip, I read Marilynne Robinson’s book, Housekeeping, a story of impermanence and tragedy. She makes a meaningful observation of Christ’s humanity in the context of memories of loved ones and an aching for reunion that resonated in this aching part of my heart:

“Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it. God Himself was pulled after us into the vortex we made when we fell, or so the story goes. And while He was on earth He mended families. He gave Lazarus back to his mother, and to the centurion he gave his daughter again. He even restored the severed ear of the soldier who came to arrest Him–a fact that allows us to hope the resurrection will reflect a considerable attention to detail….

There is so little to remember of anyone–an anecdote, a conversation at the table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.”
p. 194-5 Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

This passage reminded me that in our missed family we are waiting for someone, that we do miss a person we’ve never seen face to face. That perhaps this longing for being reunited with loved ones is God-given. That the ache is a gift that points to a greater desire in our hearts. That one of the reasons we come to the table each week to drink some chilled grape juice and munch on the corner of a tasteless wafer is to wait for our Beloved, to wait for the ultimate reunion of our family, to say quietly, “Come, Lord Jesus. Soothe this ache in our hearts for each other and for you.”

Miskolc