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.

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: The Original Prodigal Son

Every once in awhile, JD and I are asked to give some thoughts before the Lord’s Supper at church. They typically have something to do with the table as a liturgical practice, but they also recognize the function of the table as a communion outside of the church building. I want to record them on the blog because they are something that JD and I have worked on together to put into words. And words go on the blog.
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“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Jesus said these words at a table the night before his death.

A few chapters before, Luke recounts a story that Jesus told of the Prodigal Son. Though “prodigal” is often used synonymously with “wayward”, it actually means “wastefully extravagant; having or giving something on a lavish scale.”

In the story, the Prodigal Son is a man who deserts his home to spend his inheritance wastefully and extravagantly, bringing shame on his family. But when he returns home, to his humble surprise, he is welcomed, celebrated, and given a place at the table.

Ironically, Jesus, too, is the Prodigal Son–he has given lavishly, he could be considered wastefully extravagant, giving his life and dignity to us, for us.

He did this in the hope that we, too, would come home, that we would sit at the table in the place left for us.

So this charge by Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me,” is twofold:
1. We are remembering the place at the table for the original Prodigal Son, Jesus.
2. We are remembering the places left open for those who we hope will come home, who have a place at the table. There will always be room here for you, for me, for Jesus, for our brothers and sisters returning home.

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The Conversation Jar

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I can be a little awkward sometimes, and I realize that.  Admission is the first step.

Truly, I’m awkward because I want to get to know people, and I’m not always sure how to do that. So JD and I made it habit awhile back to have people over for dinner regularly to get to know them.

We wanted so badly to get to know our guests, but it seemed like dinner conversation never yielded the results we wanted.  How do you just blurt out, “What inspires you?” in the middle of tacos?  You don’t because that’s weird–not like I’ve ever done that or anything.

Because of this, I was intrigued when I saw Michael Hyatt’s post about How to Have Better Dinner Conversations. He actually says not to write these questions down, but I did. I figured that if I make it a game, then people are willing to play.

So here’s how the Conversation Jar works:
I have a jar full of colorful index cards with questions on them (some of our current questions are included below). One person pulls out a card and reads the question. He/she will answer it, and then the rest of the group will answer it. Once everyone has answered the question, the next person pulls a question out of the jar and it starts all over again.

We’ve played some variations of the game such only the person who pulls it out of the jar answers, or the person asking the question gets to choose who answers it. What other variations could we do?

We regularly add new questions, take out ones that were awkwardly worded, etc.  It keeps our answers fresh.

The Conversation Jar has made getting to know people on a deeper level without making an awkward and perhaps too soon transition into “deep conversation.” It also opens up different layers of conversation and exposes what people are passionate about.  One of my favorite things about the Conversation Jar is that I’ve learned so much about JD.  I get to hear him answer these questions, re-answer these questions, and develop his answers.  I’ve also gotten to know myself more.  Win-win-win.

Give it a try!  Make it a game and get to know your guests!

Happy feasting and may your conversations be as full as your bellies.

The Questions Currently in Our Jar:
• What is the best book you’ve read in the past 12 months and why?
• What’s your earliest memory of feeling wonder?
• What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your father?
• What quality do you hope to inherit from your parents?
• What is your idea of a perfect vacation?
• What is something you want to learn how to do and why?
• Looking back over your life, what would you describe as your proudest moment?
• What is one of your favorite childhood memories?
• What is like to be married to you?
• What inspires you?
• Who is a fictional hero of yours?
• What is the nicest thing a friend has done for you?
• How do you recharge your batteries after a long week?
• If you were suddenly the president of the United States, what would you do first?
• What is your favorite thing about your spouse?
• If you had a million dollars to spend on charitable causes, how would you spend it?
• If you were by yourself and could listen to any music you want, what would it be?

What questions would you add?