• on September 19, 2019

Grace Around the Table

By Jim Hart, Director of Christian Education and Campus Pastor

As a child, I especially looked forward to dinner time. If it was summer, I had been outside most of the day. It didn’t matter if it was 100 degrees or if it was raining, I spent most of my time outside. I can still remember my mother saying, “Go outside and don’t come in until I call you.” If I did come in several times in a row, I can hear her yelling, “Get outside and stop slamming that door!”

I can remember my father coming home from a hard day’s work – his clothes still damp from the sweat of the day. He woke before sunrise and returned at the edge of dark. As tired as he was, he always had time to throw the baseball, and he never skipped out on dinner.

Bowls and blessings.

My mom put all the food in bowls with serving spoons. She set the table with plates, silverware, cups, and napkins. She would call us when dinner was ready, and we would all come together around the table. Before anyone took the first bite of food, either my sister or I would say the blessing—God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen. The same every night. We gave thanks for whatever was in those bowls. The food in those bowls brought us together, but also taught us that we were dependent upon one another.

Conversations were always focused on what my sister and I had done that day. If I had been fishing, did I catch anything? If I was in trouble, my father would give me the look and say, “We will talk about this later.” My sister was typically complaining about why she couldn’t have the same clothes, earrings, or shoes like so and so down the street.

Learning around the table.

It was around that table that I learned about grace, peace, and love. Regardless of how upset my father was at me for shooting the bird feeder or not cutting the grass, no matter his confusion about how I could make all D’s on my report card but get an A in weight lifting, we loved each other. We sat at that table every night sharing joys, concerns, and food.

As a child, I did not see how God’s provision—my father’s job, his hard work in our one-acre garden, and my mother’s ability to cook, can, and freeze—came together in those bowls on that table. In church I sang, “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so…” and I believed it. I saw my father go to work, get paid, and buy groceries. I saw green beans on the vines from the seeds my dad planted. But I did not fully understand God’s grace and presence sitting at that table, having conversations, and eating the fruits of much labor.

Around the table at Crossnore.

The dinner tables at Crossnore do not look much different from mine as a kid. Children coming in from outside. Food is carefully prepared. Blessings—sometimes “God is great. God is good,” but sometimes long prayers you think will never end—voices giving thanks. Conversations about the day. Sometimes, “We will talk about this later.” Small voices and big voices, all experiencing God’s grace and presence around the table through shared joys, concerns, and food.

Jesus at the table.

In Eating Your Way through Luke’s Gospel, Robert Karris wrote, “In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.” For Jesus, the act of being with others around the table was about so much more than just consuming food. He chose to eat with the tax collectors, the sinful, and the uninvited. At the dinner table, Jesus pushed back against the rules and regulations of the religious in-crowd. It was at the dinner table that Jesus offered grace, peace, and love to all who joined him.

It was at the dinner table that Jesus offered grace, peace, and love to all who joined him.

Today as we join around the table in our homes, I am hopeful we see tomatoes from Winston-Salem’s Miracle Grounds Farm or collard greens from the Avery community garden. I am hopeful we hear small voices and big voices giving thanks, that we see faces of grace, peace, love, and hope. I pray that each of us knows God’s grace and are thankful for the table, the bowls, and the people around it.

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