As a child growing up my family gathered around the table to eat together at least once a day. Usually we ate together for supper and maybe at lunch, especially on Sundays after church. The rule was that we would talk to one another without distractions- no television, no newspaper (these were the days before ipads, smart phones, and other electronic devices)- just conversation. As a child, I was in a hurry to finish eating and talking so that I could go and play. As a teenager, I was always in a hurry to finish the meal and get on with life- homework, phone calls to friends and girlfriends, watching television or listening to music. Now that I’m older and I can’t sit down with my parents and brother everyday, I always look forward to gathering with my family whenever we can to sit down, to eat and visit.
I thought about those experiences as I was preparing my message for this past Sunday, June 1. My text for the message was 1 Peter 3:8-17 which includes these words from verses 8-9. “You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts, and humble minds. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t snap back at those who say unkind things about you. Instead, pray for God’s help for them, for we are to be kind to others, and God will bless us for it.” (3: 8-9 The Living Bible) I knew we would be gathering around the altar table as a church family to receive Holy Communion as we usually do on the first Sunday of the month, so I thought about those times eating around the table growing up and titled the message “Like One Big Happy Family” from verse 8. I thought I had everything planned out so that it would be a meaningful message and worship service. But God had other plans.
When Sunday morning came, I went to turn on the air conditioner at Tangipahoa UMC like I always do, except this time the air conditioner in the sanctuary did not respond, not good on a warm, humid, south Louisiana June morning. I called the air conditioner repair guy who could not get there before service started, so we decided to worship in the fellowship hall and repair the air conditioning during the week.
Usually we worship in the sanctuary with everyone facing the same direction, toward the front of the church. If you sit in the back of the church, all you see are the back of the heads in front of you and the preacher’s smiling face. But on this Sunday when we were thinking about what it meant to live as one, big, happy family in the church, we sat around the tables in the fellowship hall, looking at each others faces. Since it was communion Sunday, we moved the elements into the fellowship hall and because of the noisy metal chairs and tight space, I decided that we would serve each other the bread and the grape juice, much as one might pass the roast or potatoes around the table at a meal. I couldn’t help thinking that there was no way I would have been smart enough to plan this, only God could do it. On the Sunday where the message is “Like One Big Happy Family” we gathered around tables, looked one another in the eye, and shared God’s holy meal.
I hope and pray that you have an opportunity to gather around the table with your family soon, to eat together, talk together and spend time with one another. I hope and pray that we will always find time to gather around God’s table, listen to God and one another, and partake of God’s holy meal. No matter how busy or crazy our lives get, may we always remember to gather around the table- for time together, for love, and for faith.