I am part of a small community of faith on the Northside of Dublin called the Table. Recently I wrote up some notes on why we decided on that name. I’ve included it as today’s post, and I would love to hear any thoughts you have.
Why The Table?
The Table is a Jesus-centred community of faith. Our hope is to see Jesus-centred micro-churches established in parishes across the city of Dublin that live out the reality of the Kingdom of God.
We chose to call ourselves the Table after much prayer and discernment, believing it communicates several ideas which are vital to us. Central to this is that the gospels show us multiple images of Jesus seated at a table and that the table was a place of significant ministry for him:
- The table is a place where Jesus broke down social barriers (Luke 19:5-10),
- The table is a place where Jesus welcomed everyone (Luke 5:30)
- The table is a place of forgiveness (Luke 7:48-50)
- The table is a place of teaching (Luke 7:40-47, Luke 15)
- The table is a place of blessing (Mark 39-43, John 2:7-10)
- The table is a place of healing. (Mark 2:17, Mark 7:24-30)
Scripture informs us that it is at the table where Jesus is remembered and revealed:
When the time came, Jesus sat down at table, and the apostles with him. Then he took a cup, and gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves. Let me tell you, from now on I won’t drink from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took some bread. He gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. ‘This is my body,’ he said, ‘which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.”Luke 22:14, 17-19 (NTE)
As he was sitting at table with them he took the bread and gave thanks. He broke it and gave it to them. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Do you remember how our hearts were burning inside us, as he talked to us on the road, as he opened up the Bible for us?’Luke 24:30-31 (NTE)
While the table was without question a focal point of Jesus’ life and ministry, it was also where his behaviour invited criticism from the religious leaders of his day, who referred to him as a glutton and a drunk. (Luke 5:30-31, Luke 7:34)
Hebrew dietary practices were strict and designed to set the Israelites apart from their neighbours. When we do not eat the same food, we will not share the same table. When we do not share a table, we will not become friends. Jesus ate with those considered unworthy to eat with respectable members of society and extended welcome, friendship and his life to them. When Jesus was at the table, everyone was welcome.
The church, in the book of Acts continued Jesus’ table practices.
In Acts 15, church leaders were wrestling with what it would look like for Gentiles to join the church and become part of what had been a predominantly Jewish movement. They eventually settled on three requirements, each put in place to remove barriers to relationships. And of those three requirements, two dealt specifically with table fellowship.
They recognised that if there was going to be unity in this fledgling community of faith, it would require people to be able to sit around a table and eat together.
Additionally, the New Testament records a dispute sometime later between Peter and Paul. Paul admonished Peter, one of the church’s key leaders, because his behaviour did not extend the welcome, grace and love that Jesus modelled. (Galatians 2:11-13)
We believe the table should continue to be a place:
- of welcome, grace and love,
- where barriers are broken down, and friendships are formed,
- of dialogue, not monologue
- of reclining and relaxation…not performance.
- of invitation, and challenge, (Luke 11:37-52)
- of ritual and rhythm,
- where life happens!
What is a Common Meal? And Why Does it Matter?
Two of our regular practices at the Table are based on what we have described above. A common meal and parties.
As a community of faith, we prioritise eating together and regularly practice what we call a “Common Meal”. As a part of our worship gathering, we sit down for a meal and everyone who is able shares food with all who are present.
A common meal creates expectation.
It is usual for people to go to church and spectate. They watch others carry out religious services and expect to receive a blessing from them. We hope that preparing and bringing food to be shared with others creates an expectation that we all have something to bring, and we all arrive with a desire to bless our Father and our community!
A common meal creates space to slow down and be present.
It is far too common for people to show up at a Sunday church event and leave without connecting in any real way with another person. That is heartbreaking and not what the church is called to be.
In addition to a common meal, we throw monthly parties and invite those not part of the Table to join us! These range from cook-outs to Pancake Tuesdays to Thanksgiving Dinner to Game Days. These parties serve as a way to bless those around us and demonstrate the love and welcome of Jesus!