AfterWords | Welcome To The Table (July 24, 2022)
AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
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A 3-Minute Read
by Beth Nelson
As a kid at Christmas, I thought the grown-up table must be way more fun than the kids’ table (maybe we all thought that?). I heard my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles in the dining room laughing, chatting, clinking glasses. My cousins and I sat crammed around a square card table, knees knocking, dutifully downing our broccoli casserole and turkey—the price we had to pay before opening presents. My cousins were fun, but they lacked the elegance and savoir faire of the grown-up table.
With a young family of my own, we have dinner around the very same table where I sat as a kid with my parents and brother, and my children ask us to tell them stories about when we were younger. They’re some of our favorite conversations. We tell them what their grandparents were like as parents, and we see their eyes widen when we remind them that their grandparents were once children to the great-grandparents they’ve never met. We tell the stories we were told, about when our parents got in trouble as kids. And sometimes the ones where we ourselves got in trouble.
Sarah Fetz, gift that she is to our church community and to the world, gave us a striking picture of what the family of Christ can look like in the bringing, belonging, and becoming. Remembering, reminding, respecting. (I don’t know that she intentionally leaned into the alliteration here, but MAN it feels good to this grammar nerd’s heart.)
These words have stuck with me as I reflect on the thunder Sarah brought last Sunday. When I examine my interactions with my own kids, there is certainly a lot of remembering. Remember when you used to call them your “peet,” rather than “feet”? Remember to keep your shoes off the sofa. Remember to say thank you. Did you remember to brush? Are you sure? We all need to be reminded—we have ten thousand thoughts in our heads at any given time and a barrage of new information coming at us from every direction; it’s no wonder we forget.
Community is vital for many reasons, and not the least of which is a call to collective memory. Mike and I joke about it sometimes (You remember who we are, and I’ll remember where we’re going.), but we are all so apt to forget who we are. Even on Sunday, I nearly stopped Sarah in mid-thought when she reminded me that I am not the author of my children’s faith. I know! But I forget! I need to be reminded that I’m not God. And also that God calls me His beloved.
I’m comforted by how many times God had to tell the Israelites, Remember. Remember I called you. Remember I rescued you. Remember what I’ve done for you. Remember I am your God. The liturgy of the Jewish Passover instructs them to tell the story every year, engaging the children in asking questions and telling the story so they are well-versed in all God has done for them. And don’t neglect the gift that’s in the telling. We take turns reminding each other because none of us have it together all the time. We must depend on one another’s collective memory. And if you’ve been around children, or you ever were a child, you know they need reminding, too.
May we continually remind them that they are part of the WE. The OUR.
Lord, hear OUR prayer.
WE confess that WE have sinned.
Therefore let US keep the feast.
All OUR problems, WE send to the cross of Christ.
As we gather as a church community, may we allow their fidgeting and “whispering” to be a reminder to us that they are needed and wanted around the Table of Christ. Like the Hebrew people, we need to remind them, and to be reminded ourselves, that their presence is welcome. At the Table of the Eucharist, may we be encouraged by the little hands taking bread and wine in a gesture of faith they may not even fully understand. Welcome to the Table, little ones. We’re glad you’re here.