Monday, June 3, 2013

At The Table

Where does faith come from?
For me it started when I was a kid.
On family nights around the dinner table we would finish eating and then we read from this book.
The book contained different lessons about faith.
At the end of each story there were questions that we had to answer.
Some nights after dinner we would stop eating and play a game called aggravation.
It was there around that table playing this game and reading these stories I learned about God’s love, about Jesus, about playing by the rules.
I learned at that table to thank God for our daily bread.
I can still here my father saying, “We are lucky most people don’t have a job.”
I learned at that table to cry and laugh.
I learned to forgive.
It is often in our families that we first learn about faith.
We learn it from grandparents who pass it down from hard fought times.
Parents who learned to trust God in the most difficult of times.
It is through the pain of experience that we learn faith.
Most important it is through the Holy Spirit.
It is through a force that is so much bigger than any of us.
It is beyond us.
In this way we can never really understand faith.

This morning’s Gospel is a good example.
We have a centurion who has great faith.
Even Jesus seems surprised by this faith.
“When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him.”
I have told you my story of faith, but I have heard many others that are nothing like it.
I have heard stories of people who never grew up in a religious household who still believe in God.
That is the story of this centurion.
He didn’t learn his faith from going to synagogue.
Yes…he helped build it.
Yes…he was respected by the religious people in his town, but he wasn’t a parishioner.
He didn’t attend Hebrew school.
He didn’t recite the Ten Commandments.
But he knows something about this Jesus person that all those religious folks miss.
This spiritual but not religious centurion has faith.
This is the Holy Spirit at work.
It gives us hope in our day.
When less and less people are going to church we can be sure that God is still at work.
That there are conversations happening at dinner tables where people are sharing and learning about faith.
That there are people we are going to meet who will surprise us with their faith.
There will be people who we don’t expect who will come to faith without ever stepping foot in a church.

It would seem that this might demean the importance of what we are doing here.
I disagree.
For us to come here every week is not for us to receive faith.
It is to be reminded together of the importance of the faith already given.
To be reminded of the faith that the Holy Spirit has already poured into us.
To remember together the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The faith that is present every night around our dinner tables.

Today this is what Sam, Madeline, Ava, Elijah, and Karl are being welcomed to.
These young people already have faith.
They express that faith in different ways then you and me, but they have a faith.
They know Jesus, they believe in Jesus, the love Jesus.
I am sure that around their dinner tables faith is being taught in overt ways, but also in ways that we don’t fully recognize or understand.
Around our tables in our homes God is present, God is working.
When we come home and share our days, the good things that happen and the bad we are sharing love.
We are giving each other encouragement, challenging one another, and uplifting each other.
In those moments God is present, and faith is taught.
Hard questions are asked and answered around our tables.
How can we make it through this day?
How can I be myself?
We can do it because we believe God’s word that God loves and cares about us.

There was a woman who I met once.
Her parents never went to Church.
They never talked about God or religion.
One day a pastor moved next door to her.
She told her parents that she wanted to go to Church.
Her parents arranged it so she could go with the pastor on Sunday mornings.
When I met her she was on fire for telling others about God.
She was a great evangelist.
God was at work in her life that whole time.

I know that there are stories in our own congregation like this one.
I know there are people who never thought they would be here this morning sitting in a pew singing songs about Jesus.
But the Holy Spirit is funny that way.
It is surprising.
It shows up all the time.

What I want our young people to know this morning is that God is at the table.
God is at the tables in our homes.
God is there as we eat food created by God.
God is there as we grow.
God is most certainly here at this table.
God is here for us every week.
As we come to this table with our joys and sorrows.
God is here as we come with our sin.
God is here as we come not perfect, but on our knees hands out begging for grace.
Jesus has promised to meet us here in whatever state we find our lives.
I hope for all of us, but especially these five young people, that this will be the place we come to with our whole unvarnished selves.
I hope for them faith.
Faith like that of the centurion, who trust that Jesus only needs to say the words and it is done.
That they come here to this table to be loved here and sent here to do God’s work in the world.

Today I would like to end with a poem by the poet Joy Harjo called, “Perhaps the World Ends Here.”
The world begins at the kitchen table.
No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.
So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens and dogs away from it.
Babies teeth at the corners.
They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.
We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.
They with us at our poor failing-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table.
It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror.
A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Come now to this table that God has prepared for us.
Come as you are.
Frail and strong, happy and sad, sinner and saint, rich and poor, with faith and without.
Come for the table is ready let us eat every last sweet bite. Amen

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