On Epiphany 2021, as I watched the images of mobs storming the United States Capital building, I felt compelled to write a thank-you letter to all of my loved ones in Potluck Church. So, I grabbed my laptop and opened up our Facebook group page and hurriedly hacked out:
“This may seem like an odd thing to say on a day like this, but I feel compelled to say how SO very thankful I am for each of you personally and for the whole of us as a church--that we, despite all of our many (many!) differences, have gathered around the Lord's Table to practice civil, respectful conversation and learned to love each other just as we are and honor the light of Christ in one another even in our imperfections. God is bigger than all of our perspectives and opinions and sins. And God's call upon us is far greater than any one of us can imagine or see or discern. We need each other. Thank you for being one of the few places in my life where I can freely share my opinions and know that they will be gently heard with love and challenged with an equal amount of love. The world needs more of this thing that God has created among us. I love you all!”
Because of Potluck Church I can testify that the Lord’s Table is not just a place for presiding over and serving communion. The Potluckers have shown me that the Lord’s Table can be a place for sitting down and sharing our hearts and minds with one another in a respectful and sacred space. And each time when I leave that Table, I feel heard, and known, and challenged, and loved.
Around the table we share our doubts, worries and fears. We question almost everything, and learn from one another’s lives. And we confess that none of us has all of the answers. We need each other to get even a glimpse of just how big the God we worship and serve really is. God has many ways of healing this world, and I know that one of the most powerful ways is in the breaking of bread around a table with lots of chairs.
What if all of our churches held communion as a full meal…at a table suitable for dining…with enough chairs for everyone…and a space held between them that is so respectful that even their conversation can be called “sacred” and “worship”? What healing might God unleash upon us all?
.At the beginning of this new year I asked the potluckers to choose a guiding word for this year and send it to be over Facebook. Over the course of the week, folks started chiming in with their words. They selected words like “peace,” “forbearance,” “abandon,” “focus,” “appreciation,” “hope,” “water,” and “discipline.” Looking over the list, I immediately started to think of scriptures, and poems, and authors who had spoken about these very words. David Foster Wallace’s This is Watercame to mind. So did David Steindl-Rast’s work on appreciation and gratitude. And Jan Richardson’s poem on hope. It was like our worship conversation pieces were assembling themselves. What if we took one word each week and made it the theme of our conversation and all of the elements of our worship (i.e. our prayers, communion meditation, and benediction)? So, that’s what we did.
It’s been amazing to find the connections among these words. For instance, how can we have peace without hope or forbearance? How can we have appreciation or live with abandon without a mindful focus? What role does appreciation and hope play in forbearing others?
The pastor in me has enjoyed feeling that our worship might be meeting specific needs around the table, if only those of one potlucker each week. The public confession of our obstacles, and learned wisdom in these areas is helping us to support one another in a deeper, more authentic way.
Maybe the people around your table have words that they need to explore with others. Maybe your community is the only invitation that they will have to share these words that they are carrying.
In the first years that I served a church, my husband and I invited minister colleagues who were young adults to come to our home to celebrate Epiphany on January 6. Initially for us clergy it was a celebration of the relief that the busyness of Advent and Christmas was coming to an end. But over the years as we learned more about the celebration of Epiphany, I grew to find it deeply meaningful.
Each year at our Potluck Church worship closest to Epiphany the wise men adorn the table and the new Christ candle that previously adorned the advent wreath is lit alone. After we’ve finished our plates of food, we serve a decorated cake that has a miniature plastic baby Jesus buried inside, and as we cut it, we laugh about what it might mean if we get the piece with Jesus--good luck or prosperity? Cake-maker for next year? Candlemas party planner? King or queen for the night? Or maybe you just need more Jesus in your life? It’s a fun tradition made all the more special as we eat together in worship.
This year none of us found the plastic Jesus, and so we delivered the treasured piece to a Potluck Church friend who was sick. Hopefully, she felt a bit closer to Jesus and to us as she enjoyed it.
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.