Recently my husband was talking with someone about how to establish a Potluck Church in her town, and the inquirer remarked how easily he spoke about eating a meal in memory of Christ. “It seems to roll off of your tongue—this experience of eating with Christ.”
Setting a plate and cup for Christ at our worship meal is a weekly practice for us. Is it symbolic? Yes, but it’s more than that. It’s an acknowledgment of Immanuel—God with us. He is here as we worship. He is here at this table. He is here, ready to sit at all of our tables.
Revelation 3:20 (NRSV) teaches, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” What a gift! To eat with Christ.
Immanuel. Truly present. God with us.
Merry Christmas to you and all that grace your table!
We believe that Christ meets us at the table--not just this table here; but at restaurant tables, at fellowship hall tables, at boardroom tables and at our kitchen tables. We believe that we can call upon Christ to transform our lives, our relationships, our world. And through our spiritual communion, we may experience real change.
After pouring out his heart to God, one sleepless, stressful, fearful night, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. experienced that sort of change at his own kitchen table. In his sermon from August 1967, “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool,” he described feeling Jesus speak words of encouragement to “stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice, stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world.” What Dr. King described as a quiet assurance came over him, and because of that moment he found the courage to continue his mission.
Let us all approach this table with our own honest prayers, inviting Christ to show up once again in our lives, at our tables, and bring about divine change among us and within us.
(King, Jr., Martin Luther. “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.” Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, 8/27/67, Chicago, Ill. 27 Aug. 1967. Web. 16 Jan. 2017)
“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door,
I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Rev. 3:20)
It’s a small gesture—setting an extra seat for Christ. Similar to the Jewish tradition of leaving an empty chair at the Passover Seder for Elijah, we leave one seat empty for Christ. The communion ware (the paten of bread and chalice of juice) are the seat’s table setting. Physically, the Christ chair reminds us that this meal is not like other meals. It seems to help set our intention and purpose—holding a symbolic place at the table that reminds us that Christ is with us in this very room.
Meet in an accessible, welcoming place—a place that feels good to enter. If you have a table and chairs, that’s great! If not, spread a tablecloth or bed sheet like a picnic. Set a food and drink table to the side with salt and pepper, napkins, ice, and hand sanitizer. Real plates, utensils, and glasses add to the “slow food” nature of the meal. Set a place for Christ with a paten (plate) of bread and a chalice (cup) of juice or wine at one seat. Place a candle (the light of Christ) in the middle of the table and matches or butane lighter at one seat. If copies of the Bible are available, set them on the table. If some table décor comes to mind to help set a theme or celebrate a season or holiday, place it on the center.
Above all, just make a place to worship. Don’t let the details become obstacles to getting started. Just do it!
Pray for the gathering that will be built in the room—the people that will come, the worship that will be made, and the communion with God that will take place.
What if Jesus’s constant dining and feeding and dining and feeding—in Luke alone, there are 5:29, 7:36, 8:55, 9:13, 10:7, 10:39, 11:37, 14:1, 19:7, 22:14, 24:30 and 24:42—were intended as more than a social service program, more than a standalone activity of a fellowship committee, more than a symbolic act to be mimicked in a worship service? What if the meal was Jesus’s way of forming the fundamental worship of the church?
And what if, today, the church didn’t just talk in metaphor about an abundant table open to all but instead gathered around an actual table where folks from any station in life pulled up a chair to experience the Lord’s Supper in the context of a robust meal and worshipped God? What if our worship was not just a spiritual nourishing of mind and soul but also a physical ministry that fed the hungry body, too?
Over and over, I found myself in conversations, hearing the need for a relational, communal and intergenerational worship experience. And I wondered about the possibilities of a faith community whose root worship experience is table fellowship. Might sitting around a table and tasting the real food and sharing our stories and faith questions change what we eat, how we care for our bodies and whom we welcome at our tables? Would it change how we tend the earth that provides us food? Could I come to more know Jesus through this potluck church? And, if we leave a seat for Christ, would He come and dine with us?
I knew that God was calling us to spread a table and see what Christ did with it. The response has been vocationally affirming. Since October 2013, others have felt this call, as well, and have joined us in this experiment into “Potluck Church.” We’ve gathered weekly for worship, meeting with three to 13 people.
The vision is to reach folks who have a faith that values wonder (i.e., living the questions) and table fellowship and who, for whatever reason, do not typically worship in a traditional setting on a Sunday morning. Yet, the supper table on a weeknight seems to them a fitting place to meet in worship, break bread and explore their faith in community.
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.