The Power of the Dinner Table

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J_Cindy

Like many other families, we reserve dinner time to be that sacred 30-minute window where the four members of our clan are contained within a space of reaching distance. I holler the routine call: “Dinner is ready!” from the kitchen and they appear from their respective locations of the house, eager to eat after a busy day.

We turn off the TV, put down our devices, make terrible jokes, rant too loudly, fight over stupid things (the kids), muse over international politics (me, mostly), and for this small block of our day, we share food and space and time and life.

It’s a small investment with a huge dividend. It makes us a little more kind to others because we re-fueled on kindness over the table. It makes us a little more forgiving to each other knowing we expect to gather at the end of the day. It sends us strutting more confidently into the world secure in having our people—every evening at six o’clock.

The Californian, revolutionary, food activist and chef, Alice Waters, spent her career creating conversation around the ethics of eating. In her research of what goes on and around the dinner table, she reflects,

“This is the power of gathering; it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.”

Businesses hold meetings to become more efficient. Sports players discuss strategy before dispersing into the game. Missionaries attend conferences to be sent out into the field.

The act of gathering is like pulling back a rubber slingshot, holding still an escalating tension, collecting enough energy to propel something outward. Gathering in order to scatter. Drawing in, in order to spread out.

God has given us the gift of great power in collective energy. Some of my spiritual highs have been experienced in corporate settings: worship chapels, singing around a bonfire, and Christian conferences. There’s something about the magic of knowing we’re not alone, that we’re in this together, which lifts us up and unleashes our potential.

I see throughout the narrative of Scripture that from the beginning, God’s plan of salvation has always been a gathering of God’s people with an outward orientation. Like an upside down funnel, God’s method of spreading the Good News goes from narrow to wide.

A father called Abraham, through whom all nations are blessed. A nation, Israel, through whom God’s mercy pours out. Twelve disciples met in close fellowship with Jesus for three years, to then go forth to be His resurrection people in the world.

One of the first major conferences of the early church, the Council of Jerusalem convened in order to widen the gate which welcomes the Gentiles into the family of God. Each time the people of God gather, it is to consider how we can become greater in our love, wider in our mercy, stronger in our hope.

It is ingrained in the DNA of our faith history, this method of drawing together for the purposes of reaching out. Perhaps this is why I see our 30-minute dinners as sacred. This act of gathering is a holy work, an invisible labor of love.

It is no small significance that Jesus indicates his presence among us through the bread and the wine. A simple table around which followers of Jesus gather to share food and space and time and life. A place from which we emerge a little more kind, a little more forgiving, a little more just. A place where we are assured we are enough—completely enough—and yet somehow we leave more than we came. It is a place of holy magic where grace begets grace and love grows with compounding interest. A place to launch irrational movements and irresistible revolutions.

No, this is no ordinary gathering. We receive wine to give in abundance. We take bread to distribute more of it. We gather to spread further out.

This is the great, mystical table, where we ingest death, but leave it more alive than ever.

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Cindy Brandt

Cindy Brandt

I write from Taiwan about finding faith in the irreverent, miracles in the ordinary, and beauty in the margins. I drive a Prius, am more interested in being evangelized than evangelizing. I'm super social justice-y, and a feminist. You can find me at cindywords.com, where I tap my words out from the thirty third floor of the high rise I call home.
Cindy Brandt

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