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Table-ology: Thanksgiving and transformation

Table-ology: Thanksgiving and transformation

A Scripture study from Caring, part one of seven.

What if we celebrated Thanksgiving and every meal as the early Church of Acts did?

They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple, followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God (Acts 2:46-47).

Thanksgiving is a time where families, friends and often, strangers, gather around tables to share meals and fellowship, offering thanks to God for his abundant blessings in their lives. Tables have always had a role in the lives of God’s people. The early Church of Acts took place around tables of fellowship, where in essence, people broke bread, prayed, ate, shared possessions and offered praise and thanksgiving to God. They were of one heart and one mind and enjoyed each other’s favor. Transformation was a common theme around their tables and the kingdom of God grew daily.

Tables are in essence fixtures; but they are fixtures that can help create space for powerful life events. Peace treaties and wars have been initiated around tables. Wedding papers and divorce papers have been signed at tables. Conversations of encouragement, as well as conversations of slander have taken place around tables. Table time is really important for many families—spiritual and biological. At tables people play games, pray, talk, listen, build puzzles and share meals. Memories are made around tables. It’s fair to say that the table can be a place of connection, disconnection, healing, brokenness, encouragement, slander, blessing, cursing, communion, neglect, justice, injustice, rest, unrest, community, exclusion, hospitality, rejection, listening and ignoring. It all depends on our posture toward God and others at the table.

In the gospels, the table is a place where you often find Jesus, reclining, discussing, breaking bread, including, listening, healing and sharing love. His posture was always inclusive and inviting. He loved missional ministry at the table. Jesus dined at Levi’s house, Simon’s house, the home of Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus’s house, the home of Pharisees on more than one occasion, the last supper with the apostles in the upper room and breaking bread at Emmaus. You can probably think of more, but you get the point. Jesus created space and time for individuals from all walks of life—around all sorts of tables. Life changing experiences took place when others met with Jesus around tables.

Jesus was a master of turning the tables, figuratively, while sitting at the table. He also literally turned tables over when people were exchanging money in the temple. The tables in this instance were fixtures used to dishonor God’s temple. Sometimes, we use our common tables in the same way. Instead of places of love, inclusion, encouragement and sweet fellowship; they can become places of gossip, criticism, self-righteous talk and exclusion. I’m sure there have been tables where I have participated in poor table talk, where Jesus may have wanted to literally turn the table over and figuratively turn the conversation in a different direction. I long to be a table turner for good.

It’s refreshing that Jesus didn’t have a particular group of people he ate with. He dined with the rich and the poor, the abled and disabled, women and men, young and old, every race, sinner and saint. The Pharisees were certainly a bold and presumptuous group of individuals, which many might have wanted to ignore, but Jesus shared meals with them on occasion, too. As members of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, they were of the mindset that they held superior sanctity over others. Jesus often turned the tables on their backwards theology. Where they tried setting traps at the table by exploiting people, Jesus reminded them that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Jesus cautioned them that the outcasts of society should have the seat of highest honor.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to turn our hearts and minds to the faith of the early Church of Acts and observe table-ology as it relates to our faith and spiritual formation. How do we fit into the table of God’s kingdom and how do we make space for God and others to thrive and be part of our community and fellowship? We will explore different spiritual disciplines that will lead us to healthy table-ology, for God’s glory, for our abundance and for the sake of others.

Read today
Acts 2:42-47

Pray today
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as we explore your Word and consider spiritual disciplines that will nurture and increase our faith, we pray that you would give us open hearts, open eyes, open ears and open minds. We desire to become like you and we know we can’t do it without you in the center of it all. Be present at our table Lord. We welcome you today, tomorrow and every day after.

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Nancy Helms, Major

Major Nancy Helms is the Spiritual Care Director and Territorial Disabilities Ministries Director in The Salvation Army Western Territory.