Flash Table: With Whom are You Willing to Sit Today? - by Scott Borger
What is it about the table? For millennia, the table has brought families together to eat meals; communities together to celebrate weddings and festivals; and nations together to sign treaties, end wars, and expedite trade. Encounters at the table can be in the realm of the divine when they honor and include. And yet the table, a center and source of celebration for many, has brought about division and discord for others.
When our forefathers threw off the tyranny of the King to establish a government by the people, it opened up a royal banquet table for all. While this American experiment in self-government has included many more at the table, Lincoln’s call to our ‘better angels’ has not always been heeded. Often the lesser angels of our nature have won out. Many have been refused a seat at the table because they were different or because those in power acted as though the number of seats were limited. Should we be content with our progress toward a more perfect union when so many who rightfully belong at the table are left gathering up the crumbs under it?
When Martin Luther King, Jr. called the nation to a “Table of Brotherhood,” it was more than just a statement about equal access at restaurants. It was a call for the nation to seek God’s power and redemption that change hearts. And through those changed hearts, it was a call for the establishment of a table that honors and includes. It was a profound calling to our nation, and I have long wondered whether it could be executed at all.
In this posture of honor and inclusion, St. Brendan’s spent a recent Saturday afternoon setting up tables in a city park with tablecloths, fresh flowers, and beautiful table settings. All who were around were invited to the “Flash Table,” and we sat down with all who came. It was an idea conceived out of a desire to serve in some other way than handing sandwiches to the poor. Although the menu was one of my primary concerns prior to the event, it actually didn’t matter what food was being served. The simple act of asking each other’s name and learning each other’s story while sharing a piece of pie together had a profound impact on all the participants.
Sitting at a table can be uncomfortable when we don’t know who, if anyone, will show up. Often the person with whom we most need to sit at a table is the person with whom we would least like to share a meal. Something as simple as sharing a meal in a park can lead to barriers broken, to connections made, and to peace found. How can we call the nations to peace, or our communities to healing, if we ourselves are unwilling to sit down to the table beside those with whom we disagree or differ?
Flash Table is a parable acted out. It came from a sense that meeting the needs of the hungry seemed disingenuous if I myself would not eat the sandwich I offered. I never had felt comfortable handing out food to the homeless with this posture that shouts to the rooftops (without a word being said) that I have something to give to someone.
Flash Table offers a glimpse into the Kingdom Feast and is a reminder that we have been invited to God’s Table. And God’s Table is for all. It is our own selves who mistakenly believe there are pre-conditions to being seated at the Feast. For those who feel ‘unworthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under God’s table,’ it should be shouted from the rooftops that God has already shown mercy. The table is set and we have been welcomed.