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Community Around the Table

james table.JPG

Many daily tasks I must do in the office feel far from pastoral. My to-do list involves operations, proposals to the finance team, and guiding the church staff through the day-in and day-out tasks of weekly church life.

After a day of setting up a new printer or fixing a projector, I wonder what happened to the “Pastor.” I feel exhausted, ready to go home to bed.

And then I receive an email like this that reminds me of the value of community…

Hi James,
I'm very disappointed we won't be able to be at the community gathering this Sunday. Unfortunately, this quartet concert is at exactly the same time. 

I hope you're doing well. I hope your classes are going well. Thanks for the work you do.

A member of the community group I have the privilege of leading sent me this message. It is a wonderful group of people from all life stages. They often feel like I am leading them, but here’s the truth: they lead me. They plan events without my prompting, and rush home from eight hours of class to attend a community gathering when they could say, “I’m tired and this is just another event.”

The sacrifice and love shown to me by members of my community often leaves me in tears. My wife tells me I should do a better job of showing them my tears, a way to show my deep love for them and let each person know how much I love them. I often respond with something like, “But that would just feel silly.” Truth be told, my pride gets in the way. After all, I am the Communities Pastor…expressing my feelings in community should come naturally and feel normal.

But in the greater Washington D.C. area, there is nothing normal about getting together, slowing down, sharing a meal, and going around the table sharing the raw reality of our lives. I’m not talking about our latest work accomplishments, the latest Tweets, or our thoughts on current political policies. I am talking about real life…hurts, pains, dreams, business meetings we feel anxious about, and whether or not we should take that next promotion because it means more time away from family. Not to mention we take time to pray about each one.

Sitting around the table, talking and eating a meal makes us equal. We are human. We have to eat.

Jesus knew this, and he conducted much of his earthly ministry around the table. He ate with tax collectors, a prostitute used her hair to anoint his feet, and he spent his last night with closest companions around a table.

We have 21 opportunities a week to do mission. Three meals a day… seven days a week. It does not have to be fancy. Put something in the crockpot and open a bottle of Trader Joe’s wine. How many meals have you eaten alone in the past week? How often do you say “this is family time” but didn’t talk to your family about anything but the weather? When was the last time you had someone in your home who thought or looked differently than you?

I may have had a long day at the office completing menial tasks that don’t feel pastoral or helpful to anyone. And then I know I’m going home to a list of life chores like washing the dishes and finishing homework. In all honesty, I want to go home and sit on my couch to binge-watch Netflix.

Instead, I oftentimes say out loud to myself, “Community is better.” We see it all throughout the scriptures. Each time that I choose to walk in obedience, God somehow meets me and cares for me in my community.