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THE TABLE

 

 

The Transformation Table Offers More Than A Meal

 

Like many of my friends, I have been on Facebook for over 10 years. Recently I was practicing the art of brain-numbing on Facebook with a rapid scroll when I stumbled upon one of those polarizing questions with thousands of people sharing their thoughts.

 

The question was: “If you found $20 on the floor of the church what would you do?”

 

I usually don’t look at these things, but one of the answers caught my eye.

 

“I would keep it and give it to a charity I trust or a neighbor in need because the church has stolen enough money from people.”

 

The answer stung.

 

I know pastors who live at or barely above the poverty level, or work multiple jobs to simply continue in ministry and pay their basic bills. I know people who volunteer 20-40 hours a week to love their community in the name of Christ. I have seen marriages repaired, children cared for, families fed, and widows comforted by The Body.

 

If this is true, why do the majority of unchurched individuals in the US and Western Europe, see the church as an exclusive, judgmental, uncaring organization?

 

In the 18th and 19th century it was Christians who were at the heart of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement. The Religious Society of Friends were the first organized abolitionists, believing that slavery violated Christian principles. By the first decades of the 1800s, every state in the North had legally abolished slavery. Abolitionist ideas then spread West into the territories that would soon become Indiana and Ohio. Abolitionists firmly believed that slavery was against their Christian faith.

 

In the 20th century, it was often Christians who helped hide the Jews during the German occupation. Despite the Vatican's failure to openly act and condemn the Holocaust at the time, many priests, nuns, and laymen hid Jews in monasteries, convents, schools, and hospitals and protected them with false baptismal certificates. In France Catholic, Protestant, Quaker, and Unitarian relief organizations cooperated with the Catholic church to rescue 12,000 Jewish children. They arranged safe-houses and smuggled small numbers into Switzerland and Spain.

 

Today, in the post-9/11 world, things appear different. Some outspoken Christians have become less focused on caring for the hurting refugee and more set on self-preservation. Well, at least on the surface or on social media it appears that way.  As our president declares “America First”, the conservative Christian social media choir sings...

 

HALLELUJAH

 

FINALLY

 

PRAISE GOD

 

HE IS OUR MAN

 

A MAN OF GOD

 

THE NEW CYRUS

 

In the last year, he has worked hard to enact legislation and policy to fulfill this promise. He created the controversial travel ban, is pushing forward the effort to build a wall along the border with Mexico, attempted to end the bipartisan DACA program, is working to end funding to clinics that offer abortion (I’m pro-life but this poorly thought-out ban caused unintended consequences in poorer communities), is removing the US from international environmental, trade and humanitarian coalitions and has, through his words and actions, demeaned women. And still, the choir sings….

 

HALLELUJAH

 

FINALLY

 

PRAISE GOD

 

HE IS OUR MAN

 

A MAN OF GOD

 

THE NEW CYRUS

 

I wonder if this is what the world, and specifically the unchurched, see as they look at the Body of Christ —at least on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

 

How do we change the way people think about Christ Followers in the midst of our current hostile and divided culture? I was recently reading through the book of Nehemiah and I was struck by a possible answer.

 

THE TABLE

 

So Nehemiah is a book about the Israelites rebuilding the city walls after returning to Jerusalem following 70 years of exile under Babylon and later Persia. In the 5th chapter, we find a community who is past the enthusiastic phase of a new “adventure” and exhausted from rebuilding, fighting off persecution and suffering a famine. Here we learn:

 

5 1-5A great protest was mounted by the people, including the wives, against their fellow Jews. Some said, “We have big families, and we need food just to survive.”

Others said, “We’re having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving.” And others said, “We’re having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. Look: We’re the same flesh and blood as our brothers here; our children are just as good as theirs. Yet here we are having to sell our children off as slaves—some of our daughters have already been sold—and we can’t do anything about it because our fields and vineyards are owned by somebody else.” MSG Version

 

In response Nehemiah— the governor had compassion, grew angry and began to take action. He called out the local leadership for enslaving their brother’s children and reduced the people’s taxes. But the part that caught my eye was what he did at his own table.

 

"17-18 I fed 150 Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn’t use the food allowance provided for the governor—the people had it hard enough as it was." MSG Version

 

*Side Note — The irony has not been lost on me that this story, about God's people rebuilding a wall, inspired me to think through how Christians chanting “BUILD THAT WALL” is turning people away from knowing the love of God. 

 

What does a TABLE have to do with sharing God’s love in the midst of the social media Christian chants and a toxic political environment? Could it mean that in the 21st century we could help those suffering from mental illness, racial or sexuality prejudice or financial poverty by simply asking our neighbors to join us at our kitchen table? Just as first century Christians did?!

 

A non-religious group in North Carolina is doing this right now — Transformation Table.

 

“Community members are opening their homes to break bread, share stories, and find that real connection we all crave.

 

Nothing brings people together like sharing a meal. And when we create space for connection between strangers, we slow down and see each other as individuals. The barriers, labels, stereotypes, preconceived ideas, and assumptions we often make about each other begin to disappear and we can move into celebrating both our diversity and our common humanity.

 

Transformation Table is more than just a meal: it’s part discussion group, cultural learning, culinary adventure, all while deepening your connection to your community one person at a time.”  -Tina Singleton

 

The ripple effect of this type of community gathering is already making a huge impact in the Charleston area. Imagine what it could do in your neighborhood. Could this be the “New Church” that would love so well that the deafening and hurtful voice of the social media “Christian Choir” would be drowned out?

 

Are interested in being a part of a transformation movement that takes place at the table? Check Out

 

BE THE BRIDGE

THE ALPHA COURSE

 

 

 

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