The table

I have a thing about tables – end tables, side table, telephone tables, coffee tables, dining room tables, drop leaf tables, round, square, triangular.  I have a thing about tables.  It might have to do something with an appreciation of horizontal surfaces on which to put stuff.

So when I had the opportunity to buy one of the communion tables built for the recent General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) I jumped at the chance.  I gave my best doe-eyed look to my husband, and told him we really could use it in the back.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the doe-eyes that won him over, but now it sits in our backyard.

The table was made out of our Pacific Northwest native wood, the Douglas Fir, the Pseudotsuga menziesii .  Its scientific name is derived from the pseudo prefix because the Doug Fir isn’t really a fir tree; the menziesii come from the name Archibald Menzies, who classified the tree before David Douglas, who named the tree after himself.  So you could say the table isn’t what it seems.

I wrote the communion liturgy that was used for one of the services at the table during GA.  The preacher/presider that day chose not to say all the words I wrote; I believe they did not suit, theologically-speaking.  I was a little miffed, to be honest.  But then I remembered it is a table of grace.

The table was transported from the Oregon Convention Center to our home a few miles away because of the strength of many and the generosity of a friend, who provided both muscle and pick up truck.  It is a table of friendship, too.

Its debut at our home was for a potluck dinner for all of us who were on the steering committee that provided hospitality for the General Assembly, and on that beautiful Thursday night, it was laden with wine and lemonade and iced tea and brats and chicken and pork and watermelon and crudites, and laughter, and stories, and gratitude.  It is a table of abundance.

Our child protested the arrival of the table in our small backyard – it takes up space she plays in.  It is a table of inconvenience.

But I love it.  I love where it has been, and who has stood behind it and broken bread and poured the cup.  I love who has gathered around it, and who will gather around it.  It is the holy in the ordinary, and I am reminded that the holy calls me to gracious, and generous, to be a friend.  I am also reminded that, like the table, the holy can be inconvenient at times, nudging us to let go of grudges, to rely on loaves and fishes, to find a way to squeeze one more person in.

It needs another coat of lacquer, according to its builder Michael.  A little care must be given for it to survive the long haul, not unlike all of us.

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The Dinner Party

photo (1)We’re having six lovely people over for dinner tonight, which means that I have been frantic for about three weeks.  This is nothing new.  How do I clean the house, cook the food, look presentable; dust the floorboards, wash the front exterior windows, really clean the hardwood floors in the dining room, find a menu that is tasty and delicious and doable, with the right blend of flavors, textures, and colors, find the time to shower and do something with my mop of hair and remember to put on lipstick; vacuum thecobwebslivingontheceilingswipethehandprintsoffthedoorjambscleanthestainlesssteelappliances makesure iknowifanyguestsareglutenfreeorallergicorhaveastrongpreferenceagainst porkormushrooms orasparagusormakesurethedogstays outofthehouseandshouldiwear askirtorculottesoradressorpants andwhatearringsdoiwearand willanyonenoticei fimwearingmy tennishoes?

Frantic.  Yes.

I do love to have people over for dinner but we haven’t done that much lately.  Or house is smaller than our last one and it gets rather cozy when more than four show up.  Our seven year old tolerates a bunch of grown ups.  And then there’s the puppy, who simply has not understood this week why I do not allow what’s left of Giraffe’s innards to remain in bunches strewn through the house.

I love having people over and I love the fuss.  Because our guests tonight are slightly older than my husband and I, I’m using the good stuff, and it’s a thank-you dinner, so I’m using the good stuff.  I love using the good stuff, because the communion of saints is with me.  Whitney and John gave my the linen tablecloth as a wedding present.  My in-laws gave us their cut glass water glasses.  My parents downsized and gave me back the Waterford votives we gave them for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  I’m using our wedding china and crystal for dinner, and my father-in-law’s mother’s china for dessert.

I love having people and I love the fuss – up to a point.  I find myself teetering on the edge of Crazy, and I don’t want to fall off that particular cliff because deep down I know this really is all about hospitality.  Our guest won’t care one whit if there’s a cobweb in the corner, or if one of the puppy’s chew toys is left in the bathroom.  They won’t care if the wine is so-so and food lukewarm. What they will remember is if they felt welcomed, and if there was good conversation, and if we were enjoying ourselves as well.

So during this day of cleaning and chopping and prepping, I’ve been thinking about communion this Sunday.  I think about the women who are so great about making sure the communion cloth is centered, if there is the right number of plates and chalices.  I think about them crowding into our little sacristy, laying out bread pieces and sharing their relief that it’s intinction this month and they don’t have to fill all the little juice glasses. I think about communion as hospitality, knowing that those who come for this particular holy meal probably wouldn’t notice if the tablecloth were off-center or a little stained.  They wouldn’t care if they had to wait a moment while the bread plate was replenished.  What they might remember was that a pastor called them by name, and offered them the bread of life and cup of blessing, and with two small tastes something inside them was sated.

Of course, bread and juice is a lot simpler than pork tenderloin, wild mushroom bread pudding, roasted asparagus, and panna cotta.