By Bren Dubay
Jesus never appears to be pushing what we call social programs as such. He is much more radical. He is calling us to a new social order where we literally share table differently. – Richard Rohr
This Spring, the Koinonia interns have been reading Sermon on the Mount by Clarence Jordan and Jesus’ Alternative Plan: The Sermon on the Mount by Richard Rohr. The chapter on table fellowship in Rohr’s book, in particular, has inspired lots of conversation.
Jesus ate with tax collectors. This upset the common people. Jesus ate with prostitutes. This upset the religious establishment. Jesus was always in trouble with someone. And he always demonstrated open-table fellowship. He kept adding leaves to tables and bringing in more chairs. Rohr offered that Jesus showed that “God is always about mercy and compassion” and that Jesus taught “utter inclusivity.” And this lost him friends and got him killed.
Table fellowship occupies a place of high importance at Koinonia. We welcome visitors to join us for communal meals, and often, we invite guests and neighbors into our various homes to share a meal and conversation. On one Sunday of the month, Gathered Worship incorporates a potluck meal into the service. We don’t eat and then worship. We don’t worship then eat. The very act of eating together is worship. There is the re-enactment of the Last Supper (bread and wine, or in our case, grape juice), and there is the sharing of a meal (bread and fish).
According to scholars, both communions were central to the early followers of Jesus. Everyone brought food to the gatherings, and all were fed, rich and poor alike, sinners and saints alike. There was communion – bread and wine – and there was “communion,” the loaves and fishes, or if our recent Gathered Worship is any example, shrimp enchiladas, pizza, salad, risotto, black beans and lentils, peanut butter fudge, gluten-free banana cream pie and much more. The story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (and the 4,000) “emphasizes surplus and guests.” It emphasizes a welcome to all.
At the Koinonia table, some may choose to forego the bread and wine for a variety of reasons. Seldom do any forego the loaves and the fishes. Not everyone on the Mount believed in Jesus. In fact, some were plotting how to get rid of him, but he fed them all. The very act of sharing food with people is radical.
The Jordans and the Englands set Koinonia on a road of inclusiveness from the beginning. They practiced Christian hospitality, but you didn’t have to be a Christian to receive it, nor did you have to be white or believe what they believed. Though in those beginning years, Koinonia was reviled for expanding its table, through the years people have come to think of it in positive terms. But, like in 1942, even today we lose friends over it. Can we choose to forego table fellowship? If Jesus didn’t, can we?
Would that every person reading these brief thoughts go out and invite someone they don’t know particularly well into their home for a meal and conversation. It just may be that the light would turn up a bit brighter. When we bemoan the darkness in the world, a sure way to dispel it is to look at the other across the table and hear a story. And share a story. Laugh and cry together. Let’s expand our tables and freely offer fellowship to one another.