Proverbs 9:1-6 . . . 1Wisdom has built her house,she has hewn her seven pillars. 2She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,she has also set her table. 3She has sent out her servant-girls, she callsfrom the highest places in the town, 4"You that are simple, turn in here!" To those without sense she says,5"Come, eat of my breadand drink of the wine I have mixed. 6Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight."
“Are these people you know?” members of Divinity ask me when I do funerals for people you don’t know. Yes and no. Some I know better than others.
We want to set our tables with familiar faces. But how can I choose? The guest list for my dream feast would be enormously long, more than one table could hold. I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.
These folks, Wisdom’s dinner guests, are familiar to me. The spirits of some of the people who have shared a table with me have found their way into my heart. Family members, friends, Divinity sisters and brothers, and folks I barely know have invited me to linger over the table of bread and wine, to linger over the table of friendship and homemade vegetable soup, to linger over the table on holy ground.
On Tuesday, November 28th, I was invited to linger over a table on Greenleaf Avenue holy ground. On the previous Saturday night, a man whom I’d never met before came to worship in our chapel with his wife Sheryl. Guy was leaning heavily on his walker as he made his way through the narrow passage between the front pew and the altar step. He made two stops to feast on the bread and wine of the Last Supper.
On the way out, Guy introduced himself by telling me he was dying from cancer, confessing that he hadn’t worshiped with us in many years, and inviting me to his table for a visit and lunch.
It took Guy a few minutes to make it to his front door and to welcome me to his kitchen table. Guy shared his story of being born here in 1948, the oldest of 3 brothers. His father owned Perran’s toy stores, two of which were at Southland and Parmatown.
Sitting across the table from me, the story that brought a big grin to his face, was of being in the library his sophomore year at Valley Forge and meeting a girl two years older that was a senior who would not only date him, but marry him right here at the Divinity table in 1968, the same altar where Sheryl Meder had been confirmed in 1960.
Because Guy and Sheryl were blessed with the birth of Greg, 9 months after the wedding, Christopher in 1972, and later adopted Courtney from South Korea, this kitchen table had hosted so many meals, that I was most certainly sitting on holy ground. It was a proud father and grandfather that shared stories of his family.
I especially was blessed with his “living history” stories of him and his sons travelling to be part of re-enactments of battles from the American Revolution and from the Civil War Because Guy has an ancestor who fought as a British soldier in the Revolutionary War, he enjoyed being part of the 7th Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Artillery in re-enactments. Guy was also proud of the 6 pound cannon he built to replicate a Civil War cannon that he donated to and is on display at the museum in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Guy said it “was educational and fun, to say the least”. He enjoyed being part of “living history”.
Now it was time to serve the meal and to tell the story of how he served so many people through his lifetime vocation of owning Sam Perran Plumbing. Guy slowly made his way to the kitchen counter while I remained at the table. He twisted the top off the Mason jar filled with his homemade vegetable soup. Carefully, Guy emptied half of the jar into a soup bowl and placed it in the microwave for what seemed like too long. He emptied the rest into another bowl while telling the story of his plumbing business that he started after a 5 year apprenticeship.
It grew to over 200 employees doing mostly new construction and probably did the plumbing on our house when it was new back in 1978. Everything was going well with all 3 of his kids in good marriages with good jobs, his business was growing, and he loved to eat good food, weighing in at 385 lbs., when the cancer struck in his 50’s. First brain cancer requiring a plate in the back of his head and now throat cancer. During cancer treatments, he lived on Ensure which he said, “got real old, real fast”. Down to 200 lbs., Guy lost 185 lbs. and now was heating two bowls of vegetable soup that came from a variety of vegetables he enjoyed cutting up and prepping for the Mason jars.
We sat at the table, blowing on our spoonfuls of steaming soup, lingering over the table. My black box containing wafers and wine, a very small plate and plastic shot glasses had been resting on the table between us, to the side.
Christ was present at that kitchen table in the sharing of his life, in the sharing of his vegetable soup, and now in the sharing of Holy Communion.
We prayed our Lord’s Prayer, his hands dwarfing mine in the middle of the table. I repeated Jesus’ words of blessing the bread and wine. Christ was present with Guy as together; we lingered over the table, one in Christ.
A woman named Jan Richardson writes poetry. I met her at a Lutheran retreat center in the Cascade Mountains called Holden Village. She entitles the poem, “Table Blessing”.
To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine
and there is always room,
for one more.
And so we come.
from the streets
and from the alleys
From the deserts
and from the hills
From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghost.
We hold the seeds of healing,
we dream of a new creation,
we know the things
that make for peace,
and we struggle
to give them wings.
And yet, to your table we come.
Hungering for your bread,
thirsting for your wine,
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
O God of Wisdom,
Mark 1:12-13 . . . 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Baptized in the Jordan River and the “Spirit immediately drives him out into the wilderness. Forty days, tempted by Satan, and the angels waited on him.”
We all have our wilderness experiences. We all have our temptation experiences. And even though not all of us recognize when we are being waited on by angels, we all have our angel experiences.
God blessed me with the opportunity to linger over the table with Guy and with many more that have waited on me. As we linger over the table with folks we have encountered along the way, we are shown again and again, that where there is bread and wine and friendship, there is holy ground.