By Maggie Kennedy
In 2021 I moved to a new city to begin my divinity school education. As I was shopping to furnish my first apartment, I wanted to get my kitchen table just right. Something big enough that I could have people over but small enough not to crowd the shoe box I am proud to call home. Eventually, when I found the perfect fixer upper, I could not help but think of Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s poem “Perhaps the world ends here.” In the poem, the speaker tells the truth of how lives are begun and lived at the kitchen table. There is laughter and fighting and reconciliation at this source of community. The table has the potential to be the heart and hearth of our lives.
In this messiness of what a table entails, I am drawn to all the iterations of Jesus’ table. Jesus sits at tables with his disciples, tax collectors, pharisees. He is at the table when the Syrophoenician woman pleads her case. In his parable about the great banquet, we learn that there is always room at the table, that our community is so much larger than we could ever imagine. His tables are full of hope and grace.
This year, my table has not been as crowded as I would like. Partly because of Covid safety concerns, but as vaccinations and declining transmission rates made in person community more of an option, the seats remain unfilled. My table is stacked with textbooks and empty place settings in the midst of personal and national worry. I have told myself that life and school have been too busy to invite my new community over, I have argued that the timing is not quite right. Yet, in keeping my table empty, I have kept out the joy and revelation of Christ in community in the midst of turmoil.
On the road to Emmaus, the followers that Jesus reveals himself to are in the depths of grief and disappointment. The man they thought was their redemption had been betrayed and crucified. Jesus explains the meaning of his death, but still the travelers do not recognize him. It is only when they bring him in out of the night, in to the table that they see who he is.
“When he was at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (Luke 24:30-31)
In this season of grief and disappointment and turmoil, it is the table at the end of the journey that bears truth and grace. May we remember that Jesus’ table is messy. There is not always laughter and joy, but there is always reconciliation and hope. Perhaps, in the coming days, my table will be full. I will pull out all the chairs I own and clear away the books about the body of Christ and instead participate in the body of Christ.
Maggie Kennedy is a 2021-22 CBF Leadership Scholar.