The Dream of the Table

(This is a “re-run” compilation of a sermon given and an article written in the past. I feel like the idea of “The Dream of the Table” is one that I first read somewhere else, but I can’t seem to locate it at this time. Perhaps there is a song with this title? At any rate, the sentiment expressed is worth remembering at this time–or any time–of the year.)

The Dream of the Table

This week, a dream will be lived out across this great country.

There is a gigantic table, with countless people sitting at it and eating together: women and men, children and adults, healthy and frail, poor and rich. An investment banker from New York is seated next to a truck stop waitress from Montana. An Iowa farmer exchanges stories with a New England fisherman. A bearded professor from Berkeley passes the gravy to an auto mechanic from Arkansas. A young soldier laughs at a joke an elderly lady tells him.

We dream this dream for a single afternoon each year as we gather around the Thanksgiving Day table. For it seems then that our entire nation offers a single prayer and sits down to a single meal. Thanksgiving is the most universally celebrated holiday in our nation. The dinner is shared in the homes of the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor. It takes place in soup kitchens and suburban restaurants, and happens with studied formality and with casual folksiness. It feels as though all our people eat together today.

Yet the sad thing is that Thanksgiving Day is but one day, and the rest of the years seems different, somehow. The dream remains a dream. The world does not normally appear as a dinner where all people share, and all people feast, and all people give thanks. Not all share, for some have plenty and some have none. Not all feast, for some throw food out and others die from hunger. Not all give thanks, for some cannot see past their wealth and others cannot see past their poverty. The dream remains a dream. It seems insubstantial. And so on Thanksgiving Day we seek consolation in yet another helping or in too long a time spent in front of the television.

What makes the table a distant dream is that we choose not to trust in the promises of God. Lack of trust prevents us from sharing. It causes us to cling tight to what is ours and to focus our energies on getting more. And when we do receive a miracle like the lepers in our scripture today, our lack of trust causes us to run off to celebrate without every pausing to say “thank you.” After all, don’t we deserve to be whole.? Don’t we deserve whatever it is we get?

But as we cling to what is ours, as we take more than we give, we find ourselves anxious and alone and far, far away from the table. 

Thanksgiving is coming. Once again, we experience that haunting dream of the universal table where all people share, and feast, and give thanks. Will the dream come true for us this year? Will we, in reality, find our places at the table, and help others find theirs?

Will we be the ones who feel entitled to whatever comes our way, or will we be the ones to stop, turn and offer thanks for the gift of life? Will we be the ones who shun the lepers, the outcasts, the broken, the poor, the addicted, or will we be the ones who stretch out our hands to offer acceptance, healing and wholeness? Will the table we gather round on a daily basis be an open one or a closed one?

What great barriers keep the dream from becoming real? What prevents us from taking our places at the table, and helping others find their own places?

The dream is interrupted because we don’t believe in the promises of God. We don’t believe in the Bible.

 Now I’m not talking about whether or not you believe that the Bible is literal or figurative or allegory.  I’m talking about not believing that the Bible is true—the true story of God’s action in this world. The true story of God’s promises. The true story of promises kept.

Our dream of the great table is not realized year-round because we stake our claim on the promises of the world rather than on the promises of God.

The world tells us there will never be enough and we must grab all we can. God promises abundance and calls us to share all we can.

The world tells us we are entitled to whatever it is we want. God assures us that what we have are blessings from God.

The world tells us life is a burden. God grants life as a gift.

The world tells us to trust people who are part of the established order.  Jesus reached out to those who lived on the fringes.

What makes the table a distant dream is that we choose not to trust in the promises of God. Lack of trust prevents us from sharing. It causes us to cling tight to what is ours and to focus our energies on getting more. And when we do receive a miracle like the lepers in our scripture today, our lack of trust causes us to run off to celebrate without every pausing to say “thank you.” After all, don’t we deserve to be whole? Don’t we deserve whatever it is we get?

But as we cling to what is ours, as we take more than we give, we find ourselves anxious and alone and far, far away from the table.  

Thanksgiving is coming. Once again, we experience that haunting dream of the universal table where all people share, and feast, and give thanks. Will the dream come true for us this year? Will we, in reality, find our places at the table, and help others find theirs? 

Will we be the ones who feel entitled to whatever comes our way, or will we be the ones to stop, turn and offer thanks for the gift of life? Will we be the ones who shun the lepers, the outcasts, the broken, the poor, the addicted, or will we be the ones who stretch out our hands to offer acceptance, healing and wholeness? Will the table we gather round on a daily basis be an open one or a closed one?

The choice is ours. 

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