Reflections on the common table: who has a seat?

If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.― Shauna Niequist

If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. — Michael Enzi

I feign fullness, but in reality I am achingly empty. And it is because I too often sit at the table of the world instead of the feet of God. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

SONGS about SHARING FOOD & ENJOYING LIFE:

The Thanksgivings Harriet Maxwell Converse
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here          
to praise Him. We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered          
that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products          
to live on. We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs          
for our lands. We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming          
from them for us all. We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows          
for our shelter. We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder          
and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun          
that works for our good. We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank          
all its trees. We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being          
of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,          
the stars. We give Him thanks for our supporters,
who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard          
through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant          
occasion. We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music,          
and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies          
on this occasion.

Table Blessing — Jan Richardson

To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine,
and there is always room,
you say,
for one more.

And so we come.
From the streets
and from the alleys
we come.

From the deserts
and from the hills
we come.

From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
we come.

Running,
limping,
carried,
we come.

We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghosts.

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,
we come;
thirsting for your wine,
we come;
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
we come,
O God of Wisdom,
we come

SHARED MEAL: Commentary

Food feeds our souls. It is the single great unifier across all cultures. The table offers a sanctuary and a place to come together for unity and understanding. — Lidia Bastianich
 

The heart is cooking a pot of food for you. Be patient until it is cooked. — Rumi

The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift. — Laurie Colwin

There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table. ― E.A. Bucchianeri

It’s around the table and in the preparation of food that we learn about ourselves and about the world. —Alice Waters

They all know the truth, that there are only three subjects worth talking about. At least here in these parts,” he says, “The weather, which, as they’re farmers, affects everything else. Dying and birthing, of both people and animals. And what we eat – this last item comprising what we ate the day before and what we’re planning to eat tomorrow. And all three of these major subjects encompass, in one way or another, philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, the physical sciences, history, art, literature, and religion. We get around to sparring about all that counts in life but we usually do it while we’re talking about food, it being a subject inseparable from every other subject. It’s the table and the bed that count in life. And everything else we do, we do so we can get back to the table, back to the bed. ― Marlena De Blasi

Meals are significant because you are in close quarters with someone. Your hands are reaching into the same dishes. It is a clear act of welcoming, accepting, and befriending. It was the precise thing that you did not do with the social pariahs. It was the precise thing that the social outcast wanted: community. — Dave Dunham

You’ve spent the whole of your life filling your plate with the scraps that life has thrown your way. And even so, you feel horribly undeserving of these. But please understand that there is a glorious table generously spread with everything that you will ever need. And you might think about the fact that God sits at that very table staring at an empty chair that has your name on it. So, maybe you should step up and RSVP the God who is desperate to see you in that chair. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

A SEAT at the TABLE: Including Stakeholders
 
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights. — Desmond Tutu

To share a table with someone is to share everything. ― Paul Krueger

A good life does not mean just good food, good clothes, good shelter. These are not sufficient. A good motivation is what is needed—compassion, without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy—just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their rights and human dignity. — Dalai Lama

No matter what message you are about to deliver somewhere, whether it is holding out a hand of friendship, or making clear that you disapprove of something, is the fact that the person sitting across the table is a human being, so the goal is to always establish common ground. — Madeleine Albright
 
All of your stakeholders have to have the right seat at the table, and they all have to be successful. It’s hard to do, but you have to keep your eye on developing a meaningful relationship where it is beneficial for them. Then you work backwards from there. —Brian France

If I am more fortunate than others I need to build a longer table not a taller fence. —Tamlyn Tomita

We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. ― Shauna Niequist

It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet. — Franz Kafka

The best thing we can do for the poor is offer them a place of welcome and community. Our first priority in social involvement is to be the church, a community of welcome to, and inclusion of, the marginalized. This needs to go deeper than a warm handshake at the door. People are often unaware of how much the culture of their church is shaped by their social class. Someone at the door of a church, for example, may hand a newcomer a hymnbook, Bible, service guide, and bulletin with a smile and greeting without realizing how intimidating these can be to someone from a nonliterate culture. The social activities to which the poor are invited, the decision-making processes of the church, the unwritten dress codes, the style of teaching can all be alien to the marginalized. As a result, however warm the welcome, the poor can feel marginalized within the church just as they are outside. (Total Church, 81-82) — Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Poem for Kristallnacht by Judith Felsen

Shattered Whole

Tonight both chandelier and sconce
Illuminate a space where darkness was
Our memory of shattered glass
Dissolves in strength
Each shard incising power
Of our souls
Our sanctuary, blessed by
Light within
Inhabits empty pews and
Radiates through walls
And windows
Spreading signs of victory
Our triumph of survival
With G-d’s love
All glowing magnitude 
Our willingness
Tonight we are that light
Tonight all that was fractured, shattered
Lives in majesty as
We are whole 
J. Felsen, Ph.D. 11/9/20

Meditations on Beatitudes and Blessings

Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity
May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.
— Shantideva, Indian Buddhist sage 700 A.D.


A Blessing for Wedding by Jane Hirshfield
Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days


Lines for Winter (excerpt) by Dave Lucas
… Bless the traveler and the hearth he travels to.
Bless our rough hands, wind-scabbed lips,
bless this our miscreant psalm.


Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness. — Rumi


“Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow? I doubt it. I believe some people– lots of people– pray through the witness of their lives, through the work they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people. Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer?” — Dorothy Day
A deep man believes that the evil eye can whither, the heart’s blessing can heal, and that love can overcome all odds … — Ralph Waldo Emerson


“To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.” ― Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

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