... I am sick and tired and beyond exhausted at bending over backwards to appease fundamentalists masquerading as Anglicans, whether in Africa or in the American Anglican Council. I’m ready to stand up straight and say, “Ok, you say you are Anglicans, let’s do this the way Anglicans always have. You have your opinion and I’ll have mine. It complicates both our lives but it is just the way it is. Now let’s break the bread and pass the wine because that is the only thing that defines us as a church and the only way we know who we are as a people of God. You turn from the table because someone is there who doesn’t agree with you…fine, you’ve made the choice to leave this fragile communion of Anglicans. God bless you. We’re here if you want to come back and join us and you will be welcomed back with joy and wonder like a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son/daughter. But don’t try to turn my church into a mini-Roman Catholic Church. That’s not who we are. That’s not who God is calling us to be”...It is a sad state of affairs when table fellowship is wielded as a weapon. Personally, I find it heartbreaking. I imagine God does as well.
Imagine what such fellowship could be, if for just a few hours we could set aside our differences, and gather as one before God.
Real Live Preacher has envisioned such an occasion for us:
...Children would run and play among the tables, handing out bread and getting pats on the head. After the wine had flowed, the conversation would flow as well, and just for one night we would all believe in neighbors and friendship and love.It could happen. We could make it happen, if we really wanted to.
You there. Lonely girl. Yes, I see you. Even you would come to believe. Because if you were standing around wondering where to sit, a hundred people would pull out a chair and wave you over. You would blush and your heart would pound in your chest because it feels so good to be wanted.
The buzz of a thousand conversations would throb in the air. Some people would close their eyes and sway to the ancient feeling of that sound. Listen to the Om, to the growling roll of the multitude...
...The laughing and the noise would go on into the wee hours of the morning. Slowly people would leave their new friendships and make their way to the doors. All would be comforted to have found that kindred hearts are all around us. How sad it is that we haven’t taken the time to get to know each other.
Then, when no one was left and all you could hear were the crickets, one small man would turn out the lights, lock the door, and walk alone into the parking lot. He would turn his face toward his beloved stars, wipe the tears from his eyes, and say, “We did this; and we remembered You.”
Last Thursday, I had one final dinner with my family in California before Demi and I had to catch a flight back to Jersey. I had been dreading this event. I was seated next to my step-mother, whose mental illness had made five years of my childhood a living hell. She now suffers from Alzheimers as well, which resulted in her asking for my name every few minutes. To her left was my step-brother in a wheelchair. His own mental illness and severe epilepsy caused me to keep one eye on him for most of the meal, never knowing if he would suddenly have a seizure or take a swing at mom. At the other end of the table sat my half-brother, his wife and their two children, who I hadn't seen in over twelve years, at his request. Across from me was my father, trying to keep us all civil. To my right was Demi, my lovely bride, wearing a smile and biting her tongue. What had brought this group together? Certainly not any love for each other. But we all love my father, and we now know that he might not be with us much longer.
And you know what? It was okay. Actually, it was more than that. It was a healing experience. It didn't take away the ugly memories, hurt feelings or crazy behaviors. But no one got angry. No one made a scene. And my father knew that he was loved. And that's all that really mattered.
If I can share table fellowship with that group, who have had such a negative impact on me personally, I think I could probably share table fellowship with anyone on the planet. Not because I want to, or because they deserve it. But because I imagine it would break God's heart if I didn't. And I do love God.
Probably that's why the summary of the law is given in that order; love God, and then love your neighbor. If we sincerely love God, how can we exclude anyone from the table?