We were talking this morning in a breakfast meeting about alternative communities – why the ongoing regular community stuff doesn’t seem to fit too easily into what we’re doing in this project, and why what we’re doing fits awkwardly into the church. this is where the conversation went… [it’s a thought in progress, bear that in mind!]
Most conversations about new forms of church or christian community are about rethinking the table at which the disciples sit. True confession: this project doesn’t emerge from any interest in that table, or even really in the disciples. i think the really interesting stuff of the gospels is the other stories – the tables Jesus went to where the disciples weren’t invited, or where they were so absent no-one thought to mention their presence – the afternoons at Mary and Martha’s, the nameless person’s house where Jesus met the syro-phonoecian woman, dinner at Levi’s house, dinner with Peter’s mother, the ‘water into wine’ wedding table. i think they’re the fun tables.
Interestingly, there’s not a lot of evidence in the gospels that the people around those tables wanted a seat at the disciples’ table – the main event, as such. Which makes it interesting, then, that most conversation about inclusion [and about new forms of Christian community] involves making sure there’s space for everyone at the disciples’ table – the presupposition being that there is only the one table around which everyone should sit. It gives those around the table an enormous amount of power. Perhaps that’s a myth perpetuated by them – because we have been taught to look at things from the disciples’ perspective we think there’s only one table – but the disciples were never as good as Jesus at recognising the other tables.
Perhaps another way of understanding inclusion and generosity is recognising that Jesus doesn’t sit at just one table, and that the disciples don’t host the other tables, or get to decide what happens there. Often they don’t even get invited. Those other tables are out of their control… and will mostly exist out of their line of vision.
If that’s the case, the ultimate act of inclusion for Christian communities is to encourage the possibility there might be other tables [fun tables, with good food – just as good as the church’s table] where God might just turn up, because the story of God is not about inclusion into the Church’s table, but inclusion into a story of life. Because as we know, you don’t have to be a disciple for god to seek you out, and just because you’re a disciple doesn’t mean you get the very best of who God is, and turning into a disciple isn’t the anticipated, or even desired, outcome of every encounter with the story of life…
Which is why we don’t believe that every act of worship, every sacred space should emanate from, or be directed back towards the church’s table. And why we have to look much broader than the disciples for our models of community.
All that, over fruit toast.
[update: i still can’t leave comments on the site! but keep chatting amongst yourselves… i’m reading them all… and i need to think more about it – especially Adam’s question about what the other spaces look like. Perhaps for me the question is who I am in the other spaces, because i’m not sure they can be spaces of our making… Or maybe they can be, but I’m really interested in sitting at the tables where we aren’t the hosts.]