(*Sermon preached for Homecoming Day March 25)
Have you ever walked into a house and felt completely comfortable and at home? The room you enter has something to do with whether you feel like a visitor or a family member. A house has several rooms in it: living room, den, bedrooms, and a kitchen. You walk into a formal living room. You feel like a guest—but you don’t necessarily feel like family. For me, personally, I feel like family when I’m invited into the kitchen.
Think about it for a minute. Restaurants don’t normally let you in their kitchens, do they? I mean, that’s where messes are. That’s where people are working or fighting or whatever. They want you to see only the finery—they don’t want you to see the inner workings. Isn’t it like that with a family. You walk into my kitchen, you see me horsing around with my wife and girls. You see the flour all over the counter top. The kitchen represents the family in its normal setting. When you sit to eat at the kitchen table, it’s like you’re eating where the family eats. If someone gives up a seat for you, you now find yourself sitting in a place where family sits.
When we talk about “church” we aren’t talking about worship services or buildings any more than talking about a home means only a house. We’re talking about a family of people—imperfect people. Here we are, in the words of poet Joy Harjo, our “poor falling-down selves.” But here we seek an ideal. Often we are not very good at it, but we want desperately to try. We want to be a family who honors God, who loves family members, who loves those who are guests.
In Ephesians 3:14-4:6 Paul describes God’s people in familial terms. He speaks of a family having a common father. His dream for God’s people—for a church—sounds like something that happens at a kitchen table. He says “I want you see how much your father loves you—I want you understand this incredible father is so powerful he can make you into a loving family.” He goes on to say “you’re a family of the Spirit. Your unity is not dependant on you—it was created by God. Now, do everything you can to stay united as a family. Treat each other with respect, be peaceful and respectful. Remember that which make us family: You are one body, there is one Spirit, you are called to one hope, you have one Lord, one faith, you were immersed in one baptism, you all have one Father: God! And he has given you special gifts to make the family stronger.”
He continues down in Ephesians 4:29-32 to remind us of our “falling-down selves” and as a result we need to be compassionate and forgiving of one another. Our family may not always work right—in fact, so often we mess up. But the kitchen table is supposed to be a table of grace and a table of refuge. If I am hurt—when I am hurt--I can learn how to extend grace and forgiveness.
So today, the challenge for us is to learn how to embrace each other as family. If you are a guest, we hope you will feel like a family member today—we’d like to invite you to the kitchen table. If you are a family member who has been away for a long time, I’d like to ask you to come back to the kitchen table and let’s work out what it means to be family. Let’s be honest with each other, let’s forgive each other, and let’s love one another.
In the Poem, “Perhaps the World Ends Here”, Joy Harjo writes:
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.
So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Among the early Christians there were no church buildings and special furniture. Every week they gathered together to eat a common symbolic meal of bread and wine to remember how Jesus, through his death and resurrection made them a family. They probably took the meal at the first century equivalent of a kitchen table.
This is not the living room. You are in the kitchen. Right now we’re going to take bread and juice together as a family. Let’s remember we are all family here. And if you been a long time away from the table, welcome home. Let’s do supper more often.