A lot of things happen at the dinner table. A lot of memories are formed. A lot of experiences shared. A lot of dreams and visions given voice. How many memories we have from dinner table moments.
I have memories at the dinner table. I remember trying to hide and pass off the frozen fish sticks and frozen peas that were on my plate the nights my dad had to cook; he told me that I could not leave the table until I had eaten everything; tell me if you heard this, or said this to your own children, ‘There are starving people in Africa!’ My dog was the unfortunate accomplice within this unfolding conflict; half the time she wouldn’t even eat the cardboard fish sticks and peas. This happened last week.
There have been moments of joy with laughter, and there have been moments of sadness with tears. What are your memories at the table?
Two Christians, Chris Smith and John Pattison, wrote a book called ‘Slow Church’. The idea for the book was formulated out their own passions of the Slow Food movement founded in the 1980s, and how it relates to the Church today. The basic premise of Slow Food was derived…at dinner tables. Customers, chefs, and farmers started imagining a priority for local food, grown in local soils, harvested from local farmers, and served at local restaurants. This idea spawned a worldwide ‘farm to table’ movement that many of us experience today at our own local restaurants. So why were Smith and Pattison inspired to write about a new church movement by the same movement premise that started at a dinner table? A local table; a local church?
One of the teachings of ‘Slow Church’ is found in a French term, ‘le goût de terroir’, which can be translated as ‘the taste of the place’. Terroir can be understood as the combination of natural factors that make up the identity of a product. The term goes well for food; the soil, landscape, climate, and farming all help shape the very food that we eat from our plates. In many ways, church is the same way. The neighborhood, economics, building, and community members all lend themselves to what we experience from our pews each week (p.42).
It is, indeed, very fitting today to experience God at the table. It was Jesus who ate with outcasts and criminals. Many teachings and parables took place around meals and the table. Perhaps most notable, he was at table with his disciples when he broke the bread and shared the cup. And today we celebrate that same meal here today.
The founding of the Slow Food movement was more of a protest than anything. One of the main issues at the forefront of the conversation came with the proposal to build a McDonald’s amidst some of the most revered churches and sculptures in Rome. Slow Church is a protest of sorts as well. The authors give voice to many within the world who are tired of the ‘Mcdonaldization’ of the Church. They are tired of hectic schedules, fast answers to hard questions, and canned worship. They are tired of efficiency over intimacy, programs over community, and statistics over stories.
So what is the Church called to be in today’s world? Should we be focused on growth and product, or should we just do what we’ve been doing? And what are you and I as Christians called to be today? Are we supposed to be leading the lives we currently do in this hectic and chaotic world? Or is there something else; another option? Maybe the authors of ‘Slow Church’ are getting at something after all. Maybe the appropriate response to the dissatisfaction we are experiencing as the Church is not found in the latest and greatest technology and gimmicks, but can be found in the ancient traditions and practices that got us here in the first place. So let’s go back to this ‘old stuff’ we have. Let us read from this old book, and let us sit at this old table this morning.
Our book of Psalms is comprised of 150 songs, or psalms, to God. There are a variety of ‘styles’ of psalms, from lament and despair, to praise and celebration like we read here with Psalm 145. In fact, Psalm 145 is the beginning of such psalms of praise; the last five psalms maintaining a much more upbeat theme than many of the others.
Here is your piece of trivia for today: did you know that Psalm 145 is an acrostic? An acrostic is a poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words. We may not notice it in our Bibles, but the first letters of each line…in Biblical Hebrew…are alphabetical!
So what can we glean from a psalm? What can we learn? What can a psalm tell us about God? Well, with any words of poetry, as the psalms are, the text provides an opportunity for not only the reader to learn about the context of the authorship, but also for the reader’s own context—the psalms are able to read us just as much as we are able to read them!
The psalmist, who is traditionally known as David, writes in the opening verses of how he will give glory to God. Verse 3 is found in many worship songs these days:
3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
The next two verses resonated with me this week as I was reflecting on all that is happening here within the life of this congregation, and the world, really:
4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The remaining verses continue to give praise to God for all that God is. The psalmist throws in some destruction of the wicked in verse 20, and then we are left with the closing words:
21My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
Just as the psalm opens, so too it ends, with praise and glory to God each and every day. How wonderful, and inspiring, are these words for us today. This psalm gives us words to describe our experience of the Divine on our best days. And these words help us to praise our Creator on our worst days, when the world does not feel as glorious as we once thought. Scripture, and especially the psalms, provide for us a voice to all of life’s ups and downs, celebrations and struggles. And in the same way, the psalms tell the story of God’s people of long ago as well as tell the story of God’s people here today.
How appropriate are these words as we come to the table this morning. In the midst of the chaos and conflict of the election week and ongoing disaster around the world in places like Syria, these words ring true. In the anticipation of calling your next pastor and the celebration of stewardship that has supported the ministry of this congregation for 186 years, these words feel right. And as we gather at the table of our risen savior, 4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
Today we go back to the goût de terroir, the stuff of the land, as we hear the Good News this morning: God has loved us from day one. And our response is to praise God for all that God has been, all that God is today, and all that God will be in the future.
Today we intentionally turn from the craziness of the world around us. Today we slow down. We remember how we got here, and all of the elements: the places, opportunities, and people who helped shape us into who we are today. Today we leave the Mcdonaldization of the world, and instead turn back to the table, and celebrate the hands and lives that have helped to prepare this meal, from the ground to the table. Amen.