A Place at the Table

Posted on September 14, 2017

A Place at the Table

By: The Rev. Maureen Doherty, Continuous Care Coordinator

· “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the Scribes were grumbling and saying, this fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15: 1-2) 

· “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisees house and took his place at the table.” (Luke 7:36)

· “Jesus said to Peter and John, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it….I have eagerly desired to eat this meal with you before I suffer.’” (Luke 22: 8, 15)

· “As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on, but they urged him strongly to stay, when was at the table he took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them….” (Luke 24: 28-30)

· “‘I do not want to send them away hungry’, then, ordering the crowd to sit, taking the seven loaves and fish, he gave thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples and all of them ate and were filled.” (Matthew 15: 32, 35, 37)

· “Now as they entered the village a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home…” (Luke 10: 38)

 These bits and pieces of Scripture are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the eating Jesus did as he traveled; these passages are a glimmer of the “variety of people” he chose to eat with; they are a glimpse of the hunger longing to be fed. Eating, having a place at the table, is seemingly so simple—it is so important in terms of family, relationships, business connections, nourishment, sorrow, laughing, and sharing life. Through the centuries, a table and meal have been significant.


Why are we raising this as a topic in our Continuous Care Program? 

Over the past several months our Grief Support Groups have gathered for conversation. Most often people come in as strangers to one another, but they have one thing in common—someone they love has died and they are grieving.  


In sharing stories and talking about the journey each is on, themes emerge. One of these themes is “going out.” Many talk about how hard it is to go out to eat alone! Once everyone had a place at the table, but now, because they are no longer a couple or they have lost the relative or friend that was a regular dining companion, the table is not a welcome place. Because a loved one has died lifestyles and identities have changed.


“Jesus was walking on and the disciples asked him to stay and at the table he took bread…”

The group decided that one thing that would be a gift would be to have a table to come to. Since the beginning of May, we have spread a variety of tables at Village Inn, a picnic, Highway 63 Diner, and Pizza Ranch. Many have come and everyone has found a welcome place to sit to meet others and share a meal. 


While it has been “social” gathering, at some point during the meal, the attendees pull their chairs around and share where they are in their journey. They share ideas and connections that might help someone. They laugh, listen, cry, and talk for a little while. It seems so simple: just a table and a meal, but for some, joining is a huge step. They experience that first night coming out alone, and joyfully, there is a place to sit.


Around the table, and in our groups, those attending “are the main support for one another.” They share ideas about what has helped them the most in their grief, like:

· “Keep doing what you have always been doing.” 

· “Stay busy.”

· “Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Pick it up and call a friend.”

· “The answer to every invitation is ‘yes.’” 


They talk about the trials and tribulations of legal issues still lingering. They share how they began the process of parting with belongings. They share how sometimes the comments of others, meant to be supportive, are painful and cause further grief.


Initially we were just going to “spread the table” for the summer but that is no longer the plan! On the first Thursday of each month all are welcome to come and bring others to a place that understands grief, loss, and the hunger for familiar faces and good conversation. On top of that, everyone gets a good meal.         


Grief is a reality of our lives. Loved ones die. Having others to walk with when we are grieving is a gift. Our society is such that life moves quickly and people move on after funerals end; but grief lingers and it has no timetable.


Those who seek grief support seek out those who understand. Connections and advice mean more when it comes from hearts who know, when it comes from those who are learning a new way to go at life, when you know that everyone here is feeling their way through a new identity and new life realities.


Going out, not a big deal! Indeed, it is big and a blessing. When bread is broken together, amazing things happen.


If you are looking for a table, there is one; please call 319-505-3048 or email or and let me know how to be in touch with you. 


Know that you will be invited to just come to dinner!


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