Greetings and may the grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord be with you all.
First let me remind you all how blessed I have felt to have God call me to minister among you here in Oklahoma. However, I must admit that I do miss the traditional family gatherings at the family farm. When the family gathered there were certain things you could always count on like the ham and turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, dried corn, mom’s brown buttered noodles, Suzanne’s to die for yeast rolls, Margaret’s sticky buns, Emmy’s lumpia, and the anticipation we felt wondering what interesting dish Aunt Peg might bring (though nothing will top the spaghetti cream cheese Waldorf salad, truly we have no idea what she was trying to make, but we will never forget it. We have concluded she didn’t notice the pages in the cookbook being turned by the wind.)
Though the food was, for the most part, very good, it was not the food that brought us together. We came together for the sharing of our lives. Remembering stories together like Peg’s what ever that was, the demise of grandma’s favorite cat, the loss of “uncle Oliver;” catching up on the new things in each other’s lives, talking about politics and religion (though you are apparently not supposed to do that), and all the other things which transpire around the table, under the trees, and elsewhere.
But it wasn’t just siblings and first cousins, it was extended family too, third cousins once removed, cousins by marriage, sometimes in spite of divorce, and neighbors like Ephraim, and Fanny and Gideon, our Amish neighbors, and people new to the area with no place to go. Holidays and food were the excuse, but real reason for our gathering was hospitality and fellowship with family and friends.
Family gatherings always have a purpose that stretches far beyond the food. So it should be with our church family. We gather to worship God and to work for the church and community, to celebrate weddings and birthdays and anniversaries, to mourn and comfort each other at funerals. We come together sing, to learn, to pray, to laugh, and though we often enjoy the food associated with these occasions, we gather to share each other’s lives, because fellowship and mutual hospitality are at the heart of our sense of community as a church family.
This has always been at the heart of the church. When the early church gathered they usually shared a meal, but their purpose was worship and fellowship. When Jesus fed the five thousand, they didn’t come together for the food, they gathered together to hear Jesus and share in the fellowship of those who were coming to believe. Remember, all Jesus provided was fish and bread, basic sustenance.
One of the challenges we face after generations of abundance in American churches is that we have become so accustomed to good food (and lots of it), that our raised expectations have caused us to think that our gatherings are about the food. I too have fallen into this trap; just ask me about some of the meals I have endured at presbytery meetings. We must remember that the food we eat at our gatherings are designed to provide for our needs, not our desires, during our times of gathering. The food at our Wednesday night dinners will never please everyone, but our gathering to share in each others lives should be as pleasing to us as I trust it is to God.
Wednesday night dinner at Santa Fe, is a time of gathering. For some it provides a change of pace for those would normally eat alone. It brings an end to our afternoon programing for children and adults, and marks the beginning of evening programing for adults and youth. It is a waypoint for those coming home from work in need of a meal. The food provided is meant to be an in-expensive convenience for all these people and any others in our church family who would like to just come and be with each other in fellowship and mutual hospitality.
I come from a cultural tradition that bases its critiques of restaurants not so much on the quality or quantity of the food, but on the criteria of whether its “just like you get at home,” obviously, it kinda’ misses the whole point of “eating out.” Likewise, food at church dinners will not always meet the quality or quantity of a good restaurant, but the fellowship will almost always be better.
Come join us on Wednesday nights. Come share your lives with each other, enjoy fellowship, exercise mutual hospitality, find a little joy in the middle of the week by loving and being loved as you can only do in the midst of your church family. Do not withhold your fellowship from the rest of us, for truly when you do, we are all diminished. And when you get the chance, invite a friend so that they may come and see for them selves what Santa Fe is really all about. As for the food, well, some weeks will surprise you and others will occasionally disappoint you, but I promise you will never experience my aunt Peg’s spaghetti what ever that was.
May the peace and blessings of God, the joy of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit be with you all,