Nixing My Jesus: {If Table}

Thomas Barwick/Getty Images has the most beautiful photos of outdoor meals.
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images has the most beautiful photos of outdoor meals.

I’ve long struggled to understand this idea of community. It seems to be an obstacle in my mind. Simply hanging out hasn’t knocked it over. Trying to carve out white space on my calendar seems impossible. Getting the house ready for company wears me right out.

I want it. Desperately. So why is it so hard?

I act out the motions of community without ever really feeling that my faith is becoming communal.

What seems to come naturally in the pages of scriptures is almost impossible to replicate in real life. And I desperately want to.

Last Sunday, I was sitting at my desk, writing, when I heard an uproar outside my window. It was a gorgeous day and I was easily distracted, so I threw the window open and stuck my head outside. Two yards down I could see them–a table full of men and women from Ghana. They were laughing, music was pulsing from inside their house–filling the green space behind us with the rhythmic dare for warmer days to stick around. And one of the men was standing by the table, flapping his arms, and yelling, “I have the yellow fev-a! The yellow-feva!”

I grinned. I wanted to join their party. And then I remembered something my professor taught me about the meals shared together during those days of the early church in Acts. Agape feasts–love feasts–or community meals.

These meals were the extension of the meal Jesus instituted before heading toward the cross. They were the essence of communion. More than that, they were fun!

Acts 2.46 says that they broke bread from house to house, eating their food with gladness and simplicity of heart. 1 Cor. 11.20-34 reminds the church there to wait for each other and to share the meal in community rather than eating ahead so that by the time another arrives, the first are already drunk!

When we consider the architecture of the homes during this time, we can only imagine the laughter and conversation that spilled from the open air courtyards. I can envision children running around the table barefoot as the parents relax across from friends. I can hear all ages, so contagious that neighbors perhaps popped their heads out the window and smiled. Wondering if there was room for one more.

And while all this sounds contagious, it doesn’t come naturally to us. Most of our homes are built on individual lots. We lack the shared living space of a courtyard. We leave home when the sun rises and return just before it sets.

We are lucky to make a meal much less share one.

Weekends are spent fixing up our private lots or toting kids around to sporting events. There is very little time to sit and relax and enjoy community.

Thus our families, our meals, our friendships are all very private. And we’ve allowed that idea to permeate our faith–it’s a personal relationship with Jesus. If I have time to let you in, and you have time to come, then we can talk about how Jesus is working in my life and in your life.

This ownership of Jesus surfaces even when we’re sharing him. Recently I listened to the most magnetic speaker. I loved everything she said. But I remember at one time, as she was talking about the transformation in her life she casually and affectionately called him, “My Jesus.”

My Jesus.

It’s warm. It’s intimate. But it makes me feel like He’s more at work in her life than He is in mine. As I listen to her story of transformation and I realize how beautiful this woman is–inside and out–and how powerful her communication is…it all makes sense when she says “My Jesus.” It affirms my insecurity that perhaps she’s tapped into God more than I am. Perhaps she has more spiritual discipline than I do. Likely her prayers are more powerful. Her communication with God more consistent. Because He’s her Jesus. And I’m over here just sort of flailing in loneliness.

Wondering if I can have my own Jesus, too.

And then the most remarkable thing passed before my eyes. The first words of the Lord’s prayer. When her Jesus, when my Jesus, prayed:

Our Father…

Our Father…

In our individual faith, prayer is the most individualized aspect of our daily life. Most of us struggle with it. We sit in our rooms, trying to hammer out a conversation that isn’t self-centered and full of wishes and needs. We open the Word and encounter God and we are drawn in–He’s so magnificent–but we are left speechless. In the earliest morning hours, if I wake up and put my forehead to the floor and just talk to Him–alone, before any other living soul joins me–I find my mind wandering and my house being redecorated and my to-do list growing. And I feel like a failure.

No wonder He’s her Jesus. I can’t even stay focused.

Except that something revolutionary is being introduced to us–our individualized culture some 2,000 years later.

It’s the idea that true prayer involves community and fellowship. True prayer comes when I’m in fellowship with my Father in heaven and my neighbors on earth. I can live true prayer. When I’m living in God’s will here on earth rather than asking for my will to be manipulated in the heavens. When I’m doing the hard work of relationships and choosing friendship over retreat. When my calendar isn’t so cussed full that I actually have time to live in the flow of simplicity.

They broke bread together–full of happiness–hearts in simplicity. 

He’s our Jesus. We have to stop thinking of Him as a possession. That mentality is the cancer that is keeping us isolated from each other. We go through our daily routine and we are so busy and so tired and we are so grateful to just fall into bed and thank God for this tiresome day.

We don’t realize that Jesus, when he promised we are never alone, did so because he knows we were created for company.

I want to gather in backyards with music pumping and laughter spilling. And I want to know our Jesus is present.

Let’s come together and talk about our Jesus. Probe me. Laugh with me. Get to know me. Let me hear your stories. Be inspired by your faith. Let us stop feeling alone.

The intertwining of our lives will silence the lie that we are in this faith journey alone. I will learn to pray in a way that I consider our journey together. I’ll learn to serve in a way where I consider our needs on par. Crisis will feel less like crisis when aloneness is removed from the equation.

I want to stop seeing my faith as an island where Jesus and I live.

I want to reconnect to the mainland. To the land of the living.

I think the early church had it right when the recognized the love feast–the dinner table–was where it’s at. After all, they were modeling after our Jesus.

Share with me your ideas. Tell me how you’ve done it. How have you moved away from an ownership of faith to a shared space filled with others, filled with Our Jesus?

{For a much better and more eloquent invitation to gather around a table together, check out this http://ifgathering.com/if/table/}

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