Appropriate dinner time conversation

Growing up, the dinner table was the place to talk.  We’d rehash our days, the good, the bad and the ugly.  We’d tell stories, laughing, complaining, bragging, whining.  We’d bring out the big questions we were wrestling with, as well as the goofy, the silly, the deliciously irreverent.  We once spent several meals trying to figure out what four words or phrases we could program a robot to say, on a loop, so that no one would suspect our droid was just that.  This was serious stuff, as is evident in just one of our answers: chicken poop.

At our family dinner table, nothing was off-limits.  But, when we had dinner with extended family or friends, the rules changed.  The list of appropriate subjects shrank.  Politics was off the table, as was personal finances, and all bodily functions, most definitely sex.   I didn’t realize it then, but there was a difference between church-talk, and faith sharing.  Church-talk was ok: what happened, who did what, the institution, the programs.  Personal beliefs, expressions of faith, that was shared at home.  So, just one example.  Christmas pageant recaps–wonderful!  Was Mary really a virgin–ask your parents.  Sound familiar?

This Sunday, our writer to the early church, the letter to the Hebrews invites us to leave the socially acceptable behind and dive deep into what it means to live in Christian community.  At first glance, so many of the instructions seem harmless, even easy:  love one another, practice hospitality worthy of the angels, remember those in prison, value marriage, beware the love of money.  But, lest we grow too comfortable, each of these invite us go deeper into community trusting that we can love one another enough to disagree on these issues.  This is about a lot more than being a “friendly church.”

Each of these seemingly simple commands invites us into dangerous territory.  This is the stuff of the 2016 presidential campaign.  What does it mean to offer Christ like hospitality to the refugee or to welcome immigrants as angels?  What does it mean to remember those who are in prison, as if we were in prison?  Are we talking reforming the criminal justice system?   And who wants to talk about what marriage means?  Is money the safest issue in this text?

This Sunday, we’ll wrestle together with another difficult text.  We’ll practice offering extravagant hospitality to one another–a welcome that makes space for difference of opinion, perspective, belief, and action.  A welcome that invites curiosity, rather than judgment, and Holy Listening.

I’ll see you on Sunday.


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