Kitchen Table Associates
Acts of the Apostles 2:1 – 21
I called the Confirmation Class the Fun Faith Formation Experience. We met on Sundays after church. We began each class eating together, most often at the round table in the church kitchen.
The heart of the family home is nearly always in the kitchen. In some families, it is even more specific, the coffee pot is at the center of gravity. But for matters of the heart, there is no place like the kitchen table.
There is very little pretending that can stand the heat of the kitchen. In the kitchen, it has to be real. It might get spicy, it could get rich, but it must be real.
Jesus promised his followers that they would receive his spirit, the Holy Spirit. Like the presence of God, we are always in the presence of the Spirit. What is lacking most often - is our awareness. Sometimes, our emotional response to the immediate issues of life, make it hard for us to feel the spirit.
Today, we are conferring the sacrament of baptism and the rite of Confirmation on young people from our congregation. The congregation both grows in number and decreases in average age. The work of the church in the world is sure to continue, as more hands commit to sharing God’s love and forgiveness.
The visitors to Jerusalem were amazed at the behavior and speech of the disciples on that first Pentecost. We had planned confirmation for Pentecost Sunday, June 4, the traditional birthday of the church. The families graciously allowed me to compress the schedule and finish the confirmation class with the kids. Like the first disciples, the class demonstrated their faithfulness when we met with the Deacons.
What faith does for us is hard to define in only a few brief statements. Still, I think it is useful to consider where we stand in the greater sweep of humanity.
We believe that there is a God, who created the heavens and earth, and believes that all creation is good. From that premise, we see how Jesus of Nazareth worked to relieve the people from their obsession with rules, and focus on love and forgiveness. Even saying that may seem strange, because so many churches continue to devote their time and attention to rules and judgment.
This congregation, and the wider church that we are in relationship with, do our best to encourage each other to keep our focus on the gospel truth. The task can be a challenge, but we have the resources of the church to support us. Those resources include; the scriptures, the sacraments, our community worship, and the community itself. We bless each other with our faithfulness.
Now let us be candid. Faith, in even the most faithful of human beings, is not an inanimate thing like a rock. We cannot take our faith, and stick it in a shoebox, and store it under the stairs, ready to be pulled out at full strength when the troubles of the world crash down on us.
Instead, I like to think of faith as a living thing. It needs to be fed. It needs to exercised. It needs the promise of love.
The church is not a museum full of the artifacts of faith, but rather the kitchen in the family home of the faithful. It is where the resources of the faith are used not displayed. The church is where the faithful coordinate their love for the world in ways that can be effective.
But most of all, the church is where we can go in good times and bad. Some of us feel best when we can lend a hand, and be present for others when they are hurting. When we hurt, our faith can take a beating. In those moments, we lean on the faith of others. We pray in the name of the God that our community believes in, until that day our faith can sprout once more.
There are subtle points of theology that may make us crazy trying to define and polish. The heart of the faith is less about the fine points of belief, and more about the living of life with grace and graciously offering forgiveness.
Today we celebrate that the long line of saints being extended. The reach of God’s love continues and has a future. The promise of the new life, is carried into all of the places these young people will be a part of.
In a good many of our homes, it is the kitchen table where the major decision of life were worked out. It is where the family gathers in good times and bad. It is where the wedding announcements are addressed, the baby showers are organized, and the funerals are planned. The food may not always be served in the kitchen, but it is where the potatoes are peeled, and in the end, where the pots are washed and put away.
But the pots are not displayed, just saved for another day. Saved for another holiday, another baptism, confirmation, graduation, another chance to celebrate the ways we are connected. This is the church. This is a place of connections.
You may grow up in one church, but then find yourself in another. It is the same spirit that is shared in that place. It is the same God that demands our faithfulness. The usefulness you learned in one kitchen, is recognized and welcomed in another.
We are part of a greater community. I first learned the church life at St. Alexander, then Divine Heart Seminary as a boy; then First Congregational - now Open Table UCC in Ottawa, McCormick Theological Seminary, and shared what I learned in St. Luke’s in Downers Grove, Edward Hospital in Naperville, Spring Valley UCC and now Somonauk.
No one knows where we will be called to represent our faith. But kitchen skills travel well. No one knows when the next wave will come crashing down, and anxious people look for the love of God. Still, we know that God is faithful. We know that there are saints, who love God, and share God’s love, and will move the chairs around to make room at the table for one more.
Today we shuffle the chairs in the kitchen, where the Fun Faith Formation Experience started every class, to permit the church to grow with intention and joy. Amen.