We are heading into the end and the beginning—the end of the liturgical year (one more
Sunday in Year C, the year we read primarily from the Gospel according to Luke) and Advent,
which is the start of the next (we’re heading into Year A, during which we primarily read from
Matthew’s Gospel). The Gospel readings of this time always take me by surprise: even after all
this time each year I am anticipating triumphant kings, expectant mothers, and sweet
babies—what I get is collapse and apocalypse.
Our passage from Luke last Sunday has the disciples admiring the glory of the vast and lavishly
ornamented Temple in Jerusalem—and Jesus telling them that the Temple would be thrown
down, stone by stone in the midst of giant upheaval and cataclysm. His admonition? Stay calm
and faithful, despite the terrors of the time (Luke 21:15-19).
One commentator, Rev. Mary Gearhart, likens this moment to Jesus setting a table right in the
middle of the chaos and sitting down to be with us, among us. The testimony Jesus that tells
his disciples will come to them is the testimony that God fulfills the promise to be with us
always. She came to this startling image in another place of chaos—of chaotic emotions and
lives shattered—a visit to a prison. She writes this:
I could never really imagine the confusion of those days of Jesus in Jerusalem, on his
way to the cross nor the thickness of the images of the eschaton that he’s teaching, until I
found myself at a table that turned my world upside down. It was a family table in a large
visitation room in a medium security prison, where I was visiting a family member who
had been incarcerated.
One Saturday a month, the families of inmates were allowed to bring a fast-food prepared
meal to share with their loved ones. After an extensive check-in procedure, a search of
the commercially prepared food we brought, a frisk of the inmates, families of all sizes,
shapes and color gathered around those same oblong tables as the ones we sit around for
church potluck dinners in our fellowship hall.
As we opened our Subway sandwiches, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of fast
foods being opened, somehow connected to every family’s story of ethnicity, culture, and
geography. I saw some families pray before they ate, others stoically looking past one
another in shame, some families were connecting like a rich and boisterous family
reunion, and others spending more time crying with their hands held than picking up
sandwiches to eat.
Families don’t find themselves at these tables without knowing the pain that Jesus was
revealing in Luke’s gospel. They don’t set a table in a medium security prison without the
famine of love, the plague of disobedience, the sting of betrayal and storms that rage
inside and out.
And yet, as I observed the broken body of Christ shared at each of those oblong tables, I
remembered that Jesus has set his table here as well. He promises the words and wisdom
he has given us of a day of healing and restoration that rises us out of all brokenness and
pain we can ever imagine.
(Rev. Amy Gearhart, “Words and a Wisdom,” Day 1, found at
For all of the splendor of sumptuous places, high culture, and exquisite moments, there is a
deep grace and beauty that the practice of Christian faith comes over and over again to a
mundane, necessary, universal-across-time-and-culture moment: sitting at a table and eating a
We are always in God’s holy presence. Our bodies require that we eat regularly. If we can
learn to be present to God and to each other as we eat and drink—as we commune—we will
learn to nourish body, spirit, and soul, whether at a Rockwell-esqueThanksgiving feast, at places
of sorrow, or gathered at an altar for the Eucharist.
May we learn to plumb the grace of the holy ordinary as we live out our lives, day by day by day.