“From Tablet to Table” by Leonard Sweet didn’t exactly live up to my expectations. I am so on board with the topic I read it as a sort of fluffy read where I was going to just sit in the choir loft mumbling “preach on.” For the most part that is what I did, but the language was not as clear or poignant as I would have hoped, this isn;t Wendell Berry writing. I can’t identify exactly what is missing but there is something in the tone of the book that left me wanting more.
Despite not being written by a master writer the ideas in the book make this one worth the time. You see in our day when many people are focused on how empty our churches are and how we can preach better or more compellingly, how can we raise our youth in the faith (an especially thorny issue for churches with few youth). This is a timely book.
I grew up eating breakfast with my dad and brothers (mom mostly liked to sleep in). I ate dinner with my 3 younger brothers and parents almost every day of my life, we laughed, we cried, we yelled and screamed, we argued, we fought over who had to go get more milk from the fridge (or worse who had to go downstairs to get the milk when there was none upstairs, both milk jobs eventually had assigned seats)…and I thought all of this was normal. Today this is no longer normal (if it ever was), Sweet offers this statistic “Sixty years ago, the average dinnertime was ninety minutes; today it is less than twelve minutes.” I’ve got no idea if that is exactly right but the trend is sure bang on, on it’s not a good thing. No matter how important what we were doing before dinner, and no matter how important Beavers, television or ballet are after it, we are paying too high a price when we abandon our dinner tables.
I learned our family story and we created our new family story as we sifted through the memories and the stories of the day.
As an example one of my brothers hated being called tired, for whatever reason it made him angry and tearful to be called tired (maybe because he war tired). Anyways, we used this against him and brought on tears more times than I would like to admit and I feel bad about that now (add it to the list). One evening my grandmother, in her 80s and sweet as can be, asked him if he was tired, tears ensued, he stomped away, we laughed and laughed, even my dad cracked a smile…the lore of a family built around the table.
Leonard Sweet nails part of this. “The story of Christianity didn’t take shape behind pulpits or on altars or in books. No, the story of Christianity takes shape around tables, as people face one another as equals, telling stories, sharing memories, enjoying food with one another.” Don’t be too literal, we need the bible no one is arguing we don’t, but we need the bible and its stories at our table.
Listen, the “people who sat at table with Jesus didn’t see him primarily as a moral teacher but as a healer and friend.” When did we trade the friend for the teacher, or worse yet the policeman? The good news is that unlike when Gretzky was traded we can repeal the trade. We can bring Him back to our tables, one meal at a time.
Our table fellowship is important. People are always saying if there is anything Presbyterians are good at it’s pot-lucks. I suppose this means we haven’t totally lost the art of eating together, God has seen to that.
The way I see it you have two great options before you: invite someone over for a meal (nomatter how humble) and chat about life and faith and love; or read the book and then do option 1.
If you want, I will bring the wine.