Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Absolute Essentials

This was originally posted for my discernment group in Nov 2012. The prompt was fairly simple. It asked, in terms of faith journey and sense of call, what are your "absolute essentials?"

The absolute essentials for me are kitchen chairs.

This isn't actually my table, but you know what I'm getting at, right?

I plan on moving to Blaine (a northern suburb of the Twin Cities) when my current lease is up at the end of May. In the house I’m currently in, I have the accumulated detritus of four previous roommates plus the three current ones. That makes for a lot of stuff stashed into a lot of places. I have been fantasizing about what I will take with me and what I will be able to shed when I make that exodus.

There are plates and silverware, bookshelves stuffed with books, a desk, a recliner; all of which I have put my dibs on to take with me. But the one item which I will garner indiscriminately is any available kitchen chair.

I do need to explain that I have a big table around which all these chairs will go. A couple weeks ago, my friends and I had a huge banquet at my house and I think we managed to cram nine people around the large table plus another five at the card table that we put up end-to-end with the larger one. I need to explain that this banquet that we had was what we called the Second Feast. We had the first one during my junior year of college. At that one, we had a bunch of guys and we ate pork chops marinated in red wine and mushrooms, we had buttered potatoes and cheesy focaccia and asparagus, as well as other assorted greens. Oh, and there was more wine, mead, beer and scotch than you could shake a stick at. It was wonderful because I saw these guys as my brothers and this was a great celebratory meal.

For this second feast, it was mostly the same group of guys but we had more companions that we brought with us too. One of us has already been married, two more (myself included) have been engaged. One of us drove up from Iowa, specifically for this event, and a couple more had heard of what we were planning, knew of the last one, and decided to come. For this one, we all brought to the table the things that we wanted to offer for such an occasion. We ended up with a five-pound roast, a three-pound chicken, fresh baked bread, rosemary potatoes, acorn squash, green beans (the recipe for which I heard had come straight from grandmother herself), and we had two desserts. Oh, and there was more wine, mead, beer and scotch than you could shake a stick at. 

At this feast, after we ate all the things that our brothers and sisters had brought, we told each other stories. We read poems that we had written, poems that others had written, we told stories to each other until late into the night.

And all the while, we sat on my kitchen chairs. 

In my family, food equals love; someone shows you that they love you by offering you food, and you show that you love them by eating their food. So this whole tradition, of giving food and eating food, has been very special to me all my life. The place where we do it becomes even more special to me because of what goes on. Even when all of the chairs aren’t filled, the empty chairs and the space that they’re in are all still very special for what goes on and they’re special for what they can do.
Have you figured out yet that I’m not strictly speaking of my kitchen anymore?

It took me a long time to figure out and be able to articulate that what we do as a Church is so important to me because it is what I have always known. I have always known what happens to people when they gather together, bringing food that is their joyful contribution, and then what happens when that food is offered as something very special. When that special food is shared among everyone, everyone is filled. And everyone looks forward to the next chance to offer special food, whether or not is in the same small group that shared it before. 

I have sat in many kitchens, around many tables, in many different kitchen chairs. I have shared food with many people and eaten the food offered by many more. And that’s the reason why I know kitchen chairs are absolutely essential. I am not willing to risk turning someone away because there is nowhere to sit around the table.