I have finally finished reading A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community written beautifully by John Pavlovitz, and I’m going to share my reflections on it. He’s known as the Pastor of the Resistance and reading his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said and now his new book you can see why he’s received this title. It’s beautiful what he’s doing and it inspires me everyday to keep lifting up love and inclusion and pushing back hate and exclusion. Now, onto the book!
The book starts off with a hurt and pain we all woke up to a little over a year ago. If you are a person who believes strongly in justice, equality, diversity, grace, and love for all, you woke up on November 9, 2016 grieving. For a long time I had been telling my white male friends that everyone else just wants a seat at the table. I woke up this specific morning feeling that the table of white, conservative Christian males had officially removed any of the extra chairs the previous 8 years had been pulled to the table. What a loss to face. Call me a snowflake if you want, but it hurt me to my soul knowing that hate and exclusion won ownership of something love should be in charge of.
“Grief will freeze you if you let it, and I felt frozen. Many of us did.”
– excerpt from A Bigger Table
If we can’t let grief freeze us in our place, then what do we do? Well, we build a bigger table! Going forward in this book we learn of John’s faith journey and it is not unique, really. I think most of us in America that question what Jesus evangelicals follow share much of his story. It’s a path much of us know. If you are a pastor or any kind of teacher in church, you can definitely relate! Keeping the tradition in place and the elderly members happy has become pretty much the root of most traditional churches. Keeping the Pastor the rock star and the light show bright is what’s the root for the mega church. In most of American Christianity, Jesus is no longer the Main Event! The Table of Communion is no longer for all. It’s now the table of who’s in power, and it isn’t Jesus. So what do we do with this?
According to John, we build a build a bigger table and put Jesus back at the head. We grab more chairs, make a diverse place setting, and we pull up a chair. Enough about chairs for now. Let’s talk about what makes a table. Basically, four legs and a tabletop are put together to form what is meant to be where family meets and memories are made. Laughter is shared, tears are shed, games are played, needed conversations are had, and stories are told. Pass the potatoes, please. And the grace. In the book, John talks about building a table using radical hospitality, total authenticity, true diversity, and agenda-free community as the four legs. You can’t have a table without four sturdy legs, and to me, you can’t get more sturdy with these four things.
There are so many people who love Jesus that aren’t welcome in the very place that is supposed to preach the Good News. If you are part of the LGBTQ community, you have probably seen the very place you want to go to learn about Jesus shuts their doors and try to keep you from Jesus, instead. In most American churches, they have created a big stage for the preacher and created a small table for Jesus and his people. They are breaking hearts instead of breaking bread. It’s more communism than communion. We have to get back to the first century church.
I didn’t want the pages to end. I felt like someone had entered my thoughts and mirrored them onto paper. I have been speaking about this table for so long, especially during the presidential election, that I was beginning to wonder if I was even making sense anymore. I’m realizing the pages do not have to end and that this table makes more sense than ever! We can continue the pages by continuously building onto this table. Loving courageously when the world tells us different is dangerous. Have hard conversations with people who believe so opposite of your beliefs. Accept people for who they are, where they are, and what they are. Ask yourself more of not just what Jesus would do, but also, what would Jesus not do. The science shows people can only reach out as far as their understanding or relativity to a thought or belief. If we want true diversity, we’re going to have to stretch our hearts beyond preconceived notions and beliefs, cultures, ethnicities, genders, sexual preferences, religions, and any other differences we allow to block us from true agape love. So I have decided to grab a hammer and get building. I will be offering the Altered Call’s Facebook Group, found here, a way to build together. My journey is just beginning and the group is small so far, but I have faith that if people see Jesus at the table, more will come. I have plans of charity, service, communication, grace, and community for the group members. So, let’s get building and Make Agape Great Again!
***** I purchased this book with my own funds and this is not a paid promotion. These thoughts are my own and of my free will. I am not being paid to say great things about this book, I just really love it!