In the PBS series Downton Abbey, the lives of the Crawley’s and their servants are often intertwined in the story lines. Yet, meal times see clear distinctions….the household staff are their to care for the Crawley’s and their needs. Everyone is dressed well …. but one group is seated and the other group stands ready to respond. We will then see the staff eating together … in their quarters. Two distinct tables.
Many of us remember well when black men and women and white men and women could not eat in the same restaurant — racial segregation created separate tables for eating. Some folks were welcome, others were not.
Visit a cafeteria at most high schools during lunch time and students are separated according to racial lines or social groupings. In fact, there is a program called MIX IT UP which encourages students several times a year to sit and eat with others than their usual lunch group.
Now, I admit it — when I attend a conference or a retreat, I tend to choose to sit with people I know and with people with whom I have some type of common bond. At 65+ I will often say, I am not interested in making many new friends. But, I also admit when I sit with new/different people, I do learn something.
But, there are times when it is important that barriers be broken and that the common nature, needs, interests, and bonds should be recognized and celebrated.
This summer we mark the 10th anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These natural disasters brought out the best in people — when people in need were seen and helped was offered regardless of religious affiliation or racial groupings. We welcomed volunteers and assistance from across the country, regardless of their faith affiliations or ethnicity.
This weekend is celebrated in Roman Catholic Churches as the FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST … Corpus Christi. Most RC preachers will emphasize the unique understanding of the Eucharist in Roman Churches. Real presence will be preached. This is good and this is true.
And, at the same time, there has always been a bit of sadness for me. While many faith communities welcome all to the table who are believers, the Roman Church has a protocol for who is able to receive Eucharist. While I NEVER chose to announce this protocol before communion, some priests find this important to do so. Those “unable” to come to the table and receive, are encouraged to make a “spiritual communion” and to come forth for a blessing.
Fortunately, the TABLE OF THE KINGDOM will not be that way. The Heavenly Banquet Table will have a place/reservation for each of us …. and for all who live in unity with Jesus, the Bread of Life. God provides nourishment and care to all equally.
I would have to believe that when the loaves and fishes were shared, everyone was able to eat until they were full. Jesus ate with saints and sinners. There was a place for Judas at the “last supper.”
The meaning of communion and feeding of the hungry should bring us together in ways other than houses of worship:  Children can be “fed” with interfaith bible camps during the summer months;  Advent and Lenten Scripture studies can be conducted in an interfaith manner;  food pantries can involve several neighboring churches;  community feeding programs can be ecumenical;  outreach to the homeless can be community wide.
Let us be grateful that God provides daily bread for each of us and all of. Let us be grateful for the food we eat, the food in our freezers, and the food we have in cabinets. Let us be aware of those who are hungry — and realize that we are fed in order to go forth and feed others. Let us see that table worship in our churches is not mere food for the blessed, but a challenge to go forth and bless others and to invite them into table fellowship with us.
The bread we eat is made of many grains of wheat … yet it makes one loaf. There is but one God who is Father of all who feeds all children who are hungry.