Monday, November 01, 2021

The Village ILWIDIot

November 2021
Walt Wiltschek

I’ve enjoyed the various “Peanuts” holiday specials by Charles Schulz for as long as I can remember, and one that I watch regularly is the Thanksgiving installment.

If you’ve seen it, you probably remember that poor Charlie Brown unwittingly ends up with a group of his friends coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. He doesn’t know what to do with them all since he has no food except some random snacks and buttered toast, no table except an old ping-pong table from his garage and a random assortment of rickety folding chairs, and just Snoopy to serve it all.

Everyone starts complaining, even as Linus—of course—reminds them of the true story behind Thanksgiving. What’s a hapless cartoon character to do?

Fortunately, his grandmother comes through in the end, inviting the whole crew to join the family dinner in her condominium. They take off in a station wagon, happily singing as they bound over the road towards a real Thanksgiving feast.

Now you might ask at this point, “What does this have to do at the church?” And my answer would be: the table. As a spread in the November issue of Messenger portrays, the simple act of gathering around the table is a central part of our life and our faith.

We have fellowship around the tables of carry-in meals and picnics. We have meaningful and important worship around the tables of love feast. We connect and build relationships around the tables of each other’s homes. Something about that breaking of bread together—sharing food and conversation—is elemental to who we are as human beings.

When I was at Manchester, I often had the weekly meeting with our student workers over dinner in the dining hall, because it opened up the flow of our teamwork in a different way—and also took us outside the chapel walls and in the midst of the other students. It just felt different than sitting in an office or conference room.

We see Jesus doing similar things throughout his ministry: dining at the house of tax collectors, visiting his friends Mary and Martha for a meal, multiplying loaves and fishes for a multitude, sharing a Passover supper with his disciples near the end of his earthly journey, cooking up fish to share on the beach, accepting an invitation to a table in Emmaus. If Jesus saw value in that sharing, shouldn’t we, too?

And that’s what I love about Charlie Brown. Even though he’s in over his head and doesn’t have the “right” ingredients to put together a traditional meal, he still provides a table. He uses what he has, puts out some seats, and provides a place for everyone. He serves up community.

I hope that as the church we can do the same: As imperfect or insufficient as we might feel, we can still put out a table and invite others to gather around it, sharing what we have—both literally and figuratively. And whether or not grandmother comes to the rescue with a gourmet feast, I suspect we’ll feel rather full and satisfied in that sharing.

Schedule note: Walt will be on vacation Dec. 23-Jan. 3 and only checking email for any emergency communications during that time.