There is no denying that sharing a meal together is one of life’s great pleasures. Sadly in our fast paced world, eating on the fly has become the norm. It takes intention and dedication to carve out that time and make it a priority.
In a recent article in the Boston Globe, Nauset Regional’s boys soccer team was hailed for their incredible victories. Our very own, Ben Mulholland, is one of its captains. The team is ranked #1 in the state and entire Northeast region. This wasn’t a surprise to me. Having 3 soccer players in my own home, I’d heard of Nauset’s power team on more than one occasion! What was remarkable to me was learning of a “unique tradition that helps the Nauset Warriors orient their focus”. Before every single game, home or away, the players sit down for a team dinner. Their coach, John McCully, says he instituted it on day one of becoming their coach. He says, “It’s the best thing we do. It’s a time to come together after a practice, after a hard day at school, and unwind. It’s great for our chemistry.” I can’t help but think that this incredible bonding, that goes way beyond what happens on the field, isn’t partially responsible for this team’s success. I commend Coach McCully, the players and parents for what I am sure takes a great deal of dedication and committment to pull off, but what they have clearly made a valued tradition.
A team is a type of community, as is our family, and certainly our church. Community needs connection in order to thrive. A community that feels intimately connected to one another is a community of strength and fortitude. How do we connect at church? How do we strengthen our bonds to one another. Our time together is most often reduced to an hour on Sunday mornings. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an hour of great meaning and significance, but it doesn’t allow us to truly get to know one another. New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright writes this, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” Theologian Barry Jones, goes on to write, “I’m convinced that one of the most important spiritual disciplines for us to recover in the kind of world in which we live is the discipline of table fellowship. In the fast-paced, tech-saturated, attention-deficit-disordered culture in which we find ourselves, Christians need to recover the art of a slow meal around a table with people we care about.” Some of the most significant connections I’ve made within our church family, have been by sitting and enjoying fellowship around a meal. Gathering around the table while enjoying each other’s company is what we call in the UCC as “extravagant hospitality”. Extravagant, not because it is a fancy meal with fancy table settings, extravagant in that it is an expression of our extending God’s love to one another.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday, than to gather around the table and share a meal. Let us give each other the greatest gift and greatest expression of God’s love, presence. In being present with one another, in the breaking of the bread, in the sharing of stories, in the discoveries, in the laughter, we will fortify the foundation of our Holy team.