“Hospitality is an expression of divine worship.” – The Talmud
In Michael Glaser’s poem Gathered at the Table he repeats the word here and the repetition took me to the interaction between two children where one is trying to show or give another child something and all you hear is here, here as in look this is for you. It is the moment when someone says “here” and slides over to give you room at the table that you recall your place in the experience, in the world, and in the Kingdom of God. In what part of your life are you aching for someone to say “here” and move over to make room for you? What table in life have you been excluded from? I recently had the honor of participating in an Interfaith potluck the day before Easter, which would have fallen on Passover for Jews. The home in which I went to was a shared space between a Jewish and a Muslim women; they created a Seder experience for everyone.
A Jewish Seder is a celebration of the Passover. There is a ritual of storytelling and sharing of prayers before the meal is shared. What was interesting was that the hostess prepared a table of various food items that would be shared before the meal; during the storytelling each food item was used and past around to everyone to eat as a symbol for a moment in Jewish history, whether it be a reminder of struggle, peace, salvation from adversity - everything held a meaning and everything was shared. Traditionally, after the meal the unleavened bread (Afikomen) is hidden and the guests have to search for it. A Seder cannot officially end until the Afikomen is found and everyone has had a taste of the Afikomen. Every time we eat the Afikomen together we are reminded that we have been made whole. I thought to myself, what a great concept. We logically think that as Christians we are made whole through salvation which at times may let us off the hook of justice, but in this interfaith group we were only made whole when we sought God, when we worked together for justice, when we remembered shared history and affirmed shared history as a way of affirming God’s grace and mercy being made new every day. This was an amazing experience because I observed everyone- Jew, Christian, Baha’í, Muslim lift up a common story of Moses together that led to a common end of freedom. Sitting there listening to the different stories of Moses from various faith traditions, I heard the same baseline over and over- God is one, God is love and God is justice.
The poet hints at the same theme of unity with phrases such as “loosened its grip on rigid exclusivity”. I also appreciate the notion that the “here” place is one where we allow questions and the experience of the unknown to excite us more than cause us to fear one another. God is not a concept that can be equated mathematically, so then why do we attempt to understand God’s relationship with other religions in order to decide how they should be treated. I believe the equation is clear- created substance plus breath equals life. So we must produce words, attitude and behaviors, relationships that produce life not death or exclusivity. So come here- here, eat at the table that has been spread for you without judgment just love.
Meditation: The song “For Everyone Born A Place at the Table.”