A Vocare Gathering

RomanceTable_0What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table. The particular alchemy of celebration and food, of connecting people and serving what I’ve made with my own hands, comes together as more than the sum of their parts. I love the smells and sounds and textures of life at the table, hands passing bowls and forks clinking against plates and bread being torn and the rhythm in the energy of feeding and being fed. (Shauna Niequiest, Bread and Wine)

Recently, I gathered with members of our faith community for a Vocare Dinner. Over the past months we have facilitated a number of these gatherings where our people break bread and engage in a reflective conversation designed to better understand how our daily work serves the common good and promotes human flourishing.  We have two primary goals for these gatherings:

  1. To help people think about and discuss the unique challenges, tensions and opportunities for serving God and others in their everyday, ordinary.
  2. To encourage Christ followers in the inherent value of the work they do each day.

(I am grateful to both Amy Sherman and Steve Garber for the vision and structural framework to create these environments).

The two hours we spent together were sacred moments and the presence of God was palpable around the table. ” Maybe it was the spiritual overflow from our morning worship gathering. Perhaps it was the incredible meal – Cajun seafood gumbo, cheese puffs and a bananas foster bread pudding that would have caused even God to say “Amen.” Most of all, it was a willingness of those around the table, to engage in heart-felt conversation around the issues that impact the way we seek to reflect the image of God in both our work and our relating.

I love how Os Guiness describes the dance between our work and our call: “A sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career, and the main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. Instead of, ‘You are what you do,’ calling says: ‘Do what you are.’ (The Call).  And amidst the smells, sounds and textures of life at the table, it brought me great delight to hear people describe their work as:

  • The dance and drama that can take place in the deli department of a local grocery store;
  • The permission to play with God’s creation through one’s work as a biologist in a local university;
  • The freedom as a retired person to spend more time in the express line of the grocery story and the ability to provide some grace and space to people who are legalistic about the item count and hostile toward anyone who doesn’t play by the rules;
  • The opportunity to help people tell a better story through the creative use of words and pictures;
  • The privilege of being with people in the midst of pain and loss and the wisdom to know that fewer words and more presence are the greatest gifts one can offer another.

It’s the hearing of stories like these that has prompted me to paraphrase the words of the Apostle Paul: “In response to the amazing grace and mercy of God in Christ, take your heart, mind, soul and strength, take all your relating and all your work, in the places you live, work, learn, serve and play – and offer it all as an act of worship to God” (Paraphrase of Romans 12:1).

Surely the presence of the Lord was in this place, around the table, in the words and in the stories. I knew it full well. And for that I give thanks.

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