Something deeply lovely happens when Jesus followers gather around a table for a meal, and stay at that same table to share the Meal of all meals.
Last night, a number of us, gathered at Jim and Karin LaMontagne's house in South Hadley to have dinner together, and then share a Good Friday Lord's Supper. We recognize a meal with friends and spiritual brethren seems most often to create a way to knit relationships. We get to know each other in a manner special to that atmosphere. People let down their guard a bit, and talk to one another, seeking to connect. Friendships are formed or strengthened over a grace-filled table.
So we spent 3 hours eating, sharing stories, laughing and reinforcing our communitas. We revealed a common heart by interacting over good food and drink. It continued and deepened when shared the meal prepared for us by the sacrifice of Lord.
Most moving to me was when we, after taking the Communion bread, were invited to share what Good Friday meant to us - how we'd experienced it. As we did, I could the sense that unmistakable presence of the Holy Spirit as if he came to listen and felt welcomed by how moved we were because of Jesus suffering and sacrifice for us. There is a spiritual stillness and reverence pervading the space after someone who speaks such things. We were one in those moments of recollecting together.
Today, some of us shared a different sort of connecting, but from a common heart as well. We have an older woman in our church named Polly. She's been living in subsidized housing since we met her. She's also had serious and chronic health problems. Polly is funny, opinionated, full of spit and vinegar; she's one spunky, Christian septuagenarian.
She's been waiting to leave where she's been living for months. Let's just say it's not the nicest place for her. Just the cigarette and marijuana smoke in her hallway suggests she doesn't fit. She needs oxygen to breathe, so we were all glad when her opportunity finally came to get into a much better place.
Today was Polly's moving day for some of us. Jim LaMontagne, Kevin Williams and I did most of the schlepping. Janet Williams did the lion-share of organizing on both ends what we moved, and their daughter, Karen, pitched in all day as well. Karin LaMontagne did preliminary work as well, and was there at the end of the day helping put things in order.
Again, the highlight for me was how Jim, Kevin and I enjoyed being with each other. Even though Polly lived in a small apartment, there was all sorts of stuff to move, and not all of it packed when we got there.We knew we'd be making a number of trips to get it all done, but the time passed pleasantly as we moved 15-20 dolly and grocery cart (yup, from Walmart and Stop & Shop) loads up stairs, into and out of elevators, down halls and between two small apartments. Each load had to be transported by truck and trailer a mile or so, back and forth.
We gradually tired as 3 hours of moving turned into 9 hours of moving with a half hour break for pizza Tricia brought. Yet for the duration, we laughed many, many times, talked with residents of both housing complexes often as we came and went, and seemed to just enjoy helping Polly make the move. We could see the overwhelmed look on her face in the morning when we arrived turn to relief and happiness that it all got done as her knew place took shape. She was finally where she had wanted to be for a long time, and it was better. I think she felt loved too.
I think Christians have long known when we co-labor on helping projects, relationships form or deepen, and natural barriers soften because we are just doing good stuff together for somebody. We share the load with no animus. It just feels good. Love is simply expressed.
Friday night and Saturday were gatherings of a common heart but a different sort.
Both were good; in fact, very good.