You may be familiar with a sign that a lot of Christians had hanging in their homes. It read "Christ is the head of this home, the unseen guest at every table." Or words to that effect.
It is a nice thought, but I know of people that rankle at such seemingly trite statements. Mostly I think, because the presence of Christ in our homes should be more obvious than that. If we have to put up signs reminding our visitors and ourselves of his presence, then I think something is truly, sadly missing.
Lately I've been thinking about how certain aspects of my life wrestle for priority. So here are a few thoughts, about the three guests at my table. The three things that vie for my attention. They all deal with relationships. They are all connected. The first guest at my table is . . .
1. Relationship with God. I am in a bit of a strange place with this, because, as has been the case for most of my Christian life, I am not satisfied with it. It is that part of my life that, although it has had intention, seems to have had the least attention, the lower levels of priority. It is where I have laboured the least. Coincidentally it is where I see the least fruit. I have an ideal of what this relationship and the subsequent fruit might look like. I have a desire for a certain depth of both engagement, and outworking. But there is a problem.
You cannot grow, where you did not sow.
Everything else grows out of this, it is the one true foundation that all else is built on. Otherwise whatever else is built, is simply a house of cards.
The band Reliant K has a song "This Week the Trend" it talks about the shifting sands of social trending that clamours for our divided attention spans. That ever present need to level up, like and be liked. As if this alone will fill the voids in our lives. It certainly fills the gaps we don't purposefully fill ourselves.
If this relationship is allowed to wither and fade then no other relationship can succeed. The second guest at my table, is . . .
2. Relationship with Community. I'll come straight out and say that the most important community we relate to is family. This should be self evident. I shouldn't need to labour this point so I won't. If you don't have this right, get it right. Now I'll move on, because I want to address our relationship with the community at large.
There has been a resurgence of interest in neighbouring. Thankfully this is happening within the church. Sadly, it should never have been lost. Here's a link to a talk by Greg Thompson on Qideas.
You will have to scroll down a bit to find Episode One. In this talk Greg puts forth the idea that "The community is not looking for the Church" he goes on to express his fear that, "The Church may not be looking for the community".
I have had my world seriously challenged lately by ideas such as these. I have had to question how I view and approach community engagement. I am excited about groups like Qideas, and the nascent Spheres community from Hillsong Church. They are exciting bridge building initiatives that seek to span the cultural divides of the church and the secular. We must remember that Jesus commanded us, that we "love our neighbour". This is an active love, it reaches out. We cannot activate this love unless we learn how to be "in the world" while not being "of the world". I think part of the problem is that we have adopted a form of "distance activism" we send our sponsorship dollars into the third world, which is a good program, I'm not knocking that. But if we think this is enough, when our own neighbourhoods are full of pain and discord, then we have retreated into a gated philanthropic bubble.
The third guest at my table is . . .
3. Relationship with Calling. This is a tricky one to balance, and lately it's had me out of balance. First of all I have my regular day job. It's a good job and it pays me very well. However, there is an underlying tension, it is physically taxing (to my aging body) and it's not what I really want to be doing. For now however, and until such a time as things become otherwise, this job is my principal calling. Through it I supply the needs of my household. Through faithful, diligent service, I fulfil the needs of my employer. This is God honouring work.
So while I work at my day job I also struggle to find the time and the wherewithal to do the next thing. This involves an amount of study. First I have to work at and develop my craft, (writing). Secondly I have to learn the ins and outs of self publishing and marketing. For which there are numerous resources and experts, all clamouring for my patronage. Lately this has tipped into overload. I have too many books and down loads and resources that remain unread and unused, and the list wants to grow. I have steps to action. Author pages, websites, landing pages and mailing lists to think about. It has all the makings of a cataclysmic dam-burst that will leave me flapping on the ground like a fish out of water gasping for oxygen. Bug-eyed and bewildered.
So I have to re-assess this relationship. What does it demand of me? How much can I give it? What does it take from the others? How can it support the others?
How do these three guests sit at my table in harmony and balance?
I believe the central harmonising point is in the God Relationship. It is after all from this that all else is put into balance. Without that, all else is simply my own vain effort, propped up by my own faltering self-reliance. When this relationship is properly functioning, then my relationship with community is brought into balance. It becomes a conduit for compassion and justice. People become connected to God. Next my calling is brought into perspective and becomes guided and focussed. It can now serve God and community. I am fulfilled through it rather than flattened by it. I approach fellowship at this table with joy, rather than shame or guilt, knowing one of my guests has been ignored in favour of another.
There is a concept in the New Testament of "table fellowship". It is the place at the end of the day where Jesus gathered with his disciples for some of their most intimate gatherings. This is where he taught them more closely. There was relationship, fellowship and community. It is a table we are all invited to sit at.
So how does your table look today, are all of your guests being looked after?