In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. -Acts 1:1-5 NLT
I am a deeply forgetful person. I have a hard time remembering what I did even yesterday. And with the ever-increasing frequency of questions like “Why did I walk into this room?” or “What’s their name again?” it would seem—both for myself, and from what I’ve observed in most of humanity—that we are forgetful people. However, there are always certain moments that we’ll never be able to forget. Maybe it was when a friend embraced you during a hardship. Maybe it was a particularly beautiful day in nature. Maybe it was the first time someone said “I love you” and actually meant it. Or maybe it was a moment in which you’ve never felt more isolated from friends. Or the loss of a loved one. Or the time when someone said “I hate you,” and they meant it. We hold this tension of being forgetful with that of being brought right back to certain times in our life, as if these moments and the emotions they create are happening in the present.
I think that many of these particular memories center around a table. It might be a breakfast table, a certain table in a restaurant, or a distant family member’s table. For myself, I am brought back to my Grandad and Mimi’s table. It’s Christmastime, so the red and green napkins are strewed about the table, in-between the gold plates and goblets that accompany each setting, each dish painted with holly. The smell of kumla (a traditional potato dumpling dish) and wassail bowl (a cinnamon and clover cider) fill each nook and cranny of the home. I remember the meals that have been shared around this table. I remember my cousins and I plotting ways to figure out who got what for Christmas. I remember hearing the adults, arranged around the table nearby, share stories of rejoicing and pain; I remember wondering how people could cry and smile at the same time. I remember prayers, and I remember the elaborate jokes. I never felt more connected with my family than in those moments. More attuned to who they are. More of a deep love for those with whom I shared a meal.
In the text for today, we see that Jesus, who at this point has risen from the grave, comes to meet with the disciples and “…proved to them in many ways he was actually alive…Once he was eating with them…” A part of Christ’s being alive was manifested in being gathered around a table. It was the breaking of the bread. Listening to stories. Eating food might keep us alive—yet, to be alive is to be gathered with those whom you call Beloved. The beauty of this one line, in this one passage, in the whole of Scripture, is that it reminds us of a greater narrative: That God chooses to dwell with us, and be with us, even to the extent of dining with us. God would participate in what is both a basic necessity and a sacred moment in community, in order to be with us. As we see, for most of Scripture, in these immensely tiny moments, God speaks a word of grace and radical hope for God’s people. It’s when the disciples are gathered at the table that Jesus says that they will be baptized by the Holy Spirit. Not in a microphone projecting to thousands of people. Not after a week-long service trip. Instead, with the people, whom he knew and loved, gathered around a table.
I wonder what it would look like for a people who not only sought one another out to share the Good News, but who also took the time to stop, be still, and gather around a table. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe even in the following months. What would it look like to share a meal with a person with whom you share life? I think, and I hope, that in doing so, we wouldn’t forget its significance.