By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin
(Reflections from Barberton Community of Christ’s 5th Wednesday Swiss Steak Community Dinner)
Last night I went to church and engaged the tasks of meal making and hospitality preparing with a group of disciples who welcomed me as family though some I had never met.
As we waited for the community to arrive, we traded stories while mashing potatoes and cutting pies.
I talked poetry and theology in the dinner line, watching neighbors take heaping helpings of a home cooked meal-
Coleslaw (you will want to ask Kay for the recipe)
Pies and brownies around the corner
Bread and butter on the tables
We were sent home with a potato masher, 3 containers of leftovers, and half a strawberry rhubarb pie…
And embraces so tender and genuine that I left the building with a teary warmth I’ve yearned for, the kind of whole-hearted community nurturing my heart seeks.
I can see the comfort this type of gathering brings, why the poor and the elderly show up to be tended in body and spirit.
Something here is the church as it’s meant to be- a grace offering with no agenda, love unrestricted.
And still, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of grief for these trying-to-be-faithful people as they struggle against the same trends of decline that have been afflicting and reforming the church all over. 25 members strong on a Sunday morning, they wonder what God wants to make of them, wonder why more young families don’t want to come. On a critical day, I could offer a whole list of reasons.
But as I bask in the lingering glow of being truly loved by the body of Christ, however small, a different thought emerges…
Perhaps quieter than all the other voices aimed at “fixing” the church.
It says things like:
These are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased
The kingdom has come near
and even this:
The salvation of the world is in loving community such as this.
For a moment, I hold in my heart’s gaze all the world’s suffering, including those responsible for inflicting it, and I imagine all of us in the dinner line together…
Ruthellen’s tender embrace welcoming each one, assuring us,
“there is plenty, take what you need.”
We sit at the table and stories are shared and souls are mended and the whole earth begins to heal.
This is what love can do. This is the secret treasure we hold that the world craves. This is what I long for deep in my bones. This is the hunger that keeps drawing us together.
This is how the living Christ shows up and breathes upon us-