In the middle of our weekly worship gathering at Kairos Hollywood this past Sunday, during our teaching/scripture time (i.e. the time when we sit and listen as a community), one of our neighbors without a home/house walked in. Being in an urban area and a low-key relational church community, having someone who is homeless come by or become a regular part of our community is not terribly unusual. We have wooden swinging doors leading into our gathering space and they creak a bit. So you can hear when it’s a bit windy outside or when someone comes in. Occasionally, a
weaker brother or sister will hear a creak and take a peak to see who’s coming in or who’s leaving (just kidding, we all do this every time we hear the doors).
Anyway, this neighbor who has come around the last few weeks walked in during the middle of the service and stood in back for a while. After a minute, he approached our communion table which is set up in the center of the room behind our seating area. I was sitting near the back and watched him go up to the table and look for a minute before taking a piece of bread (gluten-free!) and taking a big bite. Most people couldn’t or didn’t see him, but I caught the eyes of a few others and exchanged smiles as he then, after few seconds, lifted the cup to his mouth and took a big sip. That widened a few eyes since we’re a community of dippers not sippers (to serve the germophobes in our midst). And then he walked out of the room.
This all went down as we’re winding down our time of listening and moving back into a time of response – through prayer, through singing, and….through participation in the eucharist. The same eucharist elements that had been snuck a bit early by the guy who’d dined and dashed.
Our community is a thoughtful and theologically engaged community. We think and talk through things quite a bit, and we try to be intentional about the richness and depth of our practices. It’s my hope (and a big part of my job!) to make sure we’re engaged in these things – thinking, talking, and experimenting through them. We tackled some of our thoughts about communion a few years back, and we never landed concretely on whether we practice an ‘Open Table’ (where all are welcome, regardless of confessed belief) or a ‘Closed Table’ (where the eucharist is restricted or reserved for those who have made a confession of faith).
I lean towards being an Open-Table guy myself but certainly understand the reasoning behind Closed Table’rs – and, if I had to guess, our community would land somewhere in the middle. But even if we were strictly a Closed-Table-community, this Sunday we would have practiced an Open Table.
Sometimes our best theology – our best thinking about God, the church, and the world – is set aside because someone walks in and takes a bite out of our ideals. Sometimes our best theology has to take a backseat to embodied reality and practice in our context.
I’m not sure whether our neighbor understood the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper or the sacramental nature of the act that he participated in. But he partook in it.
His story and our story were shared and wrapped up together in God’s story that we remember and celebrate every week when we gather at the Table.
And I think that’s pretty good tasting theology.