A little girl, her face round with wonder, finds me in the church kitchen, where I’m plugging in a crock-pot full of BBQ meatballs.
“Jennifer,” she tugs at my sweater. “I brought cupcakes, and I frosted them all by myself.”
I bend down, so I can see her eye to eye. I tell her to save one for me. At a potluck, everyone has something to bring. We are each provider and guest. Even the child can offer a gift to the table — even if she brings only her hunger.
And we all come hungry.
Before we eat, we worship. For the next hour, we sing, and we read the Psalms responsively — a community’s way of lamenting and praising in unison. We confess our sins, shoulder to shoulder, and read aloud the Creed. Voices rise from hungry souls who empty to be filled again, by the One we confess as Lord. The One who will come again.
Meanwhile, the kitchen hums with crockpots and ovens set to 350-degrees, warming pounds of meatloaf and lasagna in Pyrex beds.
The service ends with the pastor’s blessing. And like clockwork, the women — long accustomed to feeding everyone else first — slip out from the wooden pews. It is a dance, what they do, moving in and out of kitchen doors without bumping into one another. Their potholdered hands carry pieces of a feast.
The table does the hard work, groaning under the weight of ham, meatloaf and a variety of foods wading in pools of mushroom soup or spaghetti sauce.
And I am, again, the child in my own church basement, remembering how my plate performed a miracle all its own — holding all that I had piled upon in, without spilling onto unlike foods.
Here, from the back of the fellowship hall, I watch as the children fill their plates first. They pile plates with too little protein, and too much of whatever was topped with Cool-Whip.
Taste and see. Taste and see…
I find my way to the potluck table, and fill. There is more than enough, always more. The room hums with conversation, in this, a shared ritual passed down through generations. I hear someone ask who made the rice soup, and I know it was Joyce because I recognize her crockpot.
I find my place between a family of six, speaking in Spanish, and a young mother, murmuring baby-talk while coaxing her child with a choo-chooing fork.
At the table, I slow down. I eat attentively. And here, with fork in hand, love comes into focus.
We have each invested something of ourselves to get here — the frosting on a cupcake, the carefully measured ingredient. Even this — the simple opening of a bag of Chex mix — is an offering at the table of grace.
All of it leads to God.
At the potluck, the mind sharpens its focus on Christ, and community, and what it will mean to live fully restored. All are invited to the table, and I pull up a chair.
Cicero once said that in friendship, our joy is doubled and our grief is divided. In that single hour of a potluck, where we lean in toward nourishment, the mathematics are multiplied even more so among the calloused hands and the tendering hearts.
I lift my fork for a last bite, among guests at a long and enduring table of startling grace. And Christ, the unseen host, becomes more visible here, in this place. For our banquet of meager offerings is but a foretaste of what we professed — in unison only minutes ago — of our Savior, who has bought a place at the table for each of us.
Writing in community with Michelle and Laura …