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A Common Table

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by Nancy Wilson

Have you ever sat in the pew Sunday morning, listened to Matthew invite you to “wrestle with scripture” and then wonder to yourself—“How is it he thinks I’m going to do that?  Wrestle with whom?  I don’t have an assignment like giving a sermon to the whole congregation to ‘inspire’ me to work hard enough to actually wrestle in a meaningful way.”

Table Groups are one of the ways our church encourages me to dive deeply enough to truly wrestle with scripture, a topic, a book. An ongoing Table Group provides me a trusted community of other members wrestling with the scripture. I have enjoyed several Table Group experiences—two focused on race issues, and others focused more on Christian fellowship around a theme, topic or season such as Lent.

The thought-provoking books and church members who bring a breadth of experience and depth of thought and knowledge have helped me get down in the trenches and really examine what I believe, why I believe it and what I might need to change or reconsider about things I have been taught from childhood and as an adult. I have delighted in the company of other members, but sometimes self-examination has made my time with God pretty challenging. I’ll admit to spending plenty of time looking at the person in the mirror and struggling with the lessons I’m learning versus the lessons I grew up with—or with the feelings rising up from deep within me. One challenge has been trying to identify why I feel out of sync with God—is it fear?  Is it anger? Do I resent change? Do I lack the courage to step up and make the things I’m learning a real part of my daily life? There is a big difference between “getting it” intellectually and actually loving in the many ways we may be called to love—personally, politically, societally.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through involvement with Table Groups is that it takes time to work through lessons in our spiritual journey. I can’t just read the book, take the test and move on to the next lesson. The issues raised in discussion keep recurring in my everyday experiences. How can I make this scripture real in my life today? How can I react differently next time I am in such-and-such situation? I can volunteer, I can contribute money, I can get involved—those are all good and worthwhile…but I think the biggest challenge for me is to have the courage to step outside my comfort zone; to say and do things in one-on-one situations that are uncomfortable, but where the words I choose and the compassion I might be able to convey are undeniably delivered. The ideas and experiences of Table Group members give me examples of how to participate in all of these ways. As Rev. Sarah reminds us, “It is all that easy and it is all that hard.”

Table Groups meet in homes, restaurants, coffee shops, and locations around the city. Commit to one of our fall groups at phpc.org/tablegroups.