Holy Week, for me, brings to mind the quiet power of tables.
In my childhood church, we gathered around long tables on Maundy Thursday, to share a Passover meal.
We were United Methodist, and our tables were spread in the unassuming basement fellowship hall. But on those tables were bowls of salt water to symbolize the tears of slavery in Egypt, pieces of bitter horseradish or maror, and the sweetness of the charoset apple salad, to represent the bricks the slaves made. I loved the idea that food could be symbolic, that a meal together could tell a story—or, more specifically, continue a story, linking us to Jesus through a thread of flavor and ritual.
Years later, as a 20-something member of a Presbyterian church in St. Louis, small groups of us gathered around tables in one another’s homes on Maundy Thursday. The meal we shared was simple—just soup and bread—to remind us that it’s not what we eat that matters, so much.
What matters is that we pause our hectic lives and take time on Maundy Thursday to sit around a table and break bread together. What matters is that we’re able to talk together, to be quiet and breathe together, to read Scripture together, and to be community, through our common remembering and sharing of communion—our coming to the table.
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This week hasn’t felt as holy as I’d like.
Our family of five is running in more directions than I can count, and on top of the usual chaos, we’ve added the stress of house-buying and -selling. Our close Jewish friends, who for years invited us to join them for Seder, have moved away, and our church, while we love it dearly, doesn’t have a service or meal to mark Maundy Thursday (maybe one of these years I’ll have to do something about that).
But in our home, the daily call to “Come to the table” still carries that quiet power. The call, in essence, is a call to come home, centering us, binding us together. It’s when we gather around the table that order is restored. The world seems to make sense again—I can see a way forward, as we sit and breathe deeply, collectively. “Come to the table” is an acknowledgement that some things are sacred, and that we need to protect those moments with everything in us.
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Maundy Thursday falls on my youngest daughter’s birthday this year. I already know that as we gather around a restaurant table this evening to celebrate, we will be focused more on the joy of having this girl in our lives than on the heaviness of Jesus’ final meal, the disciples’ first communion, and what we all know lies ahead in the garden and on the hill.
And yet, somehow it still seems like a fitting way to mark the day. Maybe not the best way, but a fitting way nonetheless. We will pause in the midst of a busy day, and be intentional about gathering around a table and sharing a meal. And we will be sharing it with my ex-husband, his wife, and their two-year-old son—a gathering that carries notes both bitter and sweet. We will eat pizza rather than maror and charoset, but we will still be at a table, continuing a story that links us to one another and to Jesus.
Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast.
Yes. Let us keep the feast.