November 19, 2015

We Gather Together for More Than Food

By Evelyn Bence

RECIPE: Chicken- or Turkey-Corn Soup

In his 1989 presidential farewell address, Ronald Reagan challenged listeners to gather together to eat and converse: “All great change in America begins at the dinner table,” he said. “So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins.” He overstated his case, of course; turnabouts can take place in a conference room or voting booth, at a school desk or an altar rail.

But this holiday season, consider new communal opportunities, adding a chair, starting a new conversation, somehow “mixing it up.” If just the thought of shifting the routine makes you gulp, what about a targeted invitation? “Would you like to join us for dessert?” “For a Friday frittata?” “A Saturday sandwich?” As for myself, I might offer a Sunday turkey-corn soup—stretching the classic delights of my carcass reclamation. Not just to share the food (tasty, I trust), but to draw strength from the give-and-take of table fellowship.

I used to dislike requests for conversation on a set topic at a holiday (or any) meal: “Let’s name one or two things we’re thankful for.” Young and restless, I was more aware of what I lacked than of what I had and valued. I felt cornered, pressured to perform. Such questions are easier for me to answer now; I’ve gained confidence in myself and in God’s grace. But remembering my discomfort, I rarely ask guests for specifics. Their presence at my table as we ask God to bless the food establishes a grateful tone.

What did Ronald Reagan know that I haven’t yet fully grasped? Maybe a “great change” set in motion at my table this Thanksgiving will be in my spirit, expanding my vision of God’s kingdom work. Maybe the get-together will effect transformation in a guest’s mind-set or in a larger community culture. Maybe the shift will make room for the emotion that Rachel Marie Stone identifies as the result of combining an action, “eating together,” and an attitude, “gratitude toward God.” Its common name is joy.


Evelyn Bence 1 resized

Evelyn Bence

Evelyn Bence is the author of Room at My Table: Preparing Heart & Home for Christian Hospitality. Her essays have appeared in publications including the Washington Post, Books & Culture, and Christianity Today. She is an ongoing contributor to the Daily Guideposts annual devotional book. Evelyn, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Arlington, Virginia.

This recipe is from Room at My Table by Evelyn Bence. Copyright © 2014 Evelyn Bence. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.



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