Of Potlucks and Holy Communion

img_0153I love a good potluck. I have not served a church yet that doesn’t love to have potluck dinners. It didn’t matter if the church was small or large or somewhere in-between. You say potluck and people came out with food. Now over the years I have noticed a thing or two about potlucks at Methodist churches. They share some commonality when it comes to key things. 

  • Methodist potlucks will always have some form of fried chicken, especially in the South.
  • Methodist potlucks will always have some form of a gelatin-based dish (Usually Jello with marshmallows or fruit).
  • Methodist potlucks will always have way more deserts than vegetable side dishes.
  • Methodist potlucks will always have more food than everyone there can eat.

So when I asked on twitter what ALL Methodists could ALL agree on, the answer in the back of my mind was food.

Similarly, I love the Eucharist. The main reason I am Methodist and not Baptist today is because when I first received Holy Communion in the church my heart was strangely warmed. It felt like home. Every time I preside at the table I feel my heart burst with joy. I hear the words of Jesus, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 CEB) Like the disciples in verse 34, I long for this bread. I need this bread.

Potlucks and Holy Communion co-mingle in the Methodist Church. They are sacred occasions when we eat with one another. They require us to eat with folks from different viewpoints, different backgrounds, and different ideologies. They require us to make peace with one another.

When the three of us started talking, we didn’t start with “what do you think about this issue or that issue.” In fact, we started talking by NOT talking about the issues facing the UMC today. We started talking by sharing our love of things. We started by finding commonality between us. We all love liturgy. We all love NT Wright. We all love a generous orthodoxy. We all love the Methodist church. We all love potlucks. We all love the Eucharist. Most of all we all love Jesus. Our discussion didn’t start on our differences, but on our similarities. The model for this came from an article I read in the Huffington Post last year about the friendship of Shane Windmeyer and Dan Cathey. This article took criticism from both sides of the issue, but it showed that true dialogue is possible and even hopeful. Listen to Shane Windmeyer’s words from the article:

He(Dan Cathey) had to both hold to his beliefs and welcome me into them. He had to face the issue of respecting my viewpoints and life even while not being able to reconcile them with his belief system. He defined this to me as “the blessing of growth.” He expanded his world without abandoning it. I did, as well.

I have a hunch that some of us (myself included) have labeled folks on the other side as liberal, fundamentalist, heretic, Calvinist, etc… It is sometimes easier to dismiss the other side as something you don’t like instead of seeing them as a real person full of the same fears, doubts, loves, dreams, and hopes you have. Instead of talking to one another we have begun talking past one another. Maybe if we can learn how to have conversations again we can learn to live in the reality of the potluck and communion. So my hope and dream is that we can begin to “expand our worlds without abandoning them” and engage in a “blessing of growth”.

Maybe we can reclaim our potlucks…

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