NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 2, 2013

Down at the foot of the table

In the Spirit
The Rev. Joan MacPherson

---- — There is something about where and with whom we eat that matters. Ask any kid returning to school about the angst of getting situated in the cafeteria and you will hear the depth of emotion/import — or feel again the emotion of your school experiences. Jesus knew really well what he was doing when he so regularly selected meals and tables as illustrations for his parables and profound teaching. At Main Street Church our worship is centered around a table — the communion table. There is no head, there is no foot, there is simply a place for everyone who wants to come.

While there is no head or foot at the communion table, there are heads and feet at the tables in our everyday lives and Jesus pushes us to move from the head of the table to the foot, away from the place of power and prestige.

I ended up at the foot of the table on the day of the Memorial March for Peace — a walk from the Statehouse to Newton Centre on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. We were at the foot of the table with some 70 other walkers who also were not at the place of power and prestige for the day.

Everything is different at the foot of the table. This wasn’t an event with a critical mass that fueled the walkers and caught media attention. That is a head of the table kind of march. Down there at the foot were an eclectic collection of people, many of whom carried posters of people, mostly youth and children, who were killed violently. Down there at the foot was Delores. Delores lives in Dorchester and has had two sons murdered there. Delores regularly goes to the prison to visit the man who killed her second son. Delores organizes visits to prisons to teach peace, practice forgiveness and connect with those behind bars. Down at the foot was a soccer club also from Dorchester — the youth carried posters of their friends who had been shot and killed. Down at the foot was Tina Chery, whose 15-year-old son was killed in the crossfire of gang violence as he was on his way to a Teens Against Gang Violence party.

Down at the foot I was amongst people who have a daily life experience worlds away from my own. Down at the foot there were the real people connected to the statistics in the newspaper. Down at the foot I realized that this gathering was not of a magnitude to shift/change/heal the world. Down at the foot I realized that the power and hope of this march was the people walking along and how they would let God work through them to respond to the experience of that day. Which is what God has always envisioned and is always enabling. Hope, justice, love, peace made real by ordinary folks who to get away from the power and privilege at the head of the table in order to connect their lives with the needs and hurts of the world — and from that experience love, act, serve, give.

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The Rev. Joan MacPherson is pastor of Main Street Congregational Church, UCC, Amesbury.