Bruce Main: The way church used to be

At 10:55 am this morning people started arriving. Everyone carried a dish of food—a dish of fried Plantain, a bowl of fruit, a few boiled eggs, a bottle of Soda, a loaf of bread. Upon entering the make-shift sanctuary, these pilgrims placed their food on one big, wooden table. Grace was shared. People made up their plates, sat with friends, and shared God-stories from the past week.

This is church in Copan.

There is something wonderful about preaching to people who have just eaten a good potluck lunch. Food breaks down barriers. Food creates laughter. Food relaxes people. Maybe this is why the early church gathered around meals. Simple: food puts people in a better mood. And instead of thinking about what they’re going to put on their plate at The Grand Buffet after church, they can focus on the….sermon.

Church was special this morning. Gathering with young people, who live in community and seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus is a breath of fresh air. Beyond the denominational debates, the general sessions, position papers on how to slice and dice certain nuances of scripture, there are these small communities who worship, serve, and enjoy fellowship through the eating of a common shared meal. Church becomes the place to gather and celebrate what God is doing—through them, in them, around them.

Today is the feast of St. Ignatius. In 1540 Ignatius founded the Jesuit order. His challenge was for followers of Christ to be “contemplatives in action”—finding God in all things. Growing up Baptist, I never got to celebrate guys like Ignatius. Too bad, I think we could have learned a few things. We could have learned that church is not always about stain glass windows and reciting creeds. Church can be about eating a potluck lunch and sharing how we’ve seen God at work in our lives during the past week.

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

St. Ignatius, Prayer of Generosity