Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Come to the table

My friend Daniel is a composer. I've sung--and programmed-- several of his works, with my congregation and with three different choirs. My favorite of those works is a hymn he wrote, which is part of my personal canon of hymns; it could easily have been included in my post of a few weeks ago (in fact, several of you did just that in your response to my question!). For those of you who haven't heard it, the words are
Come to the table; come as you are.
Come as you're able; see whose child you are.

There is room at the table of the Lord.

Bring your burdens and your cares;
take them to the Lord in prayer.
In our weakness God is there; can't you see?

Come to the table; come as you are.
Come as you're able; see whose child you are.

There is room at the table of the Lord.

In the mercy that abounds,
and accepting love we've found,

by the blessed tie we're bound as family.

Won't you come to the table, come as you are,
come as you're able--see whose child you are.

There is room at the table of the Lord.

(c) Daniel L. Pederson

There's a persistence in this text--I think it does a really good job of painting God's utterly open invitation to all comers. I like that it puts that invitation in our mouths. I like that it acknowledges our burdens, our need for mercy. I like the combination of plural and singular pronouns that sets a context of "us," instead of only "me" (and yet, it feels personal to sing it). I like that it assures that mercy and grace are available for the asking. Most of all, I like that it helps us to sing our way into a love that's so much bigger than we are, it can't help but spill over the rim of any cup that tries to contain it.

Perhaps inevitably, as a member of the GLBT community, I care about that. Not for the sake of using a hymn to promote "diversity," but because it's authentically healing. Beloved and I chose it for our wedding; a lesbian friend later told us that it moved her to tears with its radical welcome at a time when her own recently-former church community had made her decidedly unwelcome. This hymn has offered the same message to many other people who have felt themselves outside the embrace of God and community, whatever their reasons.

It's robust, bountiful.

Musically, it sings with the ease of a hymn, in four parts...and yet, there's a harmonic and melodic freshness that accomplishes what so many don't--it bridges styles to the point at which style is no longer a question. It's eminently singable and, well, just appealing.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and we'll go to my sister's house, to her welcome table. Today, I woke up before the alarm (thanks to Linus's paw on my nose) with this hymn playing in my head. In the half hour or so before the beeping began, I started compiling my "I'm thankful for..." list. It's a long list. Afterward, I popped out of bed, humming "Come to the Table."

Thankfulness is powerful. I think it's helpful that a day is set aside for it on the American calendar this week, in the midst of so much anxiety about the economy and many other, very real boogeymen of this period in history. Because thankfulness is an antidote to anxiety: it grounds us in our giftedness; it locates us in relationship to God and to one another; and on this particular day, it plunks us down at a table of comparative plenty to receive again the gifts of the land and the fruits of our (and many others') labors. We finally take a moment to notice the people and the things that make our lives meaningful...that make them possible. And while our eyes are fixed on those gifts, we turn away from the fears that cow and shrink us. We live large, inside the promise of goodness to come...of goodness that has already come.

It's a holy communion table.

And so, friends, my hope for you on this holiday is that you come as you are to the table, remembering who--and whose--you are.

Thanks be to God.


FranIAm said...

Oh those words - powerful and very healing.

The essence of reconciliation - being brought back into the healing together.

I am thankful for so much - and knowing you is a big part of that!

God bless you!

aka The Swandive said...

hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm.... love it. I don't think I've heard it, but can't wait to get it stuck in my head. Beautiful.

Mariah and Byron Edgington said...

Happy Thanksgiving

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Thanks for the reminder of God's welcome in this post.

mompriest said...

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was wonderful. I have a feeling I've sung this hymn out of an Episcopal alternative hymn book called, "Come Celebrate" - but if not this one, then one similar...beautiful.

also, you can find me at both my old blog and the new one, desert prayer.

Diane said...

Happy thanksgiving.

And thank you for your gift of sung theology.

Cecilia said...

thank you, so, so much for this.

giving thanks for you!

Pax, C.