Thanksgiving week and a table full of food. The sound of creaking wood floors accompanying almost every morning. A gentle reminder that breakfast is not really an option. The table is set with plates, utensils, cups, and the all important coffee cup. A white table cover concealing what is probably an antique table. The chair creak as you sit in them as an informal "hello" to the banqueting table. In some cases others are already sitting and participating in the menu. The experienced cook responsible for making every ounce of food stands under the door arch presiding with a gentle smile. In short time, couples enjoy food, laughter, and stories. Though respectful the general sound of conversation occasionally exceeds the limits of proper manners. Lives and experienced are shared with hand motions and pauses for laughter. Departing from the table always feels like a traumatic extraction.
Trips to Spain. The trials of public transportation. Sunshine. Donuts. Beer. Fish Bladder. Guinness. Prague. New York. Chemistry related t-shirts. The subject matter is impressive. The chef recounts experience working at Whilster Village during the 2010 Olympics and sharing insights about China's funny-money and empty cities. A timid confession proceeds from a multi-pierced and tattooed woman who finds ghost towns fascinating. A raucous laughter from a wife retells an umbrella turned flying bat in Chicago. Glances around the table indicate something really isn't that funny. A childhood is dedicated to living in New York. 18 years are spent in New York before moving to the west coast after having subway glass broken by a deranged kick. A racists neighbor is boorish and despicable to everyone.
These are the conversations of experienced people. Conversations flooded with input from all around the table. Each participant entering not for the sake of self gratification or pontification but for genuine engagement and sharing of life. These are conversations that turned fifteen minute breakfasts with strangers into hours between temporary friends.
On a corner opposite Nelson Street in Vancouver, BC these conversations took place in a LGBT friendly B&B in a part of town that contains street crossings painted with rainbows. The chef, the weekday manager with a tremendous grace about him, was an open supporter of the safe-haven this little B&B sought to provide. Each morning began with the pouring of coffee, an adequate amount of granola, and a recount of our day(s). From this would spawn conversations that lasted long after the hot portion of breakfast was eaten and multiple cups of coffee consumed. Couples sharing breakfast and their life experiences with one another. Some heterosexual. Some homosexual. Some couples more anxious and uncomfortable their first morning than others. But the resulting safety in conversation the same for everyone.
We talked as people. People who have all been created in the image of God. Some denying the covenant-God who's claim upon our life has been pronounced at Golgotha. And others who have not sought to reject their election. Religion. Sex. The topics never came up. And I for one never sought to disrupt the gracious table at which I sat with such topics. For that I'm sure to be thrown under someone's evangelical rhetoric. I clearly wasn't concerned with "the most important issue" of these people's "lost souls." However, the people sitting in front of me weren't souls. The voice and stories weren't figments of soul dust. They were people. Flesh and blood people with narratives, feelings, and internal struggles.
The great hypocrisy of the modern othodox church is to denounce the crusades and then proceed to go on spiritual crusades for "lost souls." Make no mistake, I want people to be saved. Which means that the gospel must address their stories, their pasts, and their narratives. The gospel of a savior on a cross saying "these are mine" must reach there and transform these people into new creation. But it does this not to souls but people. It is found not in decisions but lived lives. I did not invest the explicit gospel with my breakfast mates. I did invest a gospel life. I did not pronounce "Jesus died to save you from your homosexuality" to certain couples. In part because I did not want to ignore and exclude the heterosexual ones but also because I had divested myself of superiority. I sat and I listened. I learned and I laughed. I never affirmed or condoned what Christ could not affirm or condone. That stated, I also never ran roughshod "for the gospel" over God's creation for some spiritual crusade.
No, I participated in a gracious table. I'm sure some pharisees are already questioning my conviction and "gospel-centered" power-o-meter. They can do that at their own tables as they measure out their mint, dill, and cumin. I was the one eating with sinners. Sinners whom our conservative society seeks to fight at every turn. I enjoyed life with real people where the jokes were not crass and the subject matter was pure. I enjoyed being able to speak about life without being criticized for under-spiritualizing it. I didn't need to blindly chalk everything up to "providence" or "sovereignty" in some psuedo-spiritual manner. In an incredibly simple way I did greater things than feed the 5000. Though I am still awaiting the main course. The bread of life remains to be offered. I enjoyed a spiritual thanksgiving with covenantally unfaithful people. I dined at a gracious table.