“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” It’s a question I asked numerous times this past week and the answer always had something to do with family and friends around a table. There is something sacred about a table, isn’t there? I like the way the famous chef, Michael Symon, put it:
“Every lesson I learned as a kid was at the dinner table. It is where we laughed, cried and yelled but most importantly, where we bonded and connected.”
Tomorrow I will sit down for my 65th Thanksgiving meal. That’s a lot of lifetime turkey! As a child we always gathered at Grandma’s house. You could smell the turkey baking in the oven as soon as you walked in the door. In short time the table was filled with epicurean delights: sweet potato casserole, corn bread, green beans, cranberry sauce (the canned stuff with its perfectly round gelatinous slices, totally processed and totally delicious), and my favorite…the potatoes, mashed and whipped and silky smooth, with a perfect indentation on top to pool the fresh made gravy and melted butter! The delicious aroma was only dampened by the totally gross smell of the smashed rutabaga that Grandma insisted on making every year. After the turkey rested in our stomachs for an hour or so, all the various pies were brought out…pumpkin, apple, and mince meat.
The Thanksgiving cast of characters around the table has changed over the years. My Dad who once ruled over the turkey, carving knife in hand, is no longer with us; nor my dear Mother, and other aunts, uncles and friends who once graced our table. I miss them. But tomorrow the tradition will continue and I can’t wait. Not just for the food but more important for the people who will gather around the dining room table in our home, the folks I love most in this world. My family and good friends.
But what is faithful and true and unchanging on Thanksgiving for us is the ideal that always we are summoned to come together again around a common table and to break bread. It’s a tradition as old as Creation itself, reflecting two of our most basic human needs: food to fuel our physical bodies and love to fuel our hearts and souls. As we gather once again around the Thanksgiving table our lives have no doubt changed in the past 364 days, both for the good and the not so good. We’ve got a new job or a new significant other. Or it was a hard year because of illness or unemployment or divorce. We share the stories of our lives. We are refreshed and renewed.
Yes, there is something precious and sacred about a table and folks gathered around it to eat and talk and laugh and cry and say grace over plates and bowls and platters of food. Think of how many thousands of meals you have eaten around such a table in the company of others. In a world where too many people can’t get to that table for lack of food or because of war or conflict or a family split or for whatever reason, we should never, ever, take for granted the miraculous gift of a shared meal.
Every major world religion reflects the sacredness of “the table” in their beliefs and rituals. The communion table for Christians. The Sabbath table for Jews. The fast breaking table for Muslims. The sacred vegetarian meal prepared and blessed by Sikhs in the Temple and then shared with others. For finally it is at the table, perhaps more so than at any other place in this human life, that we are finally shaped and formed and made and loved into who we are.
So once again this year let’s pass the turkey, hand over the fresh rolls just out of the oven, pass the potatoes and gravy, and remember the rutabaga. But first: may we offer a prayer of real thanksgiving to God for our Thanksgiving meals and for the sacred tables where those feasts will take place. There is no other place quite like “the table” in all the world.
You are loved