The Kingdom and the Kitchen Table

- Taryn Hofert

Much to my dismay, my husband chopped the bindings off of all his books last year. 

Hundreds and hundreds of books.

He then scanned his entire library and is now in his minimalist, digital heaven reading volumes on his gadgetry. Being the late adopter that I am, it was quite some time before I finally surrendered some of my library to his guillotine. While sifting through my slew of books on worship, I decided the owner of such a collection should know more on the topic than I do. 

In my past 15 years as a worship leader I’ve “led” a lot of worship gatherings. And, growing up in the church I’ve been part of more worship services or expressions than I can count. 

So 7 years ago, before the first gathering of our church we planted in an urban area of Charlotte, NC, we had 9 months to prepare, to plan, to reflect… 

I had time to sort through what worship looked like devoid of the weekly church gathering experience I had not only participated in but had crafted for so long. 

Kathryn Scott beautifully describes worship as:

our response to God’s divine initiative.”

What had my response been to a God who loves me with an unfathomable love? REALLY. 

How would I describe it? 

“Where was my gritty faith fleshed out…if at all?”

And I couldn’t help but feel that somewhere along the way we’ve confused that which is worshipful for worship

SANDWICHES

When people have asked me about what it’s like starting a church or what our method was, I‘ve said that it’s been:

More about grilling burgers than about strategies. 

More about giving things up than about skill sets or set lists.

More about kissing your comfort zone goodbye than control.

It’s like an exhaustion and exhilaration sandwich.

MOVING THE COMMUNION TABLE

Speaking of sandwiches, the only thing Martha Stewart and I have in common is that we’re both from Connecticut. But boy am I trying, baby. 

Since moving to Charlotte, the people who have shared a meal around our dinner table include: a homeless mother, homeless kids and babies, an ex-convict fresh out of prison, a down-trodden pro WWF wrestler, gay singles ostracized by church, atheists, the elderly widow next door neighbor whose only child lives hundreds of miles away, a bi-polar/alcoholic heartbroken neighbor, a spiritually skeptical single mom recently left by her cheating husband, a local rock band with shaggy beards and skinnier jeans than my boys had ever seen, lesbian married couples shunned by the church, a former pastor who was kicked out of ministry, a couple with more tattooed skin than not, some neighbor kids whose parents were separated, and many more colorful, beautiful people who we now call friends.

And, around that dinner table, despite my shoddy cooking, a piece of my heart (my family and home) and more time than is probably necessary (given the meal produced) is poured out for people who might have never shared a communion table on a Sunday with me. 

And, in those moments together in our home, while our kids misbehave and we tell our same corny stories and listen to new beautiful ones, my response, however faint it may be, is reverberating from my very own kitchen to God. 

And some of those dinner guests do share a communion table with me now at my church. 

And some don’t.

But we’ve all tasted God together. 

NONE OF THE ABOVE

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He said

“The most important one,…’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

Mark 12:29-31 NIV

His answer wasn’t even one of the 10 commandments…

Just love me with all of you and love your neighbor that much too. 

All that I have?

My heart: My time, home and relational energy

My soul: My passions and loves

My mind: My intellect and experience 

My strength: My resources (material/skills) and will 

CARVING OUT YOUR RESPONSE

So what is the intersection of heart/soul/mind/strength in loving others for you? 

How can you find a way to maximize it (as we define justice at our church) to:

uncover sources of suffering, confront the system causing it and help bring transformation to someone in great need? 

While I’m writing this, my homeless mother-of-two friend is calling for help writing an essay she’s working on get into beauty school. 

And although I feel all “written-out” for the day, 

I’m reminded that worship is all the beautiful things my now digital book shelf tells me…

But, it’s also inconvenient, sleep-depriving, and can involve the handling of raw meat.

It means being vulnerable and letting people in. 

Into your life. 

Onto your calendar. 

Even into your home where they could rifle through your medicine cabinet if they wanted to.

Could the response to the Divine initiative that cost God everything not cost us as well?

Could church gatherings be worshipful and life worship? 

May your dinner tables be full and diverse, your neighbors loved and your cities more alive because of the life you lead and meals you share. 

If I were your worship leader, that’s the song I’d invite you to sing with me. 

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Taryn Hofert is a singer/songwriter, pastor’s wife, and mom of two towheaded wildmen. She serves as a worship leader at Watershed, a church in an urban part of Charlotte, NC that she and her husband, Scott, planted in 2005 with another couple who are close friends and co-leaders. When not fighting injustice and frizzy hair, she works as a freelance writer, non-profit organization narrative designer, speaker, and the Director of Messaging for her husband’s family business, ColsenKeane Leather Goods. You can keep up with Taryn on her website or on twitter @TarynHofert