Julie’s Jar: Extending the Table

A green leaf in the shape of a heart sits in the middle of a worn gray and red rope knot against a weathered gray wooden surface.

Twelve people showed up for a Zoom meeting on a Saturday at 2 in the afternoon; four of them didn’t have any connection to our congregation before the meeting. Three are from Lee Vining Community Church, and yes, there is a connection there since that is a place that we often go. There was one brave soul who showed up without knowing anyone, a young man from Apple Valley. The purpose of the gathering was to introduce people to the Compassion Practice so they could determine if this was something they wanted to do when the course begins later this month.

At the end of our time, I asked the group to reflect briefly on how they were feeling about the experience and any thoughts they had. This young man volunteered that it was a really good experience. I commented on how courageous it was for him to show up without knowing a soul. Do you know what he said? He said with a warm and lovely smile, “Well, you all made it easy for me; you made me feel so welcome.”

Most of the people at the gathering were from FCC Pomona. They held space not only for each other, but for all who were there. That is not easy to do on Zoom, but they did it, and it made easy for a stranger to become a friend.

Last Sunday, I noted that how we view the Table of Christ shapes our mission. More and more, the Table at FCC Pomona is seen as a place of welcome and hospitality; Christ is the host and makes the invitation; we are his friends who make room for more. This was lived out on Saturday in a virtual space and the presence of Christ was manifest, even on Zoom. This is mission in action.

Too often, hands-on mission is counted only in number of meals served, buildings rehabbed, etc. These are good, but so are less physically concrete actions, like the genuine hospitality offered and received last Saturday. We don’t always get to know the way this kind of mission ripples through a life, creating resilience and giving hope. It is a matter of faith. As one of our Elders, Christi Wiley put it, “Faith is putting trust in something unseen. Believing is putting hope in something unseen.”

In a world where people often feel alienated, and especially now, when there is so much isolation, our virtual presence extends the healing of Christ through your welcome, your capacity for holding even virtual space with people who feel themselves strangers, but then find themselves among friends.

“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends.” (John 15:14-15)

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