gun-in-churchOne of the best parts of ministry is celebrating the Great Thanksgiving with congregants at Belmont United Methodist Church and young adults at Belmont University. (One of the other best parts is leading real, candid conversations about faith/living as a follower of Jesus Christ.) On campus, Holy Communion is a weekly ritual of breaking the bread, blessing the cup, and praying for the presence of the Holy Spirit. I’m thankful for the wisdom of one of BWF’s founding students who eagerly asked that we share in such a sacred meal on a regular basis. Indeed, gathering at God’s table to dine is a continual experience of grace.

Before I began the Great Thanksgiving yesterday, I offered this invitation: ‘I want each of you to know that you are invited to come and experience God’s grace.’ Where else in the world can you go and receive an invitation to experience God’s grace? My colleague, Ken Edwards, reminded us in worship that when we come to the table, the playing field is made level in God’s eyes. The rich, powerful, smart, and well accomplished are humbled at the table and those who are poor, suffering, victimized, and isolated are lifted up in God’s grace. The church and the campus ministry get it right when we gather at the Lord’s table.

But as I stood behind the altar table yesterday morning, hands raised and outstretched, I remembered an earlier morning conversation with a group of adults about gun violence and faith. We talked about the tragedies of mass murder that have visited halls of education over the years. We talked about the fear of not being safe in neighborhoods. We talked about the struggle of being a follower of Christ and possibly using a firearm for self defense. We explored verses from scripture that bless peacemakers, urge us toward justice and mercy, and call us to walk humbly with our God. It was after that Sunday morning discussion that we moved into a time of worship and celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Yes, gun violence visited the altar table yesterday-because God’s grace speaks to the experiences of joy and sadness that we as Christ followers bring into worship. A lot of things came to the altar table yesterday-hurting relationships, broken hearts, images of turmoil in the world, memories of laughter from the holiday weekend, and outright joy. God meets all of that at the table.

~ Pastor A.