At the Table
You make me lie down in green pastures; you lead me beside still waters. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. – Psalm 23:2 & 5 (NRSV)
Green pastures aren’t hard to come by when you grow up in the country. The dairy farm down the road has a green pasture where Holsteins wander until milking time. The small non-commercial farm over the mountain has a green pasture for its ponies. The soy and tobacco farms are richly green across hills of cropland.
Fresh, clean waters are a little harder to find these days, whether in the country or the city. Creeks cloud with the runoff of farm waste and pesticides. Rivers flood with chemical toxins from factories and plastic trash from human consumption. Oceans are contaminated by oil spills, solid debris, and global trade.
But rarer still—and perhaps more essential—is the overflowing banquet table spread in the midst of enemies. The space of relief carved out, protected, on the landscape of distress. The measure of joy poured without reserve or apology, even (and especially) when pain tries to steal the cup. The anointing of life and love that cannot be revoked by enemy hatred, by systemic violence, by the profit machine of death, by the gaping greed of capitalism.
Rare, that is, unless we sit at it—every single time the enemy shows up.
Rare unless we dine at it, deliberately, deliciously, every time the shadows lengthen.
Rare unless we invite one another to it, through hell and high water.
Rare unless we trust that the table is always prepared for us, even when there isn’t a single green pasture or still pool in sight.
God, have mercy: my spirit is frantic and my body is tense, yet there is a table. There is a table, there is a feast, there is a rest, there is a friend. Let me never forget it.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and the co-author of Denial Is My Spiritual Practice, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.