Sometimes I’m torn regarding table manners. Jen and I want the family dinner table to be one of our kids’ favorite places on earth. So, we want them to relax, have fun, let their guard down and be themselves. At the same time, if we don’t hold the line at the table with our kids, how will they learn the basic courtesies that can be so helpful in life?

My divergent thoughts may have something to do with my two sets of grandparents. Mom-mom and Pop-pop lived in west Philly. When we came to their place, there would be a box of Tasty Cakes on the table and they would order cheese-steaks from the local deli. As soon as the prayer was recited, the conversation and food were a free-for-all. The main objective was that everyone enjoyed themselves. Believe me when I say that I used to LOVE devouring that food.

Grandma and Grandad on the other hand lived in the suburbs. When I’d go to their place there would be an elaborate and beautiful table setting with more utensils than my mind could process. We learned how to set the table, place our napkin on our lap, sit up straight, chew with our mouth closed, refrain from reaching, speak when spoken to, make eye contact and use “please” and “thank you.” I used to love the pineapple ham, the sugared half grapefruit, the homemade oatbread. I wasn’t a big fan of the almond green beans, scalloped potatoes, and various other vegetables. Of course, not eating them was not an option, and complaining about them would be unthinkable. The final course would always line up with the last utensil and would never disappoint the sweet tooth.

Looking back, I see the deep love, care, investment and nurture on both sides of the family expressed through the table. How that was expressed, and what was expected were very different in those two places.  

When my folks married, those two cultures blended (and sometimes collided) in our home. For roommates, friends or married couples, a point of tension is often simple lifestyle patterns. Things like who takes out the trash, how we do dishes, what temperature we keep the house or table manners can become a big deal.  

The Lord’s family is a mix of so many cultures. We know that Christ died to fulfill his prayer of John 17, to make us one in Him.  

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers,
but fellow citizens with God’s people
and also members of his household.
Ephesians 2:19

 When we actually function in unity it brings joy to Him and peace to us.  

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
or there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
Psalm 133:1,3

Netzer has been at work setting the table for the Church to function together in its geographic spheres.  But the cultural and theological differences even within solidly orthodox Christianity are many. If Christ following, spirit led, scripture grounded Presbyterians, Baptists, Charismatics and Anabaptists are going to learn to walk in unity we need the Lord to lead us to principles and practices that keep us from division.

So, over the course of our next few regional prayer updates I want to invite you to ponder with me how we can pray for the shared table of the regional church. We will look at Jesus’ ministry with food and tables, the table manners that Paul outlines to the Corinthian church regarding the Lord’s table, and the prophetic picture of the wedding feast. Are you getting hungry? 

For now, please pray for:

  • Belief: A strong conviction in believers, congregations and leaders in southeastern Pennsylvania  that there is truly only one family of God.

  • Faith: A growing passion and willingness to submit to and function from that oneness.

  • Wisdom: Emerging revelation from the Holy Spirit regarding the next steps in each local environment toward functioning together as One Church.

  • Growth: Deepening roots in Christ, solidarity in His love, strength of personal and shared identity in Him.

  • Grace: A sweeping harvest of the fruit of the Spirit necessary to walk in mutual submission in the regional church.