It’s chaotic, usually. You grab the dishes, make sure there’s something green (or slightly healthy), you pour the milk and get everybody to sit down. Just pause a minute. After the sixth time we put Little One back in his chair and swat the dog away from the table because she is snacking every time we’re not looking, we stop. We pause. We reach out and take hands because we are trying to make a ritual out of this anything-but-refined meal. We sing the blessing and hold the hands.
We were at the table this weekend with more guests than usual. For Dad’s birthday, we cooked for him. Nothing says love to Dad like a home cooked meal, so that is what we made. And like we do, we tumbled into the dining room in a chaotic storm. I don’t know how nice, quiet families calmly sit down to a meal, but we are basically the opposite of them. We are a loud whirlwind of plate carrying (husband), telling (Mom), barking (three dogs), commenting (Sister and Brother), requesting (Little One. And his grandmother), bossing (Me), and spilling (husband). The honored guest, dear old Dad, just sat there watching us whirl around him.
And then we paused. We reached out hands and began to sing our blessing, when Little One, shouted, “Wait! Look!” He was so excited to recognize what he saw as we held hands:
“We making a circle!”
Yes, we are. Around the table, our reach to one another shaped something that even this three year old could recognize. Our circle was not a fixed construct, a showpiece just waiting there for us to admire, but a dynamic, living thing in the making. The making of the circle happened in the reaching of sticky fingers towards grill stained hands and wrinkled knuckles. The making of the circle happened in the pause. In the singing of blessing.
His proclamation stayed with me all week. Through the day to day chaos. Through the messes and the laughs. His proclamation took my breath away when I saw it around another table last night.
We gathered for worship. We sang and heard and spoke and Amen’d. We baptized a young boy. We commissioned him with salt and light. Then we closed with a song, an old one that still sings truth: One in the Bond of Love. As preachers are apt to do, mine challenged us with one more thing: reach out and take someone’s hand as we sing.
Hand holding is tricky when you’re stuck in pews.
So, without instruction, people just started moving. Reaching. Turning around to reach toward the nearest person to grab a hand. As the song continued and the hands held fast, I recognized what I saw.
“We making a circle.”
Our reaching made us move. Our outstretched hands shaped something that people could recognize. A shape that connected the elderly man on my right with the young, divorced woman to my left. A shape that made us into the words that we sang. This dynamic, living thing happened in the moving and in the singing. It is happening, still. A circle is in the making.
On our drive home, we talked about our circle and the extraordinary act of embodying the words as we sang them. My husband pointed out that we made this shape without instructions, without it printed in any bulletin: “A circle is the Church’s default position, I think.”
Because the hands are connected to one another, grasping people not agendas, tying generations together. Because we could really see each other and we could see what we centered around.
Because the only thing necessary to widen the circle – and surely it does need widening – was not a commitee meeting but an outstretched hand. Because it happened in the moving.
We are making a circle.
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