Friday, September 4, 2009

Table Talk Around the Campfire

Our Table Talks are informal monthly gatherings during which we discuss whatever topics anyone wishes to put on the table.  Usually the discussions are theological in nature, but it is not uncommon to chit-chat about politics, family, or just life in general.  This is a time for people in the congregation to pick the pastor's brain on things they have often wondered about in relation to the Christian faith and life, but it's also a time to just relax, have fun, and enjoy wonderful fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Tonight, our Table Talk took place at our home around the campfire in the backyard.  We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, made s'mores and pies, talked a little theology, consumed a few "Lutheran beverages," and enjoyed each other's company.  It was truly a joy to just "veg out" and bask in the beautiful September evening air (it was even warm enough this evening for the kids to take a dip in the pool).  The fire blazed from around 7:00 p.m. to just after midnight (actually, it's still smoldering as I post this).  

I love our Table Talks!  We have been holding them for almost four years now and they are always a welcome break each month from the hustle and bustle of life.  Good eats, good friends, and good discussions - I'm thinking it doesn't get much better than that!     


Carol said...

Sounds like you enjoyed Table Talk. I'm glad. Since I won't be able to attend for quite awhile, I hope that you won't mind if I make a comment here.

When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, a few of my playmates were Roman Catholic. At that time in my home town, if one was Roman Catholic, where one attended church was determined by geography. There were boundaries for parishes, much the same as boundaries for schools. No School of Choice in those days. There was no question in these Christians' minds about church-shopping and the like. I hadn't thought about this for a long time, but thinking recently about why we attend church, etc., has brought it back to me.

Why are we members of congregations? Why do we attend church? In order to receive the gifts of our Lord's Word and Sacraments. It's nice if one likes the pastor, or is friendly with other members of the congregation, or if the women of the congregation are good cooks, or the musicians are talented. But, does any of that really matter?

Please don't misunderstand me. It is a great blessing to be a member of a loving congregation and to have a caring, intelligent, articulate pastor. But, should any of that really matter to us?

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...


Great comment! I couldn't agree more. We attend the Divine Service to receive the Lord's Gifts. I am always amazed, and a bit perplexed, when people quit attending congregations because they don't like the pastor, or because someone in the congregation has offended them, or because the music is not up to their standards, or because they didn't get their way at a voters' assembly (which almost always equates to them not liking the way the congregation has decided to spend money), or because they don't like the decor, or because they don't like ______________, and so on.

What does any of that matter? Is the Gospel preached in its purity? Are the Sacraments administered according to Christ's institution? Does the pastor catechize both young and old? Are the sick and shut-in visited and brought the Lord's gifts? These things are all that really matters. But, sadly, in our day and age, people are more concerned with the congregation meeting their own wants and desires than they are with the truth of God's Word.

The sad thing about all of this is that such people are almost always never happy. How can they be? There is not a perfect congregation this side of heaven. No matter where they go, they will find that there are sinners there, too. If they are looking for the perfect congregation to suit their fancies, they will be sorely disappointed, which is why most people who approach church in this manner end up on the outside, not attending anywhere. And it's all because they do not understand the reason our Lord instituted His Church, not to be a social club, but to be the place where He visits us with His Divine Presence to bestow His eternal Gifts upon us.

Plus, in most cases where people quit attending congregations for any of the above reasons, it usually has more to do with them than it does with anything, or anyone, in those congregations. Most often, those who complain that people are not loving and friendly are not the most loving, friendly people themselves. For such people, it's always someone else's fault and never theirs, which reveals that something is amiss with their faith. A further indication that something is amiss is seen by the fact that these same people are almost always unwilling to approach the brothers and sisters with whom they have issues to seek after reconciliation, which is very sad.

Jon Bakker said...

I've heard of many places having 'table talk' Bible studies, and was wondering what you do for them? Are they simply people showing up, and you have somewhat of a guided discussion on whatever subject people wonder about? Is it completely off the cuff? How do you (can you?) prepare? I'm just wondering because it sounds like a great idea from the way you described it, and I'd imagine college students would eat it up. :-) Thanks, Jon

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Hi Jon,

Sorry for my delayed response. Didn't have the blog set up to notify me of new comments. Still learning. :)

Our Table Talks are totally off the cuff. I always have a Bible and a Book of Concord on hand, but whatever is discussed is decided by those in attendance. There are really no rules, and I don't really do any preparation, other than having a couple of topics ready to put on the table if things get mired down. Sometimes the conversation can get deeply theological; other times it is pretty light.

I think it would be a fantastic thing to start with college kids. I know the kids there at CMU would enjoy having the opportunity to pick your brain on various topics. Just have pizza or something on hand, too. :)

Jon Bakker said...

Thanks Tom, that's exactly what I was wondering. I'm going to start one!