“Family Table as Sacred Altar”

“Family Table as Sacred Altar”
By Rev. Ray Rolon Spiller

Our life, all life, comes through death. Something must die in order that you and I can live. On first thought, that is not a very pleasant idea; but if we can find the courage to follow it through, there seems to me a powerful message in it. On Easter Sunday at Morning Worship, as I listened to our pastor share his message, I was struck by some implications of his sermon on our Lord’s resurrection.

That day, our family had a beautiful noon table with, among other delicious dishes, ham and beans. It struck me that for me to eat them, a pig and a bean had to die. In a sense, their sacrifice, the gift of their life, laid on the table before us. Had we humans not intervened, they might have gone on living for a long time before their life ended and they went back into the earth. But, in giving their lives, they in a very literal sense, became a part of me, of my life. They live in me. As I ate them, the very atoms and molecules of their bodies, became one with my body, with my life. They now live in me and I live through them. Through a process that is at once scientifically biological and amazingly mysterious, the very essence of their bodies is part of me and I am at one with them. They are in the energy I use in everything I do, the muscle that moves my arm, the brain I think with. In the end, there is no clear line between them and me.

It is right that I bow my head and give thanks to our creator for his creatures and the gift of life that they gave me by their sacrifice. What happens at that table is a holy, miraculous, an awe inspiriting ritual. Because of this unique realization, I as a person of faith eat a meal while unaware animals only feed. How tragic it would be for me to live my life in such a way as to waste their sacrifice. What the crucifixion teaches us is that we are all persons for who someone else has died. That is at once a high honor and a great moral responsibility. Men and women of integrity do not squander that sacrifice.

At 82 years of age, I know that among the persons sitting at our family table, I will in all probability be the next to die. I am not afraid. I believe that if I live my life in myself and for myself alone, then when I die, I’m done. That hole in the ground in is the end of me. But give my life to a reality beyond myself, to a force that will live on into eternity, to God Himself; then my essence, the real me, will live on in Him. In some amazingly mysterious way, I become part of Him just like the pig and the bean became a part of me. We are one thing, whole and holy. As Paul put it, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21-30 RSV)

So, I am reminded every time I sit down to a meal that my dining table is an altar, that a holy sacrifice is being performed, the great mystery of life coming out of death is being acted out right before my eyes. The circle of life – of birth, death and resurrection is the truth.

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