Soul Talk Advent Series 2019: 'Words to Live a Life by'
Guest Blogger: Mick Kane
I can remember the first time I sat around a family dinner table. I was about 11 years old. I was raised by a superhero single parent mother who had many parenting superpowers but even she would have to admit that cooking was not one of them. Dinner most often consisted of something from the microwaveable menu and was served as many working class-poor meals are: in front of the television. All of this changed not too long after my mum’s life was radically transformed by the love of Christ and we started attending church together as a family.
After a couple of weeks of attending church we were invited by the Pastor and his family to their home for Sunday lunch. I can still remember it as though it were yesterday. The first thing I noticed was a T.V. in the corner that didn’t get switched on the whole time we were there. I assumed it must have been broken. After a short time of pleasantries we were ushered through to a ‘dining room’ and invited to take a seat around a huge wooden table. I noticed that we all had a plate in front of us but there was no food to be seen. This seemed odd. But then the food did come; in great big dishes all placed in the middle of the table and after a prayer during which I kept my eyes open, we were all invited to take and serve from the dishes in the middle. What was this cultic ritual I was being exposed to?
That meal made a huge impact on us as a family. Not least illustrated by the fact that by the middle of that week I returned from school to find my mum had only gone and bought one of those big tables and plonked it at the back of our living room! Meals in our house changed from that time on. We were told that dinner would now take place around the table and, much to our dismay, as we were eating the T.V. would be switched off! Plates with no food would be distributed and we would wait for the dishes to come from the kitchen to be placed in the middle of the table from which we would serve each other and ourselves. What it couldn’t fix, however, was mum’s cooking. This meant that what was placed on the table each night were those same micro-meals we had enjoyed before! Our feast could consist of micro-chips, baked beans and fish fingers.
But there was so much more to it than changes to table etiquette; nor was that what mum was interested in. A meal consists of so much more than food. We began to talk more as a family. Updates on school, relationships, hobbies and life became commonplace at the table. Reflecting on it now, I see how that table helped my mum reconnect with her children at a deeper level and during a time when she may have been at risk of losing them to the pulls of the east-end of Glasgow.
Guests would join us around our table too. Neighbours, school friends, people from church and even a stranger from time to time would be welcomed to join our micro-feast. Some would even stay longer into the evening. Some, if they needed it were offered a couch to sleep on for a night. I can remember several people for whom that sofa became their bed for weeks on end. Our table became not only a place of deep connection but a springboard into a life of hospitality.
This story has not only shaped me deeply but illustrates some of what I think Jesus understood to be so powerful about tables. The passage in Mark is one of many examples in the Gospels where we find Jesus sat at a table with others, exercising and receiving hospitality, connecting, accepting, welcoming. I also find it fascinating that the key way he has called us to remember him is to gather around a table (Luke 22:19).
In our passage, Jesus calls Levi to “follow me,” and Levi’s obedience to that call leads him to a table. I’m not sure that outcome isn’t a comprehensive one when when any of us respond to that same call. And so in light of this, I often ask myself, “where are the tables in my life today?” And“who am inviting around that table?” A table changed Levi’s life. A table changed my mother’s life, and through her, mine. Whose life might Christ reach across a table from you and bring about transformation?
Mick Kane: Originally from Parkhead in the East of Glasgow, Mick was exposed to the radical love and
transforming power of Jesus through a local church community who cared for him through his recovery from drugs and alcohol in his early twenties. He now wants others to know that same love and believes that no one is undeserving of it. As an ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene, Mick has been involved in ministry in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Driven by his passion for incarnational ministry and mentoring, he is currently resident chaplain to 300 students, staff and faculty at Nazarene Theological College in Manchester where he lives with his wife, Debbie; his three year-old Son, Mikey and around 30 students who live on campus together. Mick is also a trustee of Red Letter Christians UK and is particularly interested how Spirituality and Justice inform each other. On his down time he'll be hanging out with his family or watching his (other) beloved, Glasgow Celtic!