Once again, I’m running late on a Monday post. But, I’ve been pondering upon this thought for a little while, so maybe it’s truly “ripe” by now!
Baptists may not do everything just right (understatement of the year, I know), but there is one thing that we definitely know how to do. We know how to put on a potluck! In all my Baptist years, I have never been to a potluck that hasn’t been balanced. Nor have I been to one where we’ve run out of food. And, although I have been to some that weren’t quite as fantastic as others, I’ve never been to a substandard Baptist potluck. In fact, I must confess that in all of my college days spirituality, I actually was enticed to switch churches my sophomore year because there was this little country church near Arkadelphia that had exceptional potlucks. Quite the draw for a college student who endured through the Walt’s days at Ouachita. I will add that God’s hand was in the switch, and I found more than just good food there. But, I will also say that fifth Sunday potlucks were always highly anticipated.
Yesterday at church, we had a potluck that rivaled those of that wonderful little country church. We held it in honor of a precious couple from our church that pulled out this morning for a new life in Texas. We had to send them off well, and everyone seemed to have brought their finest! I haven’t overeaten like that at a potluck in a very, very long time!
Unfortunately, two of our couples had to be at another church of another denomination yesterday morning. That church also had a potluck, and they stayed for it. Not wanting to miss the farewell celebration at our church, though, they slipped in the fellowship hall door to join in the visiting while we were finishing up our meal. Jokingly, I asked one of the couples who put on a better potluck – Baptists or this other denomination. Although the dessert at the other church was highly praised, the meal itself, apparently, did not hold a candle to a good Baptist spread!
Now, I intentionally left out the identify of the other denomination because I do not want any hint that I am criticizing their doctrine. I’m not. But, the thought of the potluck comparisons did lead to some ponderings on my part. I know…big surprise.
I had to wonder this: when I share the feast of God’s table with others, is what I share full from beginning to end, or do I give a lot of tasty dessert with no real nutritional meat to support it?
We all love dessert. It’s the first table we scout at the potluck. We make sure that we go ahead and fill that dessert plate right after we go through the meal line, just to make sure we get what we want. And, in all honesty, dessert is a very, very important part of a potluck. That’s where we truly linger in fellowship. That’s the wonderful taste we end with. That’s the delight with which we celebrate together.
But, what happens when only the dessert is truly good? We pile it into stomachs that need true nourishment and end up with stomach aches. Not only that, but it burns off quickly. Even though we’ve consumed many calories, within a short time we’re hungry again because the calories are not as nourishing as the real food. What should have been a delight ends up leaving us feeling not so great.
When we rely solely on the spiritual dessert, as beautiful and wonderful as it is, we come away less than fulfilled. The fellowship, the laughter, the play, and even the praise are only good because of the depths of what we experience together. True praise comes from the meat of learning God’s Word. True play comes from really getting to know each other inside out, through the good and the bad, so that we can let our hair down and have real fun together. Laughter isn’t nearly as precious when it’s all we hear or do. Often the laughter is deepest when preceded by tears. And fellowship – oh, the depths of fellowship. Have you noticed who it is you can truly celebrate with? It’s with those you’ve also sat in the trenches with.
Before we can delight in the desserts of our church family, we have to taste the riches of the real food. The meat, vegetables, breads, and rice. The solid stuff. The deep stuff from God’s Word and from walking this life of faith together. Without those things, the dessert of fellowship can never be truly enjoyed.
As you interact with your church family, stop and consider what your potluck looks like. May it be as full and wonderful as the best lunch spread a Baptist church has ever laid!