The Main Dish at the Church Potluck [Tara Lamont Eastman]

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10177498_1411690409093367_2113146266_nI grew up going to church. And as far back as I can recall and I have also been going to potluck dinners. Some of my first experiences as a child include feasting my eyes on long tables filled with dishes to pass, casseroles abundant and a dessert table that was this sturdy kid’s happy dream. The variety, options, and new tastes available were beyond my five-year-old stomach’s capacity to absorb.

Moving to adulthood, I not only participate in potlucks but, since I work in ministry, I organize them from time to time. There once was a time that making a list of entrees, veggie dishes, desserts and beverages was necessary. But now when calling a potluck together I set a main dish, invite people to attend and trust (for the most part) that it will all work out in the end.

Over the last year or so in my setting, new efforts are being made to establish, ponder, experiment, and set out into some new spaces of hospitality and mission. Our eclectic group of folks gathers for occasional concerts, mini one-night only art shows, book groups, community service projects, prayer, art-making and (of course) – potluck meals.

Recently, I was tossing together eggplant, tomatoes, yellow squash, basil and chicken together into my trusty red crock pot for an evening potluck and thought… “The life of Church is so much like a potluck dinner.”

My red crock pot has traveled with me to three different church denominations where I’ve served. I can’t tell you how many different soups, casseroles, and curries that have been eaten out of it. Some of the places that this crock pot has been used have closed, changed hands, or carry on with their calling to love God and serve the community where they are. But just as this red crock pot continues to feed hungry people, the Church – in all its shades and variations – continues to share the gospel and feed hungry people.

At pot luck dinners there are usually many options on what a person can eat. Sometimes, everyone ends up bringing dessert. (Now that’s an idea!) Pot luck dinners, like the church, are unpredictable and continually changing.

So, in true form for planning potluck dinners, the main dish is established and prepared and others are invited to bring their gifts to the table to share. While some may feel this metaphor of potluck dinner being like the church as idealistic or simplistic, I’d ask them to pause and consider this.

For pot luck dinners to be successful, hungry people need to be fed. While trust, relationships, and some good cooks can make the difference between an ok and excellent potluck – people will come, people will eat, and people will go home with full stomachs.

Our church – the Church – needs to feed hungry people. No matter what you may think your church needs to succeed at being the church, it already has its main dish established.

The Gospel message of Christ is our main dish. While this comparison may make some shudder, it’s not too far off of the words spoken in communion…”The Body of Christ broken for you…the blood of Christ shed for you.”

If our churches lives were more like potluck dinners – emphasizing and assuring the presence of the “main dish” by the power of the Holy Spirit and inviting others to bring their entrees to the table – what a fine meal that would be.

Are you getting hungry? I certainly am.

Let’s get cooking.

Creator God – help our churches be like potluck dinners, where Christ is central and all are welcomed to the table.

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About Tara Lamont Eastman

Tara serves First Lutheran Church in Youth and Family Ministry/Pastoral Intern, is a Seminary student with Wartburg's TEEM program, and is part of the Mission Development Team in our Upstate NY Synod.


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