By Matt Hein

Smoke was rising from the grill as the smell of sizzling ribs filled the air. Cheesy potatoes, a carefully prepared salad, coleslaw and steaming corn bread sat next to a stack of plates waiting to be filled. Each chair sat ready to be claimed around our table and we waited with anticipation for the celebration to begin.

It wasn’t long before the most important part of the celebration happened. People showed up. Relationships were kindled. We ate, laughed, talked, shared, and celebrated. It was just an ordinary weeknight, nothing more than an opportunity to be together.

For me, it was magical. I didn’t want the evening to end. The time together was priceless and a rare moment in my chaotic and stress-filled everyday. I felt whole for a few hours and the laughter around me seemed to suggest everyone else felt the same way, too.

Change the menu. Find a different location. Mix up the people. It doesn’t matter what it looks or tastes like. I’m absolutely convinced that in our fast-paced, over-committed, and often isolating culture, we need sacred moments of celebration where we connect in authentic relationship over food and conversation.

In his little book, Happy Hour: Etiquette and Advice on Holy Merriment, Hugh Halter speaks to the significance of being invited into moments of celebration, conversation, and community:

“Celebration has never been just a part of life – it is the framework wherein God’s story is told to people in every culture. Many old rhythms of life have become separating, often creating barriers for human interaction. But celebration remains the one rhythm that can transcend culture and connect disparate cultures together. The table, the home, the food, and the practice of hospitality remain to this day the best way to bring people together and God into the room.” (p. 7)

I see that reality in the life of Jesus. From celebrating at a wedding in Cana (Jn. 2), to sitting down for a feast with Levi and his friends (Lk. 5), to enjoying fish for breakfast over a campfire on the Sea of Galilee with his disciples (Jn. 21), Jesus lived out the value of connection in authentic relationships through hospitality and celebration.

All this makes me wonder – what we are missing in our fast-paced, over-committed, and isolating culture? Are we seeing the opportunities to celebrate with others in our everyday life, whether the celebrations are big or small? Could it be that Jesus is inviting us to slow down the pace, to gather around the table? Because relationships matter, they are worth celebrating!

Often in my chaotic and stress-filled everyday, I find myself longing to be back around the table, enjoying laughter and conversation over food and drink. So, there’s a simple next step I can take. Time to plan a celebration, be it big or little, and enjoy a few grace-filled hours of eating, talking, and laughing with others. Time to plan a table for 8!

From now through the summer, our St. Luke family will be leaning into opportunities for connecting in authentic relationships. Tables for 8 is one of those opportunities you might choose to take a next step with us.

Tables for 8 is a great way to meet other adults from St. Luke and make meaningful, authentic connections. Each group will plan their own settings and meals, gathering for one meal during the first full week of March, April, and May.

Some groups will meet in a private home, while others will be more comfortable gathering in a restaurant. Whether a weeknight dinner or a weekend brunch, fine china or paper plates, fondue or fried chicken (or somewhere in between), your group will make the plans that work for you!

Whatever the experience, Tables for 8 is most importantly about celebrating and connecting in relationship as we seek each other’s stories and share in Jesus’ story.

Click here to register for Tables for 8. After registering, you’ll be contacted by a Tables for 8 host who will invite you to gather around their table and give you all the details you need to take your next step. If you love hospitality and would like to host a table for 8, make sure to complete the host section on the form.

Over the next six months, we’ll lean into the practice of connecting in authentic relationships at St. Luke. I can still hear the laughter, smell the grill, and see the table full of people enjoying a few hours of grace-filled connection in our home. It seems like time to set the table again because life is too fast-paced, over-committed, and isolating. It seems like a good time for a celebration.