To eat their apple pie and forget about tomorrow
At the diner in the sky, it’s so easy to decide
The things you want are just the way you want them
Come on up, come on up to the diner in the sky
Sit right down, sit right down, stay until you’re satisfied
When there’s nobody left who cares about you
They’re playing your favorite song all night long at the diner in the sky
From the diner in the sky, you can watch the storms go by
They drift right on by like the ripples in my coffee
At the diner in the sky, no one cares if you arrive
Drunk and broke, I can’t get you off me
When I was 16, my family moved after having lived in the same town for 12 years. I had to change houses, schools, churches, friend groups, and activities for the first time since I was 4 years old. It was a time full of challenges and transitions, but there was one experience that still stung years later. On the first day at my new school, I ate lunch alone.
At 16 years old, I’m not sure I had ever eaten a meal alone in my life. My family ate dinner together every night (something I now know is becoming less and less common); I always had multiple lunch tables to choose from at school; and even breakfast was shared by some combination of parents and siblings.
And suddenly, there I was, 16 years old, that most painful age of adolescence, sitting outside the cafeteria on the steps, surrounded by hundreds of kids my age, eating a sandwich by myself.
Now, before you start feeling sorry for me, I tell this story to make a point: we are not meant to eat alone.
To be fair, there are days when eating lunch in my office with the door closed is necessary for my sanity, and some of you may feel the same. But 20% of American meals are eaten in the car (source). Food is one of those things that are both necessary for life and pleasurable, but we don’t always get past the “necessary for life” bit.
I love the idea of a “Diner in the Sky.” “Come on up, sit right down, stay until you’re satisfied.” In this fast food nation of ours, to sit down and stay anywhere is in many ways an act of resistance. To share a meal with a friend, to meet someone new in a public place, to enjoy your food instead of inhaling it—these are small ways of reclaiming time and community.
When we eat together, we develop relationships. We learn about each other’s family and culture, preferences and habits, even allergies and weird quirks—for example, I learned through my friends that I actually chew ice cream, even soft serve. It’s a silly thing, but I would never know that if I only ever ate by myself.
For 2014, our theme at Roots Revival is “RADICAL”—and by “radical,” we mean, “of or pertaining to the root of something.” “Radical” means “root.” In January, we are talking about radical love. And I believe that shared meals are at the root of love and community.
When I finally found someone to sit with in the school cafeteria, their acceptance of me at a shared meal was a profound act of love, even though neither of us probably saw it that way at the time.
Sharing a meal is intimate. It takes time. It takes us to the root of who we are as people, together.
Most weeks here at Roots Revival, we share in communion. In the early church, communion was part of a larger shared meal. Christian worship was built around this shared meal, around a table that in the Methodist church is open to all.
A few weeks ago, one of the church members here served communion at a Sunday service for the first time. A few days later, he served as an overnight volunteer at the downtown overflow homeless shelter. This past Sunday, in between worship services, he realized that some of the guys he had helped host at the shelter were hanging out at the library.
So he took some of the donut holes we have here on Sunday mornings and brought them out to share with our neighbors. From serving communion bread one Sunday to serving donuts the next, this man shared in the meal and then extended the table.
Wherever your table is, whatever is on it, and whoever is at it, I want to challenge you to sit there and stay a while. And then I want to challenge you to extend that table.
When we eat, let’s ask ourselves—who is at the table? Who is missing? What would it take for us to sit, to stay, and then to extend ourselves and our tables of eating and of relationships?
The “Diner in the Sky” is open. So come on up. Sit right down. Stay until you’re satisfied.
Sarah S. Howell