On a wood table, plates with half-eaten food surrounds a centerpiece with various cheeses, grapes, and other food dishes.

Gratitude and the Power of the Table

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Every one of us is a recipient of God’s love and care. From the tiniest newborns with their whole lives ahead of them, to the aged who breathe their final breath, there is an “unconditionalness” to God’s care and love that drenches us in pure Grace and Truth. 

As a result of this reality, developing an attitude of gratefulness to God builds within us an attitude of gratefulness for life and for all that it brings our way. What I have found fascinating in this truth is that I am drawn to the image of the Table. 

Back in 1916, John Ross Macduff wrote in The Christian Register, “Cultivate a thankful spirit! It will be to thee a perpetual Feast.

Almost 100 years later, Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more [sense an Ephesians 3 echo here]. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a Feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend” (read her full article here).

In university, I was forced to watch the movie Babette’s Feast. It’s certainly not a Marvel movie that draws in the masses captivating them with a grand spectacle and a decidedly end-game moment (perhaps I’ll write a blog on the Marvel universe another time), but there was a tangible beauty in this quiet movie that created in me a deep awe of the power of the table.

For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, Babette’s Feast (trailer here) is based on a story by Isak Dinesen. It’s about a sect of austere Protestants living in a remote town on the coast of Denmark in the 19th century. They are led by the elderly daughters of the sect’s founder, who view pleasures with suspicion and see them as a distraction from God. As a result, they are allowed to eat only bland food. 

But their lives are upended when Babette shows up at the sisters’ home, bearing a letter from an old friend and seeking refuge from violence in her native Paris. The whole story is foggy to them, and they’re suspicious of her. But she offers to work for free, and stays with them for 14 years, (can you imagine?) trying to gain their trust.

One day, Babette wins the lottery, but instead of using the money to go back home, she uses it to prepare a lavish feast in honor of the sect’s founder as an act of appreciation and thankfulness for the community having allowed her to become part of them.

As the characters eat the delicious meal together, you begin to see a change. The uptight elders slowly relax away from their arguments and disapprovals into the beauty and conviviality of a meal made with love. The feast Babette prepares is practically an act of worship, made by someone the group still considers beyond the bounds of acceptability, but who has patiently shown them love. It works. Bridges are built. Bonds are forged. And a really good meal is shared.

The practice of gratitude is about more than saying “Thank you.” It is truly an expression of giving one’s self for others and letting God work out the rest.

  • Gratitude makes sense of our past.

  • Gratitude brings the peace of Christ for today.

  • Gratitude casts vision for tomorrow.

As you process this, let me challenge you with some wonderings to consider

  1. What gratitude moment helped you deal with something from your past?

  2. Where do you see the peace of Christ today?

  3. When has the feast of Christ (the true Table) blessed you most recently?

For more on gratitude, visit Faith Formation Ministries’ Faith Practices Project to find resources for individuals, groups, and families.

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