In early April I stumbled across a hymn that swept me off my feet. “For Everyone Born” is a progressive lyric by the New Zealand writer Shirley Erena Murray and was penned when she was 67 years old.
For years I’ve been trying to reconcile in my head and heart the radically inclusive love of God that I read in the Bible and the exclusionist doctrine of my Christadelphian upbringing. At the very heart of Christian practice sits the Eucharist (aka communion or the Lord’s table) but for many churches the invitation to dine at the feast of God is limited or denied. Having sat in church all my life, week after week, hearing the 1 Corinthians 11 text read over and over the one thing that kept rattling me was that Jesus broke bread and blessed the wine for people he knew would betray, deny and leave him. Furthermore they were an economically diverse group of people that included working class fishermen, IRS agents and rebel assassins. And I wondered why we thought we were more qualified than Jesus to decide who was or wasn’t welcome at the table.
A few years ago at Forefront Brooklyn I opened my mouth to introduce communion and I invited all people to participate. I don’t recall what I said but I remember the feelings.
The first was something I’d felt before, a familiar feeling that I get at baptisms, weddings and funerals, a feeling that something sacramental was happening, a feeling that I was standing on holy ground. I looked out at the people that I helped shepherd and guide during Sunday worship, a scrappy group that looked like Brooklyn, working class, creative, ethnically diverse, questioning, and skeptical. I looked out and I wanted all of them to understand that the Jesus we remember at the table desperately wants each and every one of them to understand the rich and lavish grace that it represents. I wanted them to know that they are welcome and invited without condition.
The second feeling was that I might get fired.
I’m glad that the second feeling wasn’t right and years later during our “Together In This” series our church has unveiled a brand new and breathtaking vision:
“We are an interdenominational faith community dedicated to cultivating a just and generous expression of the Christian faith”.
So I promised if we got to 75% of our $250k goal (you can still give here!) that I’d share a new song and I thought this was the most appropriate song that I could share. It’s a song that helps me to articulate our new vision. It’s a song that challenges me to keep creating space at the table for others. It’s a song that’s not too complex and sounds like a bunch of working class Irish drinking after a long day at work. It’s a song that is aspirational. It’s a song that I hope lingers on our lips and lives in our hands and feet.
Here’s the original demo:
Lyrics by Shirley Erena Murray:
For everyone born, a place at the table,
For everyone born, clean water and bread,
A shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
For everyone born, a star overhead
For woman and man, a place at the table,
Revising the roles, deciding the share,
With wisdom and grace, dividing the power,
For woman and man, a system that’s fair,
and God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, (justice and joy)
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace
For young and for old, a place at the table,
a voice to be heard, a part in the song,
the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled,
for young and for old, the right to belong,
For just and unjust, a place at the table,
abuser, abused, with need to forgive,
in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,
for just and unjust, a new way to live,
For everyone born, a place at the table,
to live without fear, and simply to be,
to work, to speak out, to witness and worship,
for everyone born, the right to be free
I didn’t include this verse on the demo because I was alerted to it later via a post on the Liturgy Fellowship FB group:
For gay and for straight, a place at the table,
a covenant shared, a welcoming space,
a rainbow of race and gender and colour,
for gay and for straight, the chalice of grace
May we be people who continually create space at the table for others