There is a bit of a ritual that has developed in my home. The ritual consists of gathering around the fire, the cutting board, the carving platter, or wherever meat that is being prepared for a meal and trying to grab, pinch and steal bits and pieces off the grill or the board or the platter. Whenever I am grilling with company I try to make it a point to cut off a few bits and pieces and offer them to the men, or my sons that might be joining me around the hot fire.
This seems to have become a bit of a thing as now I have some that come expecting it, and I love it!
**I have a distinct memory of preparing a fried turkey for a gathering of men from the church and around the community at my home. I had just brought the, (garlic and jalapeño butter and IPA beer injected), deep fried turkey into the house and placed it on the cutting board to carve it, and the men descended upon me and the turkey and began dismantling it faster than I could carve it… (In this particular case I don’t think one piece of turkey made it to a plate!) Within what seemed like a matter of seconds the whole turkey was nothing but a pile of bones and all the men gathered had very satisfied smiles stretched across their faces as they proceeded to pull away from the table and head back outside for their pipes, cigars, and various drinks.**
Just last night, after we arrived home from church, my wife pulled a slow cooked piece of brisket, dripping with delicious juices, from the crockpot and placed it on the cutting board to be shredded and chopped for some brisket tacos. While she tried to cut and pull and shred, my kids and I were gathered around the table ravenously snatching up every juicy bit we could quickly get without too much risk of being cut by her giant carving knife.
And there is only one thing better than the first bits that come off of a big cut of meat… that’s the little bits of gristle, fat, and small chunks of meat that get left behind after the cutting! While the girls all stepped away from the table last night when my wife pulled the last of the brisket off the board, my son and I waited, poised like a couple of professional scavengers, to pounce on the left over bits on the cutting board, vying and competing for the best morsels, groaning and laughing when one or the other would get a prized piece.
It is not the meal. It’s not the main course. It is not meant to replace or even compete with what has been prepared for our nourishment, but to be quite honest, it’s one of my favorite parts of a well cooked, and home prepared meal. Something that you miss at restaurant or if you only show up to a dinner once everything has been prepared. Obviously, there is a time and place for everything, but I know I have truly been welcomed when I am invited to join in the pre-meal tasting of the best bits.
My wife may not share my sentiments, and perhaps what I have described is tilted a little in the direction of a somewhat distinctly masculine pleasure and behavior, though not exclusively so. No, for her, the experience of the meal is not truly complete until the dinner itself has been cleaned up and a fresh brewed cup of tea and some biscuits or some dessert has been brought to the table. Her whole posture and demeanor changes and she relaxes and I can see her breath start to come a little more freely. I love seeing her in that state! Don’t get me wrong, I love my tea and dessert too, but my best meals are finished off by good conversation over a pipe or a cigar and something delicious and a little stronger in my cup.
These are what I call the good bits. They happen before and after the meal itself. Again, not intended to replace or compete, but certainly to complement the whole experience. It’s why the whole, “I hate to eat and run!” thing is even a thing. Because the preparation and clean up of a meal, and the afterglow of enjoyment and contentment is a part of the whole experience and it is where you get to share and enjoy the “good bits.”
What in the world does this have to do with reflecting and musing on the Lord’s day?
I am glad you asked… Let me explain.
As I observe the rhythms of everything that takes place on the Lord’s day, in all of the preparation for the actual service and the clean up that follows, I see people sharing and enjoying the “good bits” together. So much that they experience on the Lord’s day in the peripheral moments that are related to the service but aren’t the service itself are filling them with a much deeper, broader, and honestly more enjoyable experience. Sweet morsels before and after the service that are not the “meal” or the “main course” and are not meant to replace or compete with it, but are certainly a bonny boon to all who partake and experience it.
It happens in greetings and handshakes and hugs, in stories and jokes that are shared relating the events of the past week or just for laughs and entertainment passing the time as individuals share in the “chores” of the “house” getting ready for worship on the Lord’s day. It’s in seeing the little children run and play together and the older kids sitting around and having their own times of fellowship and enjoyment. It’s in praying for each person that will receive communion at the Lord’s table as you pour the wine or prepare the table. It’s in asking for God’s blessing and provision for the body as you lay out the table for prayer cards and the offering box. It’s in asking a fellow brother or sister for prayer, (in person, IRL), and having them grasp your hand or place theirs on your shoulder and having them pray out loud, right there, on the spot, beseeching the Lord on your behalf, (so much better than getting a praying hands emoji 🙏in a text message) and then turning back to help set up the rest of the chairs. It’s both in stepping in to help where you see work needs to be done but also in setting the work part aside when you see that a brother or sister may need to talk or pray. It’s working and serving, side by side and face to face, with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ out of love for God and the rest of our brothers and sisters who will be worshiping with us on that day. These are the good bits… and there is enjoyment not only in experiencing them for yourself but in seeing others enjoy them as well.
Make no mistake, just like when preparing to share a meal together, there are times when preparing for worship that you can have crisis moments and even conflicts. Things don’t work the way they are supposed to or someone thinks something should be done one way instead of another… but working through these things together only strengthen the bonds of unity and peace and build the foundations of trust and security when we know that we can disagree and resolve things or work through problems and crisis circumstances together.
I think this is at least part of what the scriptures mean when it says,
When Brothers Dwell in Unity
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (ESV)
And if you just, “eat and run,” on the Lord’s day, you may have got the meal, but you missed out on all the good bits, most especially the relationship building moments that come from spending time with your christian family. Unity that exists because it is never contested, really isn’t unity, it’s just the absence of contention.
All these little things add up into forming relationships that are only strengthened through the rest of life that happens outside of the Lord’s day. At missional community, or in informal meetings and events you schedule with each other for fellowship and enjoyment.
Like any metaphor it breaks down, but for me today, it’s working, and we do gather each and every Lord’s day for a feast, around the Table and around the Word, and we are meant to share in it all together. I don’t want to miss any of the good bits… How about you?
Have a great week, see you on the Lord’s day!