The Sabbath Table was project I completed for a class here at The Seattle School in my first term last fall. This school encourages students to think wide and wild in the search for connections between theology, culture and psychology - and this project was just that exercise for me. It represents the most creative of my thinking last fall that draws together cultural listening, creative design, and spiritual theology.
In the poem which I engraved and inlaid with gold tinted resin, I sought to capture the profound invitation to rhythm and repetition that in inherent in all of creation - particularly in the rings of a tree. As I built this table I had in my mind a Eucharistic community that I hope one day to lead. I said to a friend just shortly after I finished the table, "I have the table, but I don't have the community!" Quite literally, I have started with the table - the eucharist table. This is a lesson to myself, which I also hope to lead others into; that in our theology, in our creativity, in our design, in our listening to culture we must always start at the eucharist table where Christ calls us to be his very breath, body and blood.
The engraving reads:
Every tree is a declaration, every ring an invitation.
Creation is guided by the rhythm of season and it will be no other way. Attend often to the table, attune to the Rhythm of Sabbath.
Similar to the table I created for my friends back in Chicago, this table sits atop a table leg I designed called "South Line." The juxtaposition of the urban table leg and the eucharistic poem engraved on the top of this table represent for me the stark juxtaposition which is the Euchastist meal.
Below is a short two-page paper I submitted with this project:
The first iteration of the Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20. Within, is God’s direction to keep the Sabbath. Israel is told by God, via a transcript from Moses, to keep the Sabbath because God first kept the Sabbath. They are to rest from work and remember [Zakar] the Sabbath day as God’s design for creation. In their re-membering, they re-establish and re-build the Sabbath experience every seven days. They build a temple within time where they practice playful delight, lavishly experience the Earth’s goodness with food and relationship, and reverently respect and acknowledge each other, the other, and the creator above it all who set the created order in motion.
As an element of the created order, the Michigan Ash Wood tabletop is crosscut showing 68 years of growth rings. Being that it succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle in 2012, the rings date the tree to its germination in 1944. Each ring on the tree is a memory of the spring and summer growing seasons followed by harsh stagnant winters at my Dad’s lake house on Look Lake in Crystal, MI. It is also an open declaration that all around us every tree abides by seasons of growth and rest and holds within them a delicate record of recent seasons past.
Season and repetition are peculiar things to humans. We resist them, complain about them, and welcome them often all the same. It amazes me how my memory of winter seems to fade into gray-scale just as it comes back around and I find myself welcoming the first snowflake of December with joy and delight. Then, just as all hope of sunshine is beginning to fade and I am cursing the slow laden ground, the first sun-fueled thaw of late March pervades. It is as if our memories have the propensity to forget just fast enough that each season feels new without being totally forgotten. Trees are brilliant catalogs of season. When cut and finished with care they serve as lifelong companions in our living spaces that remind us the world does not exist on a linear track. Rather, the real and tangible world moves with a fluxing heartbeat rhythm of work and rest.
Sabbath, is a special kind of season. Different then the rest of winter as observed by a tree, Sabbath is a weekly rest for women and men. In the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, Israel stands on the precipice of the Promise Land as they are re-told the Ten Commandments. Here, Israel is invited to Observe, [Shamar], the Sabbath because God liberated them from Egypt. This re-telling of the Sabbath command is focused on observing God’s work in Humanity.
In the Christian life, there is no experience more poignant and truthful than the regular invitation to the Lord’s Table. The Eucharist has been and is for good reason essentially incorporated into most Christian Sabbath traditions. As I experience it, the Sabbath Eucharist is one that calls me out of the modern economy and Millennial ego and into one of remembering my sustenance as provided by the creator.
To capture this invitation within modernity, I placed the Eucharist tabletop on a steel base, which draws nuance of Chicago’s El train public transportation system. The city of Chicago is intensely important to me. It is a fountain of curious thought and eye-opening ingenuity from which I owe a great debt. Yet for all of it’s ideas, innovation, and opportunity, Sabbath is a stark and saving contrast to the rush and bustle of urban modernity. Sabbath rest, truthful awareness of the created order and its seasons, and sharing the Lord’s meal are my impetus for building a Eucharist Table because I am in need of this essential rhythm.