Living by the Word Column in The Christian Century

April 24, Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 13:31–35
Apr 05, 2016 by Emlyn A. Ott
I have powerful memories of the days before mandatory seat belts and car seats, when my brother and my sister and I would jockey to sit in the front seat of the car. Leonard Sweet refers to mothers as “the original seat belt.” Whenever mine slowed down for a red light, she would place her arm protectively in front of the child to her right. That gesture remains a poignant sign. I now do the same thing with my own front-seat passengers. In this era of reinforced, quick-clicking, chest-protecting strips of metal and plastic, that protective arm still means love to me.

Most of us have memories of actions that bring to mind a deeper connection or reality. An embrace, a look, a quality in a voice, a gathering around a table. “Watch what people do,” said family systems guru Murray Bowen again and again, “not what they say.” An outward gesture of care is the culmination of words made flesh and ideas put into action. It is one of the constant challenges for hopeful Christians, shaped by Good Friday and attentive to Easter: How do we engage in actions that demonstrate what we believe?

Each Thursday night in our seminary community, an open table is shared. Bexley Seabury—an Episcopal seminary with which Trinity Lutheran Seminary has shared a campus and a teaching ministry in Columbus, Ohio, for 15 years—opens its kitchen, offices, tables, and chairs to invite everyone in the combined community to share a meal. Known as “Common Meal,” this Thursday night ritual began as a celebration of the transition from formal classes during the week to the weekend focus on formation and fieldwork.

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