Common Table

Dec 04

What Does It Feel Like To Wait? Advent Week One

Liturgical Raking

by. Mike Stavlund

Today we begin another Advent, another season of restraint and wait, of delayed gratification, of waiting and longing for deliverance and salvation.  It’s a nice antidote— a kind of gentle resistance against the rampant consumerism and competitiveness and rush-rush-rush that seems to prevail in this season.  Advent reminds us that we are more than our shopping, more than agile animals who can hunt down stuff and drag it home.  It is a time to slow down and wait to be humane again, and not simply human.   

Yet for some of us, more deeply in places we’d rather not admit, Advent is another season of wondering if this deliverance we’re waiting for has ever come, will ever come, is actually on the way.  Experience a couple of advents, and you start to wonder if we’re not just hamsters in a wheel.  Has our deliverance come and gone, leaving only absence in it’s wake?  

But I’ve got this rake, see?  What a beauty. 

I waited for it for years, and it came to me when I wasn’t looking for it. One rainy Saturday in October, I dragged my kids to an estate sale. They are savvy enough by now to know the real reason why:  ”Daddy, look, a Weber grill!”.  It’s out on the deck, but there is no need to go see it because it is a gas grill.  

So we check the kitchen naturally, and the dining room for cool serving platters.  And then of course the garage for tools.  And there it is, leaning against the wall.  The son-in-law says 3 dollars before he even asks me what it is.  What I tell him is that it’s a de-thatching rake.  What I don’t tell him is that it’s worth at least 10 times that.   

So I’m happy for the bargain, and giddy that it’s a Craftsman, from an era when hand tools were much more special.  An era when graphic designers worked on wooden desks, and typography was something that some person *made* with their own hands.  

Just look at that logo!  You can have your picture taken with it later.

It’s another piece of Americana for my tool collection.  I’m happy at what it is, but even more for what it represents:  the fulfillment of my waiting.  When I assumed ownership of a lawn 4 years ago, I knew I needed a de-thatching rake, but I refused to pay full price for one.  And now here it is.  It’s like a sharp comb for the lawn, cutting out crabgrass tendrils, rooting out weeds, teasing out dead blades of grass and broken bits of leaves.  Leaving behind green shoots of grass, healthy and seemingly grateful for the soothing scratch.

My new rake moves with efficiency, collecting a full tine’s worth of dead stuff in just a few strokes, and depositing said detritus with a flick of the wrist.  It is the right tool for the job, worth the wait and appreciated all the more because I’ve been trying to hack my way through the same job with a common garden rake for several years, swinging and jerking and yanking and grunting.  But this thing?  It is elegant and efficient and beautiful.  

You don’t really appreciate driving a Benz until after you’ve done some time in a Chevy.  

There is something deeply satisfying about finally getting the proper solution in your hands, you know?  It makes all of that waiting seem a lot less onerous, and the fulfillment of that expectation that much more sweet.  

At the same time, it is work.  

My arms get tired, hands get calloused, and my back is a bit stiff. Pull, pull, pull, piling up a berm of bad stuff that’s been choking off the lawn all season.  Displacing what is detrimental and making space for something better.  Making room for light and rain to get in there and encourage some new growth.  It is beautiful, and it is efficient, but it is not easy.  Not by a long shot.  

The dirt that is left is dark and cultivated to a perfect consistency to receive some grass seed.  It’s probably not great botany, but it seems like good liturgy to plant some seeds.  Even in the cold, and even in the darkness that prevails at this time of year. My kids and I walk through the area, hands full of grass seed, flinging it around.  

It won’t grow this fall, probably, with insufficient heat and light. It’s getting too dark these short days.  And it certainly won’t grow this winter, when the dirt is frozen and the rest of the grass is brown.

So we know that we are waiting, and hoping, for what will come after the darkness.  Even in the coldest, darkest time of year, we sow seeds of hope, for we know that hope is right. 

Waiting Liturgy/Advent Trees

We’d like to lead you through a waiting exercise.  An exploration of waiting, and of the feelings it evokes.  An honest pursuit of healthy waiting this Advent season.  A chance to sit and wait and explore the space of waiting.

What Does it Feel Like To Wait?

by Stacy Stavlund & Mike Stavlund

We invite you to respond to these vignettes, by  writing a word or phrase on a star, and then hang it on the advent trees on the tables.   

 » You are waiting for a train.  The sun is bright, but the air is cold, so you are smelling the crisp air and feeling its sharp sting on your cheek.  You are also smelling the perfumes and colognes and scents of the people crowded around you, also waiting.  Everyone going in the same direction, but to different destinations, and for many different reasons.  

 What does it feel like to wait? 

» You are waiting in line.  There are a lot of people here, and everyone is waiting for their turn.  Your feet are hot, and your legs are getting sore.  You’d like to distract yourself, but your phone battery is really low and you don’t want it to die on you.  You’d rather be somewhere else.  Or failing that, you wish that everyone in front of you were somewhere else.  

What does it feel like to wait? 

» Let’s sit with Elizabeth, the elderly, expectant mother of John the Baptist, and the future auntie of Jesus.  After a lifetime of waiting, she hears wonderful news— she will bear a son! Finally! It’s a miracle, and one which lights up the gossip all over town.  But it is also more of the same:  waiting.  She waits now for her son to be born, knowing that she will then wait many years to see the fruit of his life.  

What does it feel like to wait? 

» You are sitting in the waiting room of a health clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital.  Maybe waiting to hear about a loved one, or waiting to hear about some test results.  Trying not to think the worst, but trying not to assume the best, either so you can be prepared.   There are a lot of people here, all seeming to look right through everyone else who is here.  Everyone’s mind is somewhere else.  

What does it feel like to wait? 

»  Imagine you are sitting with Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth.  Who completely lost his voice when he doubted that his wife was pregnant in her old age.  He too has waited a long time, and now he waits  until the time that his voice will return and he can begin to talk about what has been on his mind for months— the joy and fear and amazement and confusion and questions.  He really wants to talk to someone about what he’s gone through, and what he knows is to come. 

 What does it feel like to wait? 

» You are very hungry, or very thirsty.  Your stomach is tight, and your mind is starting to perseverate on that one thing…  A slight headache is growing, and your brain is slowing down.   You are wondering when you will get an opportunity to satisfy your appetites, and feeling a growing sense of urgency as time ticks by.  

 What does it feel like to wait? 

» We are waiting with Mary, the expectant mother of Jesus.  She waits for her baby, and she waits for the salvation/deliverance that he has been promised to bring.  She waits in wonder, aghast at how she was chosen to bear God’s son.  She waits too for the vindication of her reputation, which has been smeared and questioned and maligned all over town.  A lot has happened, but she knows that a lot more is about to happen— enough to move heaven and earth.  

What does it feel like to wait? 

» We wait with the World itself.  Waiting with expectation, waiting with groaning beyond words, waiting for justice.  For deliverance.  For salvation.  For harmony between creatures and their creator, harmony between people and their planet, harmony between people and their neighbors.  The world is so burdened that freedom and fulfillment seem impossible, but there is this promise of peace, of shalom, of everything in its right place.   

Responses hung on the Advent trees:  

What does it feel like to wait? 

 Like a never ending listening to Christ, who says, “Patience son, I’m here. Wait for me to work.”

Like a lack, loss, and dissatisfaction. Waiting sucks.

I try to find a way to satisfy my longing before then.

A dangerous lullaby that sings, “You’re okay, stay where you are. Don’t change.”

Distraction. Distraction. Distraction.

The only area of life that I cannot control or use logic to control or change or understand. 

Like a scream from a  mountain top that seemingly falls on deaf ears.

I need a hug. 

Anxiety — is it going to be everything I hope it will be? 

Like vindication may never arrive. 

A conversation with myself. A desperate longing to know and to be known. To speak and to be heard. 

It leads me to lose all value in the present. I hate fillers and time wasters. I must be okay with my “now” and my “to come.” 

It’s the yearning for someone you love to arrive. It’s the waiting in a bar, nursing a drink, stealing glimpses of the door. 


Hope is all that is tangible. 

Slow Train Coming 

by. Leigh Finnegan 

Lectionary Reading:  Matthew 24:36-44

Between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is  a very high, impossibly steep part of the mountains. They built a train track over the Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built the tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip.

They built it because they knew some day, a train would come.

The content of our lectionary text for today seems to be about “rapture.” It’s the kind of topic WASPS avoid at all costs, and evangelicals base book series on. 

Rather cryptically, Matthew tells us: "two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left, " and that, " two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

But understand this,” he warns, “if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (24:42-44).

We in the Church sometimes speak about Advent as a season of passivity — a length of time we we have to endure to make it to Christmas. 

On the other hand, the kind of waiting Matthew describes in these verses is active, dynamic, and preparatory. 

God is on the move and we are asked to prepare for Her coming. 

But what does it look like to prepare?

I think it looks like naming the places where we’ve fallen victim to cynicism and bitterness. The ways we have allowed our lives to be pushed by the past, instead of allowing ourselves to be pulled into what could be. It’s being aware of how we’ve been disappointed or hurt by the people around us, who promised us something they couldn’t deliver. 

Advent reminds us that there are things in this world that can deliver on what they promise. 

Advent is about holy expectation. It’s a time for healing our imaginations, about learning how to dream again. 

Advent is a time when we learn how to trust God’s promise that another world is possible. 

And if we all begin to trust this promise, than a new community begins to develop. I think this is what church is all about. Church is where we come together to model this new reality. We publicly witness to a new humanity.

I don’t actually think Matthew wants us to model ourselves after the “raptured.” Rather, I think he means for us to live like the ones “left behind.” The ones who’ve radically engaged with making the world a better place, because they knew, the Lord was coming. 

Why did they build a train tracks between the Alps before there was a train in existence that could make the trip? Because they knew someday, a train would come. 

As we anticipate the incarnation may we begin to build the tracks, because we know, a train is coming. 

Flash-Poetry Benediction
by Mike Stavlund
the days are short
cold permeates the landscape
ground hard as stone
but we lay the rails anyway
building the tracks to the mountain Kingdom
iron picks driven into hard earth
fires lit along the way
circling around to warm our hands
and dream out loud
about the new reality to come
waiting, and not waiting
come, Lord Jesus, come 
wait in peace
wait in strength
wait in hope

Nov 10


My sister never braided her hair. I remember her with a tomboy haircut—short, often tangled. Dad stayed at home while mom worked—we never matched, my hair didn’t see a comb. Wild—lost in imagination—resisting order.

And so I am attracted to messy things. My sister and I did not learn the same lessons as others—her strong (or so I always think of her)—me, the sensitive child. We laugh about our parents—parents who did not teach us to braid. Who taught us, instead, to imagine something wilder than the lives we had inherited. 
We are being woven together, gently, by a hand that knows when to hold and when to release. To let us run, wild and free. Woven together, beauty emerging, from this distraction or that tangle. 
I don’t know how to braid. How to order. My bedside table, my pillow, my dresser, covered in books and unfiled papers. A pair of basketball shorts and a half drunk glass of water. Pills and change and set after set of keys.
I don’t know how to weave, how to turn the separate threads into something to show, something to warm, something to cover. 
But I know the hand that touches my wild hair and says:

"You are enough."

And I become something other than a tangled knot
- David Hosey

Sep 09

This is a table where:

We get better at loving by tiny increments of grace.

There are sometimes Muppets in attendance.

We fail and learn to grow and maybe fail a little better.

We try to own our shit.

We have to listen to the spirit, never quite knowing if the voice is yours or just the wind, carrying our own words back to us.

Stale bread somehow tastes like redemption.

We look into each other’s eyes as if to say, “me too.”

There is safety and acceptance.

We meet in communion with one another to deepen the awareness of the presence of Christ in daily life.

My expectations are regularly exceeded.

People care, miracles happen, and faith includes fun.

We call God by many names.

We can allow the dust to settle.

We celebrate together, mourn together, and struggle together.

I find myself among family.

We are not only healed, but also recreated.

I can be myself.

All are welcome to a table of grace.

Everything is flexible, unstructured, open, “evolving,” or changing to move towards first church ideas?

We can bring our broken selves.

I cannot control outcomes.

You can share your thoughts and ideas.

We don’t always know what we talk about when we talk about God, but we try.

More is always better.

Nov 04

Perspective & Humbleness

[Service Artifact]

When we look at God’s word, when we spend time in God’s presence, when we talk about God, when we experience God, when we spend time with God’s people, we should ideally start to see things with and from God’s perspective.  We should grow larger, not smaller.  We should be more loving and compassionate, not less.  And we should become more humble. We should understand the universe is less about us, and more about God, and about God’s story that is unfolding.  We should be gaining a Kingdom view.  We should be less parochial.  Walls should come down.  We should come to understand humanity as one – all of us a creation on that 6th day.  Those things that divide us should grow smaller, and even disappear.

Basically a lot of good things SHOULD happen.  But pretty much, historically, THE OPPOSITE is what has actually happened.  Walls have come come up.  Not just between us and them, but within us.  We don’t view the other as equal.  We distrust the other.  Our view has gotten smaller.  More local.  Parochial.  We fight for more than our fair share of resources.  We act like the kingdoms of this world are more real than the Kingdom of God.  We view the other as intrinsically different.  We squabble.  We fight.  We’re small. We’re petty.

Our thesis is that it is not Holy Scripture that is at fault – as Scripture has no shortage of teachings that are meant to expand our way of seeing the world and the other.


"… at the voice of God the earth itself melts" 



Felix Baumgartner's Jump from 128K feet @ Mach 1.24.

Felix reported not noticing when he broke mach (the sound barrier) but he apparently generated a sonic boom.

Tweet  <— click this!


For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.



Space Quotations  <— Read all o’ dem!

When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.

— Frank Borman, Apollo 8, Newsweek, 23 December 1968.

Astronaut Biographies.


Voyager 1.

Pale Blue Dot.

Carl Sagan.

* caution:  includes a short segment from both Twilight and The Notebook.



Featuring:  Maxwell’s equations, and the Calabi-Yau Manifold.

Inspired by Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe.   Footage from Nova.



Hidden seed for this service (never referenced):  Radiolab, Dark Side of the Earth.

Sep 16


Muppet Service Theme

By popular demand (OK, one person), here are the modified lyrics to the Muppet Show theme from this morning’s Common Table Muppet Service.  Yaaaayyyyy!!!

It’s time to light the candles
It’s time to wire the mics
It’s time to get things started
For the Muppet Service types

It’s time share communion
It’s time to sing songs right
All welcome ‘round the Table
With the Muppet Service types

Why do we always come here?
It might be for the food
Or maybe for the friendship
(Although we’re kind of rude)

And now we’ll get things started
[Why don’t you get things started?]
It’s time to get things started
In the most sensational
This is what we call the Muppet…Service!!!

(Blow a horn really loud)

Aug 22

Is God in the abyss? -

By Mike Croghan Is God in the abyss? It’s 1998. I’m maybe a month into my first major clinical depression. I didn’t know it was possible to feel this bad for this long. I’m sitting, hunched, on the floor of the server room at work, where I hope nobody will bother me. It’s been weeks since I’ve had a single hopeful or joyful thought. Weeks since I’ve felt anything but miserable. For the first time in my life, I seriously consider suicide. Let’s say this is never going to get better. Let’s say I’m going to feel this way for the rest of my life…. (Click the title to read more.)

Aug 19

Play Richard Dawkins Bingo - and maybe you&#8217;ll see the Gospel starting to emerge.

It shouldn&#8217;t be a surprise that, as a professing atheist, Richard Dawkins caries those assumptions into his dialogue.  Similarly, as a theist, I bring those assumptions into my dialogue.

But listen to the words he uses, not his sentiment, but the words he uses.  It&#8217;s almost like he&#8217;s trying to out-praise Robert Krulwich&#8217;s take on the universe and God.

(answer key)

Play Richard Dawkins Bingo - and maybe you’ll see the Gospel starting to emerge.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that, as a professing atheist, Richard Dawkins caries those assumptions into his dialogue.  Similarly, as a theist, I bring those assumptions into my dialogue.

But listen to the words he uses, not his sentiment, but the words he uses.  It’s almost like he’s trying to out-praise Robert Krulwich’s take on the universe and God.

(answer key)

The Gospel at the Abyss

Radiolab #6 - Aug 19th 2012

Mar 11

Turn the other Cheek
Wikipedia on Scaler (Fractal) Symmetry
 - Links -
&#8220;Below the fold"
&#8220;Tacos for the Mayer&#8221;
&#8220;Gate Crasher&#8221;
&#8220;Men wearing scarves&#8221;
&#8220;Gene Sharp" 
&#8220;Iraqs Revolution&#8221;
&#8220;Beating Terrorism&#8221;
&#8220;Breaking up Protests&#8221;

Turn the other Cheek

Wikipedia on Scaler (Fractal) Symmetry

 - Links -

Below the fold"

Tacos for the Mayer

Gate Crasher

Men wearing scarves

Gene Sharp"

Iraqs Revolution

Beating Terrorism

Breaking up Protests