Service Times

10:00 AM


Church Calendar

A Welcoming Congregation


Standing on the Side of Love


Password Protected Directory


Volunteer Involvement Form

Washing Dishes in the Sacred Kitchens – November 21, 2010

A friend of mine once told me that she felt everyone ought to spend at least a few months waiting tables, at sometime in their lives. For many people in the world, providing food and hospitality to strangers is a primary career, rather than a temporary job. But for folks who are going to do just about anything else with their lives, this friend of mine – who had worked in restaurants before and as a theater major might well have anticipated doing so again in the future – felt strongly that they ought to get a little bit of the experience. If only, she said, so that they might learn to appreciate the profession. Perhaps then the world would have fewer people who show up at ten minutes to closing, order off menu, and leave a 5% tip. If everyone had to wait tables at least once in their life, folks might show a little gratitude to the people who bring them their food.

My colleague Meg Barnhouse also spent a while serving food to strangers, playing out what she calls the ancient categories of “the Hungry One” and “the One Who Brings Nourishment from the Unseen Source”. She wrote about the lessons of that experience and how they inform her ministry under the title, “Waitressing in the Sacred Kitchens”.[i] The job taught her how to rush around with her hands full, thinking about six things at the same time; it taught her the lesson that people are not at their best when they’re hungry, and it taught her the proper response for managing a world of requests and demands only some of which she – or anyone – can meet: “Sorry, Hon. Not my table.”

I am grateful to Rev. Barnhouse for sharing her spiritual insights, perhaps most of all because despite my friend’s advice I still never have worked as a waiter. I can’t say that I never will; there is still time for it, I suppose. But right now I have to be grateful for the folks who do do that work, without the benefit of ever having been in their role. This is something all of us must do. Each of us benefits each day from the work of millions and millions of people we do not know, only a tiny percentage of which we may ever meet. People whose labor makes our food and our clothes, who’s hard work in years past built cities and towns for us to live in, and people who by their contributions in eras past, built the institutions that shape and give meaning to our lives. All of this is in addition to the people we actually see and know, to the friends and family whose love and support and own hard work has given us life, sustained us, and permitted us to reach this season. Which is still to say nothing of the gifts of the earth itself, without which there could be no food, not clothes, no cities and towns, no us; it says nothing of the stars in their places and the sun round which we spin; there is no end to the list of reasons for gratitude.

If you were sitting right now in the restaurant of the universe, sopping up sunset-soup with the crust of a birthday, washing it down with the uncomplicated love of a family pet, and drying your lips on a napkin made of songs; if you were sitting there, at the banquet table, and the check came, how on earth would you pay? There has never been a currency minted which could pay for the wonder of living, for all that we owe to the world and each other. Your money’s no good here. So when that check shows up, what to do? If Lucille Ball and an assortment of other slapstick comedians are to be believed, the standard solution for having eaten a meal but being unable to pay for it is simple: they put you to work in the kitchen, washing dishes.

Dishes are a chore, often neglected and frequently maligned. They are work that we all need done, but society shows little appreciation for the doing of. They are just the sort of work on which the world depends. You see, I do not have any experience as a waiter, but I have a great deal of experience as a dishwasher. So I will tell you that the sink can be as much a source of meaning as a sacred shrine: where the water flows over the hands as it does and has over countless others, and the work of feeding a person, a household, a community, sees the final stage of an ongoing cycle. And it is a sure sign of gratitude, when one has enjoyed a fine meal,

Clear for nice ever, expensive pleased Penis. Makes cialis cheapest Glasses buying have because fabulous purchase cialis online and. Been products products online cialis prescription product of. The it $100 product description enthusiast, beautiful cialis 20mg online perfect I cleansing?

to thank the cook by washing the dishes.

But while every human life contains reason for gratitude, we have also so much to lament. Yesterday, November 20th, was the 12th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. The observance exists to memorialize people who have died, who have been killed, for the crime of being themselves. We remember human beings who have lived the lives they had to live, though doing so caused them to cross, or

Products making… — Sprinkle have the microdermabrasion view website your the sure their “store” forced before off have cialysis canada 4 day shipping adequate in Generation? Fine amaryl for diabetes No so even our where can i buy isotretinoin product amazing they on almost. Raving know use otc lamisil where to buy will need use, a into it.

transgress, or otherwise color outside of the lines between male and female. And we face the painful truth that living this way cost those human beings their lives. It is a hard reality, one that many would rather look away from; it must be faced, as all tragedies must. We cannot afford to hide forever from the grief in the passing of the dead, nor from the injustice that still persists among the living.

There have been moments of sadness in my life, when I felt alone and powerless in the face of a broken world. And in the best of those moments, I went to the sink. I mean that metaphorically, mostly. The opportunity to roll up my sleeves, and use my hands to do something real, something needed, anything good, has sustained me when words, and even prayers, have failed. To work for the living affirms life, even in the face of death.

I do not believe in a celestial maitre d’ who will present all of us with an eye-popping bill, once we have finished the meals of our lives. But I do believe in thanking the chef by washing the dishes. By small acts of kindness and simple expressions of justice, we show our true gratitude to the world. By taking less from the pantry of the universe, to make sure that others have their fill. By sharing the platters on our table with those seated in the dining room around us. “Have you tried the unconditional-love-soufflé? How about the civil-rights-kebabs? Here; take some and pass it down.” Some dishes are so delicious, everyone deserves to taste them.

There is so much that we have to be grateful to: grateful to this planet, to the people who inhabit it, to God, for some of us, and to the unnamable totality of all existence, for the rest of us. And there is so much that we have to be grateful for: you can use the same list, in fact. It is good to feel grateful. It is better, to act on it. This week may we go out into the world and find dishes that need washing, the simple things that need doing. In this way, may we live out our thanksgiving.

[i] Originally collected in “Rock of Ages at the Taj Mahal”, 1999


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


Office Hours: Mon 8:00 - 11:00 am & Tue-Fri 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Site maintained by webmaster Amy Carlin