There is a Jewish tradition of leaving an empty chair for the prophet Elijah at the Passover meal – known as a Seder.
It involves a cup of wine, a message of liberation and redemption and the returning of Elijah to his people. A Seder meal also is rich in tradition and the telling of stories that bind people through a culture – and this for the greater good. Apparently, there are other rituals where an empty chair for Elijah is present. Like circumcision.
Sound like a familiar theme?
So much of Christianity is founded on similar themes. While I’ve never heard of an empty chair in Christianity, but Jesus did say “where two or three are gathered”. And there is the concept of an open table, very similar to the Seder. I once led a weekly faith group that lasted three years where we left an empty chair for Jesus in honour of his words that where two or three were gathered, it would be as if he were there too so we had better be mindful of his teachings and his Spirit.
Religious stories are fading at the moment, but the concept of the empty chair endures.
The empty chair – not just a religious metaphor.
The empty chair is also technique from Gestalt therapy, which is essentially founded on finding a way to move through your struggles so they propel you into a better place. The “empty chair” is what speaks to you to help you figure out what do.
Who sits in it is of utmost importance. So is the heart with which we listen.
As I write this, I am thinking this could be an excellent tool that should not be relegated to religious ritual or therapy rooms. It needs to be in our everyday lives.
Imagine what gatherings of all kinds would be like if we let the empty chair speak more than we did. I wonder – but my gut tells me that things would be better than what we see before us nowadays.
So next time you find yourself in a tough spot, in a tense meeting, a place that is thick with difficult emotion, pull up a chair.
Invite “someone” you trust to sit in it.
Be blessed. Be a blessing.
Rev. Eric Lukacs