You can’t advertise an open house and then be irritated when unexpected guests show up. Several weeks ago I wrote about the interlopers, a couple cats who now eat the food we originally began to set out for one specific cat, who doesn’t visit us much anymore. A couple other cats have joined them and there’s at least one very well-fed squirrel frequenting our back yard.
There’s one of the cats I just don’t understand. This black and white ball of fuzz scampers off the porch and to the perimeter of the yard every time I open the door. We haven’t knowingly done anything to chase it off, and it watches its companions continue to eat and even let us pet them on occasion. Sometimes I crouch down and try to coax it to come to me: “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you. Come on over.” It’s never worked. More often than not the attention seems to upset it rather than soothe it. Some days I find this irrationally irritating. I’m feeding you. I’m speaking nicely to you. Why aren’t you conforming to my expectations?
At the end of the day I can only conclude that whatever this cat has been through has rendered her (him? I can’t get close enough to tell) incapable of showing me affection – or at least gratitude – as I would like to experience it. But she (he? doesn’t matter anyway…) shows up faithfully, and will stare at me from the edge of the yard when the bowl is empty. The cat didn’t change, but my attitude toward it did. That’s on me.
Faith communities can be like that. We set out the Lord’s Supper and say all are welcome. We are happy to see you at the table. We invite you to participate more fully. When you decline to do so, we can get a little irritated. Why aren’t you as excited as we are about the potluck, bake sale, or mission project? Why aren’t you using your gifts (which are often really the gifts we project onto you) to better serve the community? Why aren’t you on board with this fabulous new worship style? After a while we lose sight of why we set out supper in the first place. That’s on us.
We don’t know everybody’s story. No one’s struggles are the same. Something that seems natural or easy to me might be the most terrifying thing in the world to you. Most people are intimidated by public speaking, but I’d rather address a crowd of hundreds than make a cold sales call; my work teammate can network with strangers all day long, but gets nervous in front of a small group of co-workers. People wrestle with anxiety, histories of abuse, depression, and invisible disabilities. Showing up for supper may be the bravest, most difficult thing someone does all day – maybe all year. It may require their maximum effort. Shining a light on that may be the last thing they want us to do. Coaxing someone to participate in a way that makes sense to us may drive them out of the yard entirely.
You don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectations to participate in the Lord’s Supper. The invitation was issued by Christ; we’re just the caterers. On the back porch or in the middle of a beautiful sanctuary, it’s our job to serve everyone.
May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.