Invitation: Cross Words


For me, one of the greatest delights in life is wordplay. I’ve heard puns described as the lowest form of humor, but a good pun – whether it’s good because it’s clever or because it’s painfully corny – always brings a smile to my face. My older nephew and I will spend and entire weekend of camping trying to out-pun one another. On my Facebook timeline I created a recurring hashtag for #typosthatshouldbewords. (Regreat? Something you’re sorry you did, but you did really well!) Every day I attempt the New York Times crossword puzzle then read the blog about its construction.

My love of crossword puzzles is handed down. On Sundays I would sit at my grandparents’ big kitchen table and do crossword puzzles with my Grandfather. Joint puzzle solving is a character-building experience. When I was young he was patient with me, letting me figure out (or leading me to) some of the answers he of course already knew. I learned relationships are built on give-and-take, and that you may have to wait a little for someone to understand what seems obvious to you.

Last Sunday was Pentecost, and the weekly scriptures included the story of the Holy Spirit, in the form of tongues of flame, descending on the disciples. Afterward, though they spoke many languages, they heard one another in their native tongues. That got me thinking about how we can use so many different words to mean the same thing.

And in turn, that got me thinking about how the same word can mean many different things.

“Love” is a good example. But I’m not talking about that that romantic versus Christian or agape sense of different kinds of love we hear about in sermons.

Several years ago some relationships at church led us to briefly becoming guardians to a teenager who was working some things out with his family. He and I grew close over several mission trips and years of tutoring, movies, cheap pizza, and long talks. We remained in weekly contact for many years. He’s now a father himself and though I see him less frequently, my affection has not waned.

One of things I learned was that “love” meant something different to him than to me. In my family the words “I love you” come easily (but not cheaply or thoughtlessly). Therefore, it felt natural for me to say “love you, buddy” when we parted or ended a phone conversation. He didn’t reciprocate, and I didn’t force the issue. Some people feel left hanging when they say “I love you” and the person doesn’t return it, but over time I’ve come to believe you shouldn’t say “I love you” if what you really mean is “I want to hear that you love me.”

Now he would say it when he was asking me for something inconvenient: “Can you take me to Game Stop [some 15 miles away]? I love you!” It was half jest, half unsuccessful emotional bribe. He’d also say it to girls he dated – in my opinion far too soon and far too often. I think those were more like hopeful little prayers though: “I want to hear that you love me.”

One day as I was dropping him off at his mother’s place, I gave him a hug and said “Love you, buddy.” I was surprised to hear “Love you, too” but I decided not to make it weird. In the moment, at least. The next time we saw each other I mentioned I had appreciated it. He told me he didn’t say it much because his father would make him say it back when he didn’t feel like it or mean it.

We had learned to solve life’s puzzles very differently. What an invaluable lesson in the power of how the intention and reception of our words can be so distant from one another.

Love-the-word had very different meanings for us, but we both understood love-the-feeling. When he trusted me to pull splinters out of his hand, or rode to summer school in my passenger seat in silent protest but never once defied me about actually going, or burped across the table at me in anticipation of how I would rate in on a ten-point scale, we both understood.

When we tell people Christ loves them, our intention may be distant from how they are able to receive it. Sometimes that distance may feel irreconcilable. Maybe they’ve been mistreated by the church and we represent pain. Maybe they’ve had struggles we can’t imagine and a loving God seems like an impossibility. The list of maybes is endless. Regardless of the reason, if they don’t respond in a manner we find acceptable, our reaction to that response tells us whether we are truly seeking to share the gospel … or seeking validation.

The Gospel is not delivered via scare tactic or data dump: it is delivered via relationship, sometimes in many installments over a long period of time. People need to – and should – get to know us before they trust or believe us. We shouldn’t be offended by that. Sure, you and I know we are coming from a place of love and honesty and feel defensive when someone questions that … but do you believe everything told to you by a stranger or acquaintance? “Actions speak louder than words” has become a tried old cliché for a reason.

Crossword clues can be intentionally misleading. That can be fun for the experienced puzzler, but frustrating for those who aren’t used to the conventions. If we want someone to understand love from the clues we’re dropping, it is more important that they be clear than clever.

If you invite someone’s into Christ’s love and they decline … invite them again a different way. Don’t guilt them. Don’t strong-arm them. Don’t dismiss them. Love them.

Take out their splinters.
Endure their moods.
Laugh with them about the things they think are funny.
Play with the words until they make sense.

As my grandfather grew even older and his thoughts slower, the puzzles became much easier for me than for him. It was my turn to sit at the table and  demonstrate patience, and it was easy because I’d had such a good example, who had shown me solving a puzzle together – whether it be about life, love, or the Hawaiian state bird – is about far more than the solution.

Wait for them, and let them wait for you.
Sit patiently at the table.

In the end, it’s not our words that persuade people of Christ’s love. It’s the limitless grace of God, the enduring nature of Christ’s table.

Not our words, but The Word.

You and I simply choose whether or not to love them enough to speak it in a language they can understand. “I want you to hear that Christ loves you. Let’s gather at this table and start that conversation.”

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Where is bread and wine?


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab / window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Lamentations 2:10-18, 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32, Mark 14:12-25

Maundy Thursday is the day Christians traditionally observe The Last Supper, when we received the gift of communion from Christ. No matter our particular practices and beliefs around communion, all Christians can recognize it unites us across time and place. The significance of celebrating a salvation accomplished through a broken body and shed blood has been contemplated for lifetimes, yet its power and mystery are undiminished.

The book of Lamentations speaks of infants crying “Where is bread and wine?”as they faint weakly on their mothers’ bosom. These elements have been staples throughout recorded history. Their presence represents abundance, and their absence despair. The author, who was referring to physical bread and wine,  probably could not have imagined a crucified messiah. Yet in Christ’s sacrifice abundance and despair are united in a way that assures us the divine is present in all things, even the worst life has to offer. Even sitting at a meal with a friend you know will betray you to excruciating death.

Some days we can’t see the bread and wine.

Where are they when disease robs us of our comfort and dignity?
Where are they when senseless accidents rob us of our loved ones?
Where are they when the world burns at the hands of madmen?
Where are they when children are abused, abandoned, and sold into slavery?
Where are they when depression shrouds our souls in darkness?

They are at the communion table. The Lord’s Supper is powerful because it gives us a taste of bread and wine when we can’t find them on our own. It acknowledges that – right now – life is hard and tragic and seemingly senseless … but because that bread is Christ’s broken body, and that cup is filled with Christ’s shed blood, it reminds us God is present among us – and revealed – in life’s tragedy. Our pain is as real to God as it is to us.

We have been wandering the wilderness for so long we can’t see our way out. For now the bread may taste like ash and the wine like tears, but Lent always surrenders to Easter.

Comfort: God is present with you right now.

Challenge: Today, allow yourself to grieve.

Prayer: God, my creator, make known to me your presence. Amen.

Discussion: What does communion mean to you?

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24/7 Church

calendar-1192688-1599x1227Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 34; 146, Genesis 49:29-50:14, 1 Corinthians 11:2-34, Mark 8:1-10

First century Christians had a different experience of church than altars, organs, choirs, and pews. For safety and other reasons, they gathered in private homes and spaces. Before celebrating The Lord’s Supper, they often had a full meal called a love (agape) feast. Everyone brought food and wine according to their means, and the bread for the Lord’s Supper was taken from the remnants of the earlier meal. The potluck may be one of the earliest Christian traditions.

Paul was disturbed by what he heard was happening at these gatherings in Corinth. Some wealthier members brought a lot of food, but didn’t share it with those who could bring little or nothing. Others were drunk by the time the real purpose of the gathering – celebrating the Lord’s Supper as a community in Christ – could begin. Paul told them whatever these people were celebrating, it certainly wasn’t the Lord’s Supper, because they were in no way honoring the Lord with their mindset or behavior.

Today the agape meal is a far less common form of church gathering, but we are vulnerable to the same types of problems. Participating in communion and worship while we are indifferent to the needs of our neighbors undermines the message of Christ. We may not be drinking wine during Sunday services, but if while we are gathered we indulge our excesses of gossip, vanity, and judgment we are no more focused on Christ than the drunk Corinthians were.

Church is the body we live in constantly. We can’t neglect or abuse the body and expect it to remain healthy. The Sabbath is meant to be a day of rest and worship. Waiting to exercise our faith one day a week is doing exactly the reverse – like sitting on the couch all day Monday through Saturday then trying to run sprints on Sundays – not only aren’t we prepared, we’re doing the body more harm than good. Our week should prepare us for Sunday as much as Sunday prepares us for the week.

Comfort: Jesus is with you all week long.

Challenge: Try to approach every person and situation as if it is a test of your faithfulness. It is.

Prayer: Merciful God, make me ever-mindful of your presence, grace, and will. May my every act be one of worship and gratitude. Amen.

Discussion: When are you on your “best behavior?” When are you not? Why not?

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Invitation: The Bow Lady

Every December, for about the last ten years, some friends and I spend a Saturday volunteering at a Christmas “store” run by a local church for families in need. Parents, grandparents, and guardians can select gifts for children and pick up a Christmas dinner while children do crafts and pick out gifts in another part of the building. Most volunteers are either wrappers or personal shoppers guiding the adults. Since I’m not comfortable starting conversations with strangers, and because I worked in a luggage and gift shop for years, I try to stick to the wrapping.
The first year there, I met The Bow Lady.

She was wrapping at the same table I was, but most of her efforts were concentrated on selecting exactly the right bow to go with the paper. Now every hour each table had to wrap dozens of presents that came in all shapes and sizes – from decks of cards to bicycles. The donated gift wrap was a mishmash of colors, styles, and quality and the bows tended not to stick very securely, if at all. Bows were not most volunteer’s highest priority. Sometimes, knowing they were going to fall off anyway, we just tossed a bunch into the bag to apply at home.

But The Bow Lady wanted exactly the right bow on every gift. Not just the ones she was wrapping, but on mine and everyone else’s as well. At one point she removed the bow from a gift I had just wrapped, and replaced it with one she thought looked better.

“Please don’t do that,” I said, feeling miffed.

She didn’t, but she kept making suggestions and nudging bows toward us before moving on to another table.

Over the years, The Bow Lady has remained consistent in her quest for the optimal bow for every gift. She never seems to stay at any table for too long. She doesn’t seem attached to any of the other little groups from the many churches and organizations who volunteer. I suspect she’s associated with the home congregation, but I’m not sure.

All I know is, she’s there every year insisting you could be better about your bow choices.

She hasn’t changed. But this year – about nine years too late – I have.

It occurred to me, I am somebody’s Bow Lady. I undoubtedly have habits and behaviors of which I am unaware that have irked people for years. Sadly there are also behaviors of which I am perfectly aware that seem baked into my fruitcake; they are unappealing, but I am as yet powerless to change them. Those are the ones causing that little bit of shame; a sense of not belonging. I don’t know whether The Bow Lady is aware of how her behaviors can annoy others, but it can’t be easy not having a table to call home.

All I know how to do is show up and be me, and The Bow Lady knows how to show up and be herself. And she has shown up. Faithfully. For ten years. It took me this long to realize the ministry of the Christmas store – like every ministry really – is about more than its stated mission. We can’t compartmentalize how we show Christ’s love to others. The Bow Lady is not an obstacle or quirk to performing the ministry, because every ministry falls under The Ministry. I need to love her better.

And please don’t get the idea I think it’s only me ministering to her. She has, for ten years, patiently asked me to be more thoughtful about gifts I am wrapping under the banner of Christ. Okay that one time it was not so patient, but never once has she been unkind. She is ministering to me also.

We are all showing up as ourselves, discontent but powerless against our own quirks and flaws, hoping to be accepted, and not as loving as we could be.

But there is a table we can call home. It’s Christ’s table. The gifts prepared for us on this table are perfect and timeless. Christ knows us – warts and bows and all – and welcomes us. And he asks us to welcome each other. Warts and bows and all.

If we can do at Christ’s table, we can learn to do it a little better everywhere. Every ministry is just part of The Ministry.

I hope The Bow Lady is there next December. I think Jesus would like it if I invited her to our table.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Good Luck, Bad Luck, Pot Luck


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11, 2 Kings 22:14-23:3, 1 Corinthians 11:23-34, Matthew 9:9-17

Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians is probably familiar to anyone who has celebrated communion in a Christian church. Paul’s recounting of Christ’s words over the bread and cup at the Last Supper are often called the Words of Institution, and are shared as a priest, minister, deacon, or elder breaks the bread.

In the early church, the symbolic or sacramental communion meal was frequently accompanied by a more literal meal, called an Agape Feast (that is, Love Feast). This meal was intended to be shared equally among everyone in attendance. Unfortunately the intent and practice of the meal soon parted ways. People who could bring the most ended up gorging themselves while others got little, and the wine flowed more freely than it should have. Paul reprimanded the church community at Corinth, reminding them of the purpose for these meals, and to keep their lustier appetites in check.

In modern churches, communion is usually a dignified event, but the tendency for some people to think they have more right to the community’s resources and decision-making because they bring more to the table can linger. In some congregations the currency of influence is literal cash, but it can also be seniority, sweat equity, piety, or other factors. When we have contributed much, we can struggle to remember what it means for the first to be last.

Matthew tells us of another meal where Jesus, much to the dismay of the Pharisees, deliberately sat and ate with tax collectors (Jewish people in the employ of their Roman oppressors) and sinners. Though he owed them no explanation, he said “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Jesus extended compassion, grace, and mercy where the religious – the righteous – would not. At other times Jesus did eat with Pharisees, but unlike the tax collector crowd they needed to be reminded they too were sinners, just a different variety.

When we break bread with Jesus, regardless of the size of our contributions or self-righteousness, we are all equal. Our present fortunes, for good or ill, do not make us more or less beloved by God. We are called not to push our way to the head of the line for the largest portion, but to serve each other. As Paul advised the Corinthians, “when you come together to eat, wait for one another.” Through the waiting we learn grace is not for those who deserve it, but those who need it. And that’s all of us.

Comfort: Jesus calls  not to the righteous, but sinners.

Challenge: Volunteer at a soup kitchen, food bank, or other charity.

Prayer:  Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:20)

Discussion: Do we have to admit to being sinners before we can hear Christ’s call?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Invitation: Resentment


Today I’m angry with Jesus.

Not because of anything he did or didn’t do.
Not because of some disappointment or unanswered prayer.
Not because something bad happened to me or someone I love.

Though something terrible did happen in Charlottesville.

No, I’m angry with Jesus because he wants me to love people. People I can’t find lovable. People who use his name to justify their bigotry. People who hate – or, maybe worse, people who cynically brew a toxic mixture of fear and faith to to poison our hearts against each other.

My sincerely held belief that Christ’s table is open to all is at odds with my limited ability to love.

Being angry with Jesus sounds like a terrible thing for a Christian to admit, but maybe that’s where it needs to be directed. It’s easy to nod on Sunday morning when a minister says each of us helped drive those nails through Christ’s hands … easy to be part of a metaphor that says we all sin. It usually seems abstract. Yet today my knuckles are white from gripping the hammer so tightly.

I am not a fan of atonement theology, yet somehow I still believe in the redemptive power of the cross. I’ve often wondered how that can be. And today I think I get my first real inkling.

This anger isn’t going to simply disappear, yet Christ asks me to forgive and love and do good to those who would persecute me and those I love. So for now, for right or wrong, Christ has to absorb that anger so my mind and heart can be focused on figuring out how to love white supremacists enough to accept them – but never their hate! – should they show up to Christ’s table. I’m too human to not resent being asked to do that. My resentment is a cold, hard spike and it needs to be buried somewhere before I can move toward love.

And that, my friends, is exactly where I pierce the flesh of Christ.

That is where I finally understand how all that nodding on Sunday mornings has been so much lip service. How the cross is redemptive in a very concrete way.

This morning, my invitation to Christ’s table comes from an especially humble place. Who am I, bearing these nails and resenting my savior, to invite anyone? Yet I do, because I believe more than ever Christ’s table is the only place where all the pieces of this story make sense.

The invitation is not actually mine to offer. Christ has already done that. Perhaps the only way we can truly accept it is to pass that offer along when we least want to. For what but love will change us for the better?

All are welcome. All are welcome. God help us, all are welcome.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Between The Lines


When I was a kid – junior high and high school aged – I made money in the summers by mowing grass. I mowed lawns all over the neighborhood. In retrospect I undercharged, so that may have been why I had so many customers. Most places I used my own mower and gas. One day the husband of an older couple only two doors down from my house asked if I would do his lawn. He normally did it himself, but he was laid up for a few weeks because of a surgery. I hauled my mower over got started. Though they were on the same block, their back yard seemed really long, especially compared to other lawns I did. When I was done, he said: “You got everything, but those lines aren’t very straight.”

At the time I was a little confused. This wasn’t a ballpark. By the next afternoon the stripes wouldn’t even be visible. But apparently they were important to him. As a myopic thirteen-year-old with a push mower, those were about as straight as I was going to get them. He hired me a second time, and I slowed way down to get the lines straight as I could. In my mind, it was tedious and frustrating. When I was done it seemed markedly straighter than my previous effort and I asked him how I did. He shrugged and said, “A little better I guess.” I was deflated.

When he asked a third time, I thanked him but told him I had too many lawns to add another customer. To this day, I have no idea why straight stripes with less than a 24-hour lifespan were so important to him, but if I met my thirteen-year-old self I would tell him to stick with it.

In a weird pre-adolescent way, I felt unfairly judged. But in my own way I was judging him. After all, he did ask me back twice, and I was the one who severed the relationship, at least on a lawncare level.

To some people, it makes perfect sense that straight mowing stripes are important. To other people, they will never be important. We’re not going to understand each other on this controversial subject. Yet we all have to keep mowing.

We seem to get stuck on the idea that we have to understand each other to coexist peacefully. Certainly we should make an effort, but sometimes we just won’t. Sometimes we just need to agree the grass needs tending, and deal with each other’s quirks.

As we gather around Christ’s table, we’re not all going to agree on everything. We will feel very strongly about some of these areas of disagreement – we may even think they should be obvious to anyone calling themselves a Christian – but there are much bigger things we need to accomplish together.  Maybe when you’re recovering after surgery and I bring you a casserole, you would have preferred a salad. Maybe when you makes posters for the bake sale, I would have preferred stenciled letters over freehand. So what? In the end we’re working for the same cause.

During the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century, Lutheran theologian Rupertus Meldenius wrote: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” You may have heard it attributed to Augustine … but let’s not make a thing out of it.

Our Essential is Christ’s table. Let’s start by gathering around it freely and charitably. We’ll work the rest out … or we won’t. The table remains.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Fair


Last weekend I attended our local county 4-H Fair. If, like me, you’ve never been an active participant in 4-H, the fair may be your only exposure to the organization. The fair is up for a little more than a week, and most of the vendors, rides, and attractions are part of a national circuit unrelated to 4-H. The heart of the fair – and the core of 4-H – beats in the exhibits of livestock, agriculture, arts, and skills demonstrated by young people who have worked hard all year to submit their entries. While 4-H has more members in urban and suburban counties, rural and farming communities have much higher participation rates.  American rural communities skew conservative in their politics and religion, but the organization itself focuses on values that cross the cultural divide.

For me this tolerance is most evident in the vendors exhibit hall. These groups are unrelated to 4-H, and while the organization doesn’t endorse any of them, it does have final say on who can or can not exhibit. Most of them are completely non-controversial, but you might also be surprised to find some of them under the same roof in Indiana. Local Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties all seem to think it’s a good place to recruit. A Right To Life group, The Gideons, and Planned Parenthood are all present. Event organizers are smart enough not to put them beside each other, but there’s room for all.

Nobody protests or taunts anyone. Everyone seems to understand we are there in common support for the youth and the program. The four Hs in 4-H stand for head, heart, hands, and health and for at least a week we manage to direct them toward the common good without betraying our values.

4-H is not a Christian organization, but it sure sets a fine example of gathering around the table. So many Christian congregations adopt a decidedly liberal or conservative stance – often based on the preferences of the pastor – that it doesn’t take long to figure out “All are welcome” really means “all are welcome … to be persuaded to our positions on social issues.”

Yet we can have wildly varying positions on many controversial topics and still be dedicated to Christ. Instead of splintering into narrower and narrower definitions of “acceptable” Christianity, maybe we could take a cue from 4-H. We don’t all need to stand next to each other on every issue, but we can coexist under the same roof without shouting each other down. We can find common values and use them to help young people become better citizens of both the world and the Kingdom. We can understand the beating heart of the church is in the fruit of the vine and the bounty of the harvest present on the communion table. We can realize letting someone in the door is not the same as endorsing their values … but helps us to live ours.

Our reasons for excluding each other are our reasons, not Christ’s. Let’s gather around the table to hear what Christ might have to say about finding reasons to be inclusive. It’s only fair.

May be the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Cross Traffic

cross traffic does not stop

Over the last few months our neighborhood has undergone a lot of changes in traffic patterns. My street in particular has had many stops signs and streetlights moved or removed. Judging from the number of automobile collisions, near misses, and squealing brakes, “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” is not universally understood. You might assume that legally the responsibility clearly falls on the person who didn’t stop when they were supposed to, and most of the time you’d be right, but in many states the law says if you can try to avoid an accident and choose not to, you are also partially at fault. As I’ve lived on the street for several years, and I am aware of the increased possibility of accidents, you can be sure I slow down as I near problem intersections. Part of me is annoyed that I have to, but a better part doesn’t want my self-righteousness to cause anyone else pain.

Would it be fair to say the church doesn’t always take responsibility for how its own Cross-traffic can sometimes do more harm than good? We can feel fully justified about the course we have set, following the doctrinal rules of the road, but sometimes our determination to move our own agenda forward causes harm. When we are unyielding and someone gets hurt, we tend to shift all the blame to those sinful drivers who would be just fine if they followed the rules.

Life throws all kinds of confusing detours at people. If we are so stuck behind our righteous blinders that we’d rather collide than swerve, we need to take responsibility for the damages.

If we really want to share the gospel, instead of wielding it like two tons of unforgiving inertia,  we need to be aware of where people are. If we insist on being right, yet our rightness wounds or kills them (and bad religion has done plenty of both), exactly who have we saved? When it comes to life, none of us has a spotless driving record, yet when dealing with other people we often seem to forget how we’ve been forgiven and survived to tell the tale. We insist on repentance for sins we aren’t currently committing but remain silent about the ones we are (unless perhaps we protest too much). Offering a little accident forgiveness doesn’t mean we’ve justified the infraction.

If you feel like like you’ve been run over by the church, remember Jesus made many an unexpected left turn to love people he could have bypassed. If you don’t feel safe coming to him, let him come to you. Other people don’t get to make that decision for you.

The communion table is where Cross traffic stops to remember. Where we shouldn’t feel like people are cutting us off, because we shouldn’t be jockeying for the lead.  Where someone may experience their first taste of real love and forgiveness – provided we haven’t closed the road.

To paraphrase an old bumper sticker, “Save a life. Be aware. Struggling souls are everywhere.”

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Every Table


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 15; 147:1-11, 1 Samuel 7:2-17, Acts 6:1-15, Luke 22:14-23

Jesus didn’t seem to miss many meals. He accepted dinner invitations from tax collectors. He ate with Pharisees. He arranged delivery for thousands of people. Twice. He had intimate dinners with friends. He invited himself into the homes of notorious sinners. After his resurrection, he threw a fish fry on the beach.

Certainly his most famous meal was the Last Supper, the Passover meal he ate with his disciples before the crucifixion. From this meal we derive communion, sharing bread and cup in remembrance as Jesus commanded us.

When he arrived for this supper, he told his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Among them was Judas, who would betray him for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus could have called Judas out and sent him away before the meal, but he chose not to. This choice makes a remarkable statement: despite knowing of Judas’s impending treachery, Jesus still loved him so much that he wanted Judas at the table for one last meal together.

Depending on how we understand the accounts of Judas’s death (Matthew tells us he gave back the silver the next day and hung himself), this was also his last supper. An even more final event perhaps, since no resurrection awaited him. Imagine the sorrow Christ must have felt not just because he was betrayed, but because his friend would never have a chance to know that even he could have been forgiven.

While we point to the cross as the ultimate symbol of Christ’s immeasurable love for us, let’s not neglect the sacredness of the table. Not just the communion table, but every table which offers us a chance to love as Christ did; that is … every table. Powerful as it is, the cross is in the past, over and done, making relatively few demands of us. The table is present, sometimes inconveniently so, waiting for us to invite friends, strangers, enemies, and lost causes to experience the common humanity Christ brought to every table.

The cross, though indispensable, remains empty. The table begs to be filled.

Additional Reading:
For more on today’s passage from Luke, see Continental Divide.

For thoughts on today’s reading from Acts, see The more things change…

Comfort: Even when we don’t invite Christ to the table, he may invite himself.

Challenge: Read about the meals Jesus attended in Luke.

Prayer: Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer (Psalm 4:1b).

Discussion: Describe a meal that was especially meaningful to you.

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!