Every Table

still-life-379858_1920

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!

Invitation: Prince of Peace, King of the Road

1453047848831

My grandparents were generous people. They didn’t have a lot, especially when they were a younger couple, but any family members or friends present at meal-time were fed. Actually it didn’t have to be meal-time: if you showed up, they offered you food. Somehow Grandma could transform half a pound of ground beef and a can of tomatoes into a meal for a dozen people gathered in their tiny four-room house.

The village where they lived had a nearby rail yard, so it was not infrequent for hobos to drop by asking for food. Today “hobo”can have an offensive connotation, but in the first half of the 20th century hobo culture thrived. Grampa would  tell me stories about how Grandma cooked up breakfast for them, and shared stories and conversation.

Because hobos were a community, they liked to help each other out. Often they would draw discreet symbols on fenceposts or the like to let each other know what they could expect from the owners of the home. One of the earliest symbols was a plus sign or cross (+). This indicated the people in the home were friendly and would be willing to feed you. Over the years these symbols evolved. The cross eventually came to mean: “these people will feed you, but you’ll have to listen to some bible-thumping first … and they might not get to the feeding.” Another sign like a small table (∏) gradually replaced the cross as a symbol for a generous home.

I was almost forty years old when I first heard the term “table theology.” It describes a type of worship that doesn’t focus as much on the crucifixion of Christ as his efforts to bring us together in loving community. Table theology doesn’t exclude the importance of crucifixion – the communion meal at the center of the table symbolizes Christ’s death! – but it promotes his message we are to love one another.

In secular society, the symbol of the cross has similarly evolved. Polls consistently show non-Christians no longer associate the faith and its most famous symbol with radical love and self-sacrifice, but with judgment and exclusion. Sadly that’s often true. Some churches are more concerned with who can’t come to the table (or enter the door, or lead the choir, or preach the sermon) than they are with sharing Christ’s unconditional love. James 2:16 tell us: “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” Being welcome to the table is not a reward, because none of us perfectly deserves it; welcome is a default position because we are all wandering children of God who are hungry, even when we don’t know what for. Sharing this sacred meal opens an ongoing, sacred conversation among a person, a community, and our God. Come in from the cold. Have your fill of the Bread of Life. Tell your friends.

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