HOSPITALITY – DINING AT GOD’S TABLE
Have you ever noticed how much Luke’s Jesus loves to eat? There are more references to eating, banquets, and being at table in Luke than in any other gospel (pastorsings.com).
Our sacrament of Holy Communion comes from this tradition of sharing meals together. During this sacrament, we remember that one of the last things Jesus did before being arrested was to gather with friends and family to eat and celebrate Passover. So, it’s no wonder that those closest to Jesus, who go on to start the fledgling Christian church movement, started every gathering by sharing a meal together and talking about their time with him. Maybe this was also the beginning of church potlucks.
Even today, in our daily lives, we often gather with friends and family around tables.
Why are shared meals around a common table so important?
When you gather at home over a big meal – holiday, or special event
During holidays and special events, who comes and sits around your table?
Today, we hear, how Jesus spends the early part of this particular dinner party watching those gathered. He notices that they are spending a lot of time and energy on trying to maneuver themselves into the best seats at the table. He realizes that even these religious leaders and elite, are caught up in the Roman structures of societal position and trying to get ahead.
I imagine that Jesus shakes his head and heaves a sigh. It seems so easy for everyone to set aside God’s ways as they attempt to secure their position within society. Why is that? Do we do that today? Sure we do.
So, as the food is served and everyone settles down to eat, Jesus seizes the opportunity to speak. He states that God has a very different idea of how things work – then and now. He tells those gathered for dinner that they should be inviting those whom society deems last and excluded; that those individuals are first and included at God’s table, rather than the individuals who can do you favors and help you get ahead (pastorsings.com).
Jesus’ comments seek to urge both the host and attendees toward true generosity, real hospitality that expects nothing in return. He reminds them that God’s ways are very different from societies, and that they belong to God first and for most. Through quoting scripture, Jesus cautions what could happen if they try to take the best seat in the house without invitation to – they will be asked, publicly, to move. Not what anyone wants to have happen. Rev. Rachel Hackenberg quoted Sirach in today’s Daily Devotional for the UCC saying, “Pride was not created for human beings” (Sir 10:18), not even for those who cloak their pride in humility and bad seating hoping to be recognized and invited to a better place at the table.
Jesus also reminds those gathered that they are not to look at others by what they can do for them, but to look and truly see them for who they are in God’s eyes. And as God’s faithful servants, they should naturally seek to help those who have a need – who are hungry, thirsty, and homeless – rather than hanging-out only with and serving our friends, family and others who have plenty or can give us a leg up.
For Jesus, hunger and justice go hand-in-hand. Fred Craddock puts it this way, “Bread (food) was (and still is) important; in fact, where some eat and some do not eat, the kingdom is not present” (Matthews quoting Craddock). The Kingdom of God is present when all have enough, when everyone shares and sees to the needs of others, and when all are treated equally.
Jesus also says, that when we see and meet the needs of others, we will be blessed.
What do you think that means?
How are you blessed by helping others – by participating in our food support programs for the Northeastern Food Bank and packing bags at Hayshire Elementary?
Hayshire professes to be, and wants to continue to be, a place of extravagant welcome for all people. Terms like Extravagant Welcome and Radical Hospitality are often used interchangeably. Gary Peluso-Verdend reminds us that the Greek word for “Hospitality” is philoxenia, which means “love of the stranger.”
Are we providing an Extravagant Welcome, offering Radical Hospitality – are we loving others in our surrounding community?
I believe we “love” very well when we can collect things for others, or do things from a distance. But how well do we do when people come to us? How are we at initiating that radical hospitality – seeing the need and meeting it – outside our walls and with people we don’t know?
Jesus’ rule of thumb for the Kingdom of God etiquette and banquet dining practices was not just for his own time. It is still a teaching that we should be putting into practice today.
What would the world be like if we spent more time sitting down together and sharing a meal with those we don’t know, or don’t agree with, rather than fighting and saying hateful things about each other?
My friends, God’s table is about relationships and peace. It’s about always showing “love” – kindness and compassion – to strangers and making them friends, or at least known acquaintances. It’s about making room for and celebrating the differences in our lives. And it’s those differences that bring such a richness and depth to our world. If we seek to honor those differences and see them as strengths rather than weaknesses, our world will be a better place.
As we come to God’s table once again this week to gather and eat, we do so seeking to embrace the love of the one who gives us life and in whom we are beautifully, wonderfully, uniquely, and fearlessly made.
May it be so….. AMEN
Matthews, Kathryn, “Open Table” bible study and seeds for thought on Luke 14:1, 7-14, September 1, 2019. www.ucc,org/weekly-seeds.
A Pastor Sings, “Where Will You Sit – Sermon on Luke 14:1, 7-14”. https://pastorsings.com/where-will-you-sit-sermon-on-luke-141-7-14/
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