A Series on Love, part 10
Jesus sits at the head of a table that serves life. The symbol of Jesus’ table is the bread and wine of His sacrifice. Jesus defines a different set of table manners for His table and it’s not the selfish and self-interested culture of worldly society. Jesus openly calls and welcomes people society rejects. He provides access to himself, He’s not exclusive. His table manners are the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The nature of Jesus’ table is found at the conclusion of the Prodigal son story in Luke 15:23-24; “And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Jesus’ table is one of calling, repentance, redemption and rejoicing over the Grace of God. Jesus defined His society by His table fellowship. He shaped the manner of that society by His table manners.
Table fellowship shapes society and defines community. Loners cease to be alone when they come to the table. Outcasts become friends when they are invited to the table. Sitting down at a table declares peace between its occupants.
Obviously we shape society like Jesus shapes society but our tables don’t define who is in Christ, obviously. We shape the table manners and table fellowship of our communities, families and neighborhoods in a finite way because we are finite. But regardless, the tables in our homes should imitate God’s table just as our characters are supposed to imitate God’s character. Do we eat like the world; disconnected, exclusive, selfishly focused on the mere need for energy? Or are our tables hospitable? Do we have open doors welcoming the hungry, tired and needy? Are our tables full of joy and celebration?
Jesus defined the culture of His Table in the parable of the wedding banquet, in which the servants go out to the highways to call in the hungry to join the feast. Wait, am I saying that you should stand on a freeway overpass with a sign or hang out at a bus stop and just ask people over? You could. But we live in a different age with a far more exclusive and excluded culture. To fulfill this principle you can stand at the end of your driveway and just call out to the strangers who live to your right and left. You don’t have to go all the way to the highway. You don’t have to go any further than the road at the end of your driveway. Start with the total strangers who travel up and down the road in front of your house every day. Gather people around tables that are full of joy and feasting. There’s grace in God’s daily bread and that is expressed to anyone who gathers around a table where God’s grace is lifted up. If we are humbly repenting of our sins and seeking the Holy Spirit then we are aware of the cost and grace of our salvation. I am not saying that you talk incessantly about doctrine and the bible. But gathering your friends, family members and the strangers that live next door to you, around a table that is filled with thanksgiving and not grumbling, a table of joy and laughter will shape the culture of your community through blessing, sacrifice and love.
We live in a secluded age. I eat at my house and you at yours and our neighbors at there’s. We don’t have an open door policy. What would you do if a family you know showed up unannounced to your house to join in for dinner? That’s offensive right? You’d let them know that wasn’t ok. I would. There are boundaries. Who would we be acting like? God or the world? How did Jesus treat people who interrupted him? Jesus had the most important job in history and He did not begrudge people who interrupted Him out of their need. The friends of one needy guy cut holes in the ceiling of someone’s house to get at Jesus and Jesus served and healed him. He didn’t tell those needy people about boundaries. He fed them grace. Do you think the person whose house it was cared more about the roof and the inconvenience or that Christ’s name was glorified and Christ’s culture of selfless service was demonstrated? Love is outward focused and our tables must reflect our allegiance to love. Are our tables, tables that rejoice over Grace received?
Jesus defined His society by His table fellowship. He shaped the manner of that society by His table manners.
Peter Leithart commented in Blessed are the Hungry; “Seeking and finding the lost is closely entwined, in Luke’s gospel, with feasting. Jesus sought out small people for the specific purpose of inviting them to share a table with Him. Around His table gathered the dregs that Jesus formed into His new community. The feast, further, displayed the character of the salvation that the lost would receive, the new shape that Israel was assuming in Jesus’ ministry. The Israel of Jesus was not to be a spiritual elite. It was an Israel constituted of the humble and contrite, an Israel of repentant publicans and harlots, an Israel that included many from east and west.”
The church’s society, our community is shaped around a table of feasting where Grace, the Spiritual fruits and service are heaped up in abundance. We are God’s children and we gather every week around this table of feasting that shapes and molds us. This table of Grace and rejoicing. Let your table imitate this Table. Let it shape and mold you and your table fellowship. The table is not about eating for energy or basic sustenance but about giving thanks and enjoying God’s abundance as a community imitating the table manners and fellowship of Jesus. It’s about taking the spirit of this table into the world and imitating its fellowship and manners.