Rev. Nathan Loewen asks us to consider: Who are we excluding?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… It was my childhood at holiday meals.
Every year we would go to my granny’s house for the holidays, and every year I looked forward to seeing all of my family. We would gather at her house and we would play football, do puzzles, and make up games. Every year we would also gather and have a giant feast.
This feast was unlike any other. There was turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, bread, corn, and of course pies! We would gather around and pray together as a family and then after loading our plates with food, my cousins and I would make the walk to the kid’s table. Sometimes we didn’t even get a table and just had TV trays. This was a place that we were relegated to because a) there wasn’t enough room with the adults, b) the adults didn’t want us at their table, and c) we were clearly second class citizens when it came to meal time.
If you compare the set up of adults and children, we were sent off out of the kitchen into another room to eat with each other, and I was the only boy for 12 years. We would get a helping of food on our plate and that was it—there was no food to pass around our table, while the big table had food a plenty ready for seconds for the adults. As kids, we missed out. We missed out on the stories of our family. We missed out on full fellowship around the table. We missed out on being included. There was nothing we could do to earn our way to the table, we had to just wait until we became magically old enough and when that time came we weren’t having big feasts anymore. So we missed out.
I remember a story about Jesus celebrating a big holiday feast with his followers. He told them to go prepare the place in an upper room. There they celebrated together, there they told the stories of their lives, of their ministry, and of their faith. Together, without a kids table, without a separate table for “them” or “those” people, they celebrated.
And just like in most family feasts, someone makes it uncomfortable. Jesus spoke up and said the person who would betray him was at the table. Judas couldn’t believe it.
Then in this moment of angst and anxiousness, Jesus took the bread blessed it and broke it and gave it to them, and at the end of the meal he took the cup and gave thanks. This is what we know and celebrate today as Communion, the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper.
It was here at this table, that all are invited. It was here by Jesus that the two table system went away. It was here that Jesus celebrated this great feast with the outsiders, the outcasts, and the oppressed. It was here at this great fest that all were invited to the table. The same table. There were no assigned seats and no seat was better than the other. No one was sent off to the other room. Even Judas had a seat at the table with Jesus. So despite who we are, where we come from, or what we do, Jesus invites us all to the table to celebrate as one.
This is a message that rings true especially in our culture today when so many want to be gatekeepers telling us who is in and who is out. Today we can look across our communities and we know who has been told they are not welcome at the table with us. This is not our decision. We are not the bouncers to the table of God’s love. Jesus has given the invitation that ALL are invited and ALL are welcome.
It was at a great feast when we were all given an invitation to community and love. So in the world today as we encounter others, do we show them love, do we show them Jesus? If Jesus stood up for those the religious institutions were excluding then aren’t we called to do the same? As men of faith we are called not to be gatekeepers but to go out and spread the invitation to everyone that Jesus has invited them to the great table of Love.
So who do you see sitting at the kids table? Who isn’t even at a table? Go and show them Jesus by inviting them and loving them. In a tale of two tables, at Jesus’ table ALL are welcome!
photo: Sharon Mollerus / flickr