Author: Danielle Kemp; National Director Strategic Church Partnerships; Alpha USA
Have you ever noticed that the stories about Jesus in the Gospels usually revolve around a meal? Tim Chester, the author of “A Meal with Jesus,” writes that “Jesus was either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.”
Jesus revealed the kingdom of God by welcoming to his table men, women, the “unclean,” the sinners – those who had been formally excluded from the life of the synagogue. He sat beside the poor, the blind, the enslaved, the oppressed and the marginalized – the different, the “other.”
Jesus invited those on the margins to the table, allowing interruptions at elite parties, empowering women to learn and lead, stopping church services to heal the sick, allowing himself to be touched by the unclean, sitting down amongst the common people and sharing God’s heart for the poor and the mourning. By doing this, he not only put himself and others in proximity to those in need, but I imagine that he did this in hopes that they (we) would see how he treated the burdened and battered – how he loved them and gave them worth, so that we might follow his example.
In a culture that was committed to power, status and religious exclusion, Jesus practiced radical inclusion – that’s the power of the table.
Of course, these days, I mean “table” metaphorically – “table” means creating space where people feel accepted and not judged, no matter what they believe, who they are or where they come from.
I think Henri Nouwen said it best when he described hospitality as “the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place” (“Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life”, by Henri J.M. Nouwen).
When you create an environment where there’s always room at the table, people feel comfortable to come just as they are. They can know they are free to process their thoughts, beliefs, experiences or pains in a nonjudgmental, non “ulterior motive” environment. It’s a place where someone feels they belong, and it’s at this table where people can meet Jesus, encounter the Holy Spirit, and be transformed by the love of God.
Jesus came to Earth to live as one of us, to impart certain traits and qualities and to show us that the kingdom of God is revealed by how we interact with one another and the world. He came to show us how to be human.
There was always room at Jesus’ table – how about yours?
- In today’s world, we meet and interact around many “tables.” Sometimes they are actual tables, other times they are more non-traditional. What are your “tables”?
- What kind of environment have you created in your home and in your MOPS group? Is it one where everyone feels welcome? If not, what can you do now to help change it?