Your Place at Jesus’ Table

Stories around Tables in Luke’s Gospel

“Blessed are you, O Lord God, King of the Universe, for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad.”
A Daily and Early Prayer of the church (adopted from an ancient Hebrew prayer)

Think about one of the best meals you’ve ever enjoyed. What was the main entree? What did you drink? And the dessert? Now think about the memories around that meal: Who were you eating with? Where were you eating? What was the occasion? How would you describe this experience to a friend? What words would you use to capture the sights, sounds, and smells?

Now think about everyday life around tables. Human beings are the only creatures that use tables when they eat. Most of us sit around tables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner--usually at home, sometimes at work, occasionally out at restaurants, or perhaps over at a friend’s home. Around tables, we share smiles, stories, laughter, and tears. We profess our loves and confess our sins. We make new friends and cherish old ones. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, reports cards, and raises. We console when we lose loved ones, friends, games, and jobs.

The Gospel of Luke, one of the four accounts of the life of Jesus, is a veritable feast of stories around tables. About half of Luke’s Gospel takes place around a table! If Matthew centered on Jesus’ preaching and teaching, Mark on his actions and healing, John on his signs and wonders, then Luke directed us to Jesus eating and drinking at the table.

Over the next three months, we are going to explore the impact that sharing a table with Jesus had on people. Around the table, Jesus welcomed the rich and poor, the young and old, the lost and found, the hurting and hurtful, the rested and weary, the sick and well, the insider and outsider, the joyful and sorrowful, the majority and minority, the up-and-in and down-and-out, the convinced and unconvinced, the reviled and revered, the broken and beautiful--And Jesus welcomes you too! No matter where you are in life you have a place at Jesus’ Table!

Your Place at Jesus' Table

As we move from table to table in Luke’s Gospel, my prayer is that you will discover (or re-discover) both a place to sit and a place to share. Jesus invites you to sit with him at the table, and also challenges you to share your table with others as well.

What might that look like? In Luke 22:19, we have Luke’s rendition of what Christians call Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or Communion: “And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” The beloved pastor-scholar, Eugene Peterson, who now eternally dines with Jesus, in his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, writes that being blessed, broken, and given is at the heart of the Christian story: “This is the shape of the Eucharist. This is the shape of the Gospel. This is the shape of the Christian life.”

God blessed…  God broke… God gave…

To sit at Jesus’ Table is to understand this shape of the Christian life. God blesses us as created sons and daughters of the High King of Heaven. We are bestowed with dignity and worth. We are loved with an everlasting love. We belong to God and thereby, we belong. (Period.) We are blessed.

And yet, the shape of our story involves brokenness. The Christian narrative reminds us that, despite our blessedness, we turned and went our own way--we left the blessing of God and endeavored to bless ourselves. And our efforts to forge our own blessing--to bestow ourselves with dignity and worth--has left (and still leaves) us broken and feeling as if we don’t belong. But God! God was able and willing to become broken to heal our brokenness. When Jesus broke the bread, he proclaimed: “Take and eat, this is my body given for you.” We are broken, but Jesus’ brokenness on the cross and on our behalf, introduces wholeness.

Then, Jesus took the bread and the wine and gave it to his disciples. This givenness challenges all of the world’s assumptions about buying and selling; around acquiring and consuming. Instead, we are invited into God’s economy of giving and receiving. God gives. We receive. And then, we give…

To fully understand our place at Jesus’ table is to embrace this givenness: To not simply sit with Jesus at his table, but to begin to share the seats around our tables too.

What might keep us from sharing our tables? Perhaps several things. Let’s name a few of them: Busyness, Laziness, Perfectionism, Unworthiness.

Busyness

In a world where the latest technologies remain at our fingertips, it is easy to get too busy. Our phones allow us to work from anywhere all of the time, and we often do just that. We quickly get over-extended by activities which, ironically, cause us to be under-committed to relationships. Then, relationships become scattered, and our meals mere feeding frenzies. We inhale enough fuel to stay at it, while our table gets cluttered with our work and slowly morphs into a desk. Imagine what a less hurried, intentional life of table sharing might look like. Perhaps there is a weekly rhythm of opening your table to others or you schedule a “common table” that regularly moves from house to house in your neighborhood.

Laziness

Often, busyness doubles as laziness. The busiest people can be intentionally unintentional. They end up making time for everything urgent and not for what is most important. To slough off the slothfulness is to draw a line in the sand and say, “This matters to me!” Sharing your table with others should make it onto that list. I encourage you to consider table sharing as a Christian discipline--right up there with reading Scripture and praying! We need to strengthen the bonds in the family of God, and there is nothing better than sharing a meal in the hopes of doing so. Imagine your table as a central fixture of life’s furniture; perhaps one day people will recount impactful conversations that they shared around your table.

Perfectionism

“The house is a mess.” “I am not a very good cook.” “We don’t even have any art.” “What will they think of our little home?” I get it. The Bay Area is full of foodies. We don’t just know our wine, but we know the vintage, the varietal, the cast, and the terroir. We don’t just drink our coffee, but we insist that it be fair trade, organic, shade-grown, vacuum pressed, and single origin. We bake artisan bread from a sourdough starter that has been in the family for four generations. The olive oil was pressed from olives originating from a particular grove of trees in Israel. And yet, let’s fight against the notion that everything needs to be lavish, exquisite--PERFECT! Instead, let us recognize that simple fare compels others toward hospitality around their tables: “Oh, I can do this too!” Table sharing will multiply when we realize how serving imperfectly is beautiful in its own way. Imagine that moment where a friend gains confidence and opens her table, modeling the simple beauty that she enjoyed at yours.

Unworthiness

We are ashamed of ourselves. I sometimes imagine Moses writing these words in Genesis 2: “Adam and Eve were naked, one before the other, and they experienced no shame.” I then picture him, fully clothed, putting down the pen and struggling to imagine what it must have been like to live naked in a shameless world? We hide. We pretend. We do our best to cover it, but the shame never fully recedes. And yet, in Christ, we are set free from shame! We are not only blessed, but doubly blessed, created as beautiful, but after becoming broken, through Christ’s redemption (re-creation) becoming beautiful again. This is our glorious story! A story that you need to share with others around your table.

Have you ever realized that your shame-scars can become salve for the not-yet-healed wounds of others? People just like you, though perhaps a few steps behind in their shared experiences, need to hear what you’ve learned and about how you have healed.  And your healing will no doubt be reinforced, these sacred conversations a further antidote to your unworthiness.

People that need connection, belonging, forgiveness, confidence, healing, encouragement--whatever it might be--well, they might need to hear about how you experienced a similar need and were met by God’s sustenance. You might need to include some “unsavory” people at your table. People just like you! After all, Jesus was accused of being a “glutton and a drunkard,” because he ate with “notorious sinners” (Luke 7:34).

The most missional place in your life might be your table. Perhaps we should all consider inviting people to dinner before we invite them to Jesus or the church. Might our tables be unique spaces in the cosmos “where shame is starved and grace is served.”

Again, I pray you will know you have a place to sit at Jesus’ table and this would then compel you to readily share seats at your table!

The Appetizers and the Entree

“A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God’s kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.”
Christine Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition.

Over ten thousand taste buds! It is almost as if God wants us to learn something through food and drink! And it is true: everything we put in our mouth should be a foretaste, an appetizer of God’s heavenly entree.

This truth was made clear at the Last Supper as the disciples celebrated the Passover Feast with Jesus. New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, in his book, The Meal Jesus Gave us, writes: “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” Then, after the Resurrection, another meal: Jesus made breakfast on the beach and invited his disciples to dine with him, a glimmer of what will be.

Those moments in Scripture teach us that meals are “thin places,” the Celtic way of describing where the veil between heaven and earth is nearly see-through. As we eat and drink with one another and in the presence of the Spirit of Christ, we eat and drink backward and forward. We reflect on what Christ has done for us, and we anticipate when Christ will welcome us to the heavenly feast that will never end. Isaiah, the prophet of old, saw it coming (Isaiah 25:6): “On this mountain, the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.” On that day when all that is wrong is made right and all that is broken is made whole, there will be an extravagant meal! Everyone you love in Christ will be there. And Jesus will be there too!

Our Journey Together

Date

Text

Title

5/9/2021 

Gen. 2:16; Ex. 24:9-11; Ps. 23:5; Isaiah 25:6; 55:1,2; Rev. 3:20

Eating and Drinking with God: Creation and Covenant

5/16/2021

Luke 5:27-35

A Big Party with a Sketchy Host

5/23/2021

Luke 7:36-50

The Dinner Party that went Sideways

5/30/2021

Luke 9:10-17

The Food just kept Coming

6/6/2021

Luke 10:38-42

Sitting with Jesus

6/13/2021

Luke 11:37-54

Insulting the Dinner Host

6/20/2021

Luke 14:1-33

Rearranging the Seating Chart and Guest List

6/27/2021

Luke 15:1-32

One Dinner and Three Stories

7/4/2021

Luke 18:15-19:10

Jesus Invites Himself Over for Dinner

7/11/2021

Luke 22:1-38

Service, Sacrifice, and Self-Aggrandizement

7/18/2021

Luke 24:13-49

Getting to Know One Another Around Food

7/25/2021

Acts 2:41-47; 4:31-37

The Table as the Center of the Universe

Community Group Conversation Guide

This template can be used each week of the Teaching Series.

Appetizers: Introduction-

  • Each week your group will be invited into individual or collective table practices that you’ll decide upon as a group. Answer the question: How did the table practice or action committed to last week draw you closer to Jesus and more deeply into His mission?
  • Read this week’s Scripture two times through.
  • Pray: Ask God to illumine your heart and prepare your mind for discussion.

Entrees: Questions for Exploration-

  • What stands out to you / disrupts you / grabs your attention in the Scripture? (Everyone who would like to, share. Please take less than 1 minute per person to share as this section is intended to be brief.)
  • How is God’s Word connecting to your life / your work / your neighbors in this moment? (Read this question and then read the Scripture passage again for a third time. Take a moment to ponder the passage. Then, take 1 minute each to share.)
  • As you consider this passage, the people sitting around this particular table and the specific conversations had, how might you show up in this moment? What is your place at Jesus’ table? (Have each participant share some observations and personal reflections.)

Desserts: Questions for Discernment-

  • What themes are arising for the group? How might the Holy Spirit be raising something to your collective awareness? 
  • In light of this week’s passage and theme, what table action or practice is God calling you to that you can commit to individually or collectively this week?
  • Pray for the person on your right.