Y’all come to the table

“Come to the table.” Those are four encouraging words, especially when you’re hungry for something. Even a bad day can end on a high note when you’re called to the table and something good is waiting for you.

Gathering around the table to share a meal is so basic and natural to spending time with family and friends. We don’t even think about it. It’s what we do. If we want to visit, we suggest a meal around the table.

It’s where we share new or familiar foods. It’s where we celebrate love or grieve the passing of loved ones. The table is where we catch up, tell stories, plan, or share news. The table is where some of our best memories are hatched.

I’ve always loved preparing or sitting down to a beautiful table – beautiful not only in terms of the people and conversation around it, but also the table setting and food.

But for the last several months, my understanding and experience of the table has grown even deeper. I feel almost foolish for not seeing it sooner, as I begin to grasp all the connections between the table and Jesus.

Jesus did a lot of his ministry around the table. He ate with all kinds of people, including those other people avoided. He didn’t just sit around talking about commandments and sin. Jesus loved his friends, old and new, and liked to have a good time. The religious leaders of the day gave him a hard time about it, calling him a “glutton and drunkard.”

A couple of Sundays ago, I heard one of our pastors speak on Bible verses that made me realize Jesus didn’t just teach and build community around the table. He used the table as a metaphor for the Kingdom of God.

Day1 is a radio show. On Sept. 1, our own Rev. Palmer Cantler appeared on the show and talked about “table etiquette” and the Bible verses in Luke chapter 7.

Rev. Palmer Cantler

In Luke 7, Jesus talks about dinner guests who think they’re more important than others. He talks about the importance of inviting people to the table who usually don’t get invited.

Palmer said that Jesus wasn’t really focused on table etiquette or dinner invitations in this Scripture. Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God.

“Christ taught true table fellowship in eating with sinners, inviting himself to Zacchaeus’ house, and sharing his last meal with his betrayer,” she said.

“Jesus teaches the Pharisees that who you invite matters, because the Kingdom of God is more inclusive than our invitation lists. The Kingdom of God makes sure that the hungry have something to eat and the lonely have friends. The Kingdom of God is a wedding where the host invites guests who will fully join in the celebration, not just be able to return the invitation,” Palmer said. (Read or listen to Palmer on Day1.org.)

Since last December, my friends and family and I have hosted a monthly gathering at Norwood United Methodist Church that we call “Dinner Party.” We work hardest to reach out to young adults, but everyone is welcome. We started out with about 20 in attendance (see photo at the top of the page). Last Sunday, 70 people came.

I love doing this dinner, but I nevertheless ask myself over and over, “But why are we doing it?” I could write a much longer, more complicated piece about some of the reasons … but my gut says to just do it and let God handle the purpose and outcome.

Jesus wants us to be friends with him, to come to the table and share our experiences and have a good time with each other. He wants us to invite new people, to “make sure the hungry have something to eat and the lonely have friends,” as Palmer said.

We’re all so worried about the church, our nation and world. I am, too. I’m worried about my family and so many of God’s children. The best thing I know to do is to cook a lot of delicious food, invite a lot of people, and say, “Y’all come to the table.”

You may follow this blog or receive it by email at the blocks provided below. You may contact me directly at annettespence@holston.org.

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