Purple lunch box in hand, I follow my classmates into the gigantic fluorescent-lit room full with the sound of chattering nine year-olds. The smell of corn dogs and ketchup make my already squirming stomach begin to churn. Panic overwhelms me as I scan the long wooden row for an available blue disk-like seat near a friendly(ish) face. Groups of boys playing pokemon and girls whispering secrets curve together with backs facing out- a barrier that is too difficult for me to overcome alone. Bravely, I find a place only three blue disks away from the trashcan, pull out my turkey sandwich and silently pray, “God, help me make a friend.”
I want to talk about The Table. Not the one my 3rd grade self longed to find a seat at or the ones in our homes that we invite friends and family to dine at. I’m talking about that fabled, preverbial Table that we’ve heard so much about. As Sarah Bessey puts it,
“It’s the Table where all the decisions are made. Gatekeepers surround it, all reading the same books, spouting the same talking points, quoting each other back and forth, vilifying or mocking their straw men and women. It’s the Table where coalitions and councils metaphorically sit in swivel chairs to discuss who is in and who is out, who is right (usually each other) and who is wrong (everyone else)….”
This is the place they talk about when they look and ask “so what do you bring to The Table?” With well prepared lists of accomplishments, awards, and experience we submit ourselves to the scrutiny of those who sit at The Table, hoping and praying that we’ll be offered a seat.
Experts and leaders of the different parts of our world stake claim of certain portions of the table. Artists, business people, educators, athletes and the like stake flags in The Table and create standards for seating. Innevitably, with so many conditions, there is not adequate space for all to be heard. Thus, many are silenced.
The Church is not immune to this condition. Our leadership sit around The Table and talk amongst themselves about which sins can be allowed and which are simply inadmissible. A pornography addiction is common enough to be forgivable, but out-right cheating on a spouse is unacceptable. They might decide that a woman is allowed to do the dirty work of changing diapers in the church nursery and scrub pots after luncheons. She may even be permitted to lead a certain area of ministry as long as we’re careful to call her a “Director” and never “Pastor.” The man and woman who live together outside of marriage are quietly chided or maybe completely overlooked while a homosexual person is made to feel unworthy to serve or even be a part of the family because of their relationship.
Hear me say, I do not believe that moral relativism is an adequate substitute for the Word of God. Hear me also say that I am a young woman who has sorrowfully witnessed many other Christians respond to our world in indifference, ignorance, fear and hate and do it in the name of biblical morality. How did we get here? Have we forgotten the words of Jesus, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
“A new commandment I have given you: love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
Do you think the mothers and fathers of our faith who fought against slavery stopped at Ephesians 6:5 and said, “Whelp! Looks like God is pro-human slavery!” Certainly not! They kept reading. They didn’t settle to for a modern-day that merely imitates the ancient culture in which the Bible was written. They pressed into the heart of God. They searched the scripture and followed the Spirit toward a world that glints and glimmers just a little bit more like the Kingdom of Heaven.
Sisters and brothers, hold fast to God’s saving Word, but please do not neglect to make room at The Table. Lean in and listen. Hear the plight of the oppressed. Peer into the heart of the sinner and not merely their sin. In humility, consider others above yourself, your theology or your political agenda. Look up from whatever meal your eating and see Jesus jumping up and down on top of The Table yelling to our broken world, “THERE’S MORE ROOM! THERE’S MORE ROOM AT MY TABLE!”
I unlace my fingers and readjust the velcro on my purple lunch box. I take a deep breath and look up. A girl teeny tiny blonde girl called Amanda clears her throat and asks, “Is this spot taken?”
“No, there’s room at this table.”
photo taken from: (http://asimplehaven.com/31-days-of-real-simple-hospitality)