There is a central part of every home. The heart of the household, where everything flows. This area can often tell the story of the people that live there. It can tell the details of the week that has ensued. It bears piles of bills, art projects, shards of homework, maybe some residue from the meal that has ensued or fast-food bags lying stray. This is where all the lifeblood of the home flows in and out from. The kitchen. Some say that the kitchen is the biggest selling point of any home and is the best way to raise its value. The kitchen is an extremely important place. Not only for the financial value, but because the kitchen often, at least in some cases, is where the table resides. If the kitchen is the heart of a home than the table is the beat which pumps life to the rest of the home. It is an important part of life where so much happens.
Our dinner tables are important places in our lives. They are places where we often gather at the end of a long day, they are a reminder of the blessings God has given us as we look at the food which is spread across the table. Yet even more so, the table is a place where our lives intersect with others. These are the places where we gather with our family at the end of our days. We talk about the things that brought us joy, about our struggles, our pains, and our hurts. We invite our extended family for holidays, feasts, and special occasions. Our table is a place to welcome friends, to deepen relationships or to create new ones. These people that we deem as safe, we invite people that we feel like we can trust and bring into the chaos of our lives. Our table is a place where we gather family and friends to partake in our lives in a meaningful way.
And yet while there are people who you invite to your table, there are also people that you wouldn’t generally invite or welcome there. For a variety of reasons this is the case. It might be that there are simply people that you don’t know well enough to consider them safe or worthy to sit at your table, or maybe they are someone that you have a bad relationship with, they have wronged you or you have wronged them, and now you can’t stand to be in the same room together. Or maybe there are people that you won’t invite based solely on their reputation. Maybe it’s someone that you don’t agree with politically, or they are an outcast of society, or they have a questionable profession, or live a lifestyle you disagree with. The reality is there are probably far more people that you wouldn’t invite to your table than you would invite to your table. Because so often, who we invite to our table defines who we are by the company we keep.
This was one of the most shocking things about Jesus and his ministry. Jesus joined the tables of many people throughout his ministry. He ate with family and friends but he did not stop there. He ate with tax collectors, sinners. He shared the table with people in society that were deemed untouchable and outcasts. The company he kept was shocking. He even invited the very person he knew would betray him to sit down and eat with him. The very man who made himself an enemy, and he continues to invite those who would betray him. He continues to invite those who deny him, ignore him, and disown him. He continues to invite those that make a mockery of him and mistreat him. He continues to invite you and me to come to His table and he bids us to eat and drink His body and blood. Jesus invites us to come and although we have made ourselves his enemies, he bids us to come. This table is a table where a rag tag group of gossiping, crass, rude, money clinging, fame hungry, self-centered people continue to be invited, and continue to come. To the table of Jesus. This table which continues and extends throughout time, to past, present and to future. This table has a place for you.
Last week, during Holy Week, we walked us through the valley of the shadow, a valley where threats lie all around us. This week, we came through that dark valley, and what is on the other side? Something strange, something unexpected in a variety of ways. There awaits, before you, a table. A table that is well set, something of a banquet, a feast. But the guests aren’t who you expect them to be. They are not your closest friends or your loved ones. These are not new people which you welcome into the neighborhood. Instead, seated around this table are your enemies. The ones who hate and revile you. The ones who have been unkind, treated you poorly, and make your life miserable. These are not the people you would choose to eat with, to be seen with, to talk to, and to share a feast with. These are the people you would stay away from, the ones that you would avoid, maybe even combat, never sit with at a meal. Yet this is a table that is prepared for you. This table prepared by the Father. Where enemies become friends. Where divisions turn to unity. Where conflict turns into reconciliation. Where death turns to life.
This table is in the presence of God. This table is that little glimpse of Psalm 23, the glimpse of the Resurrection, where everything that once was broken and wrong in the world will now be right and restored. This table that is filled with enemies will not be something to be feared, but instead it will be welcomed. It will be a table of friends, where relationships have been renewed and restored. This is what awaits us on the other side of that dark valley. A table set out before us where Christ invites us and reconciles us to himself and to the Father, so we can have life, forever.