When we were first married, we inherited a table from my husband’s grandmother. We loved it because it had been grandma’s and she was thrilled that we wanted it. That table served many purposes. If it could talk it would tell tales of Christmas dinners, broken hearts, games of Cranium and suppers of mac and cheese. That table served us well and we found that as more people began to “pop over”, the table was the gathering place. Even though the physical table was small, we always had room.
We moved to a new house and decided we wanted a bigger table. One with a bench that would accommodate different sizes of bodies. One that could be extended so we could make sure no one was left out. Holidays became times where we kept our eyes open for those who didn’t live close to family, who were lonely and needed a place to hang out. We would count how many we thought could fit around the table and declare the number we would invite, only to find out our children had invited three more people they had met at church on Sunday. It never really mattered what the number was, we always made it work. Friends and strangers gathered around our table. There was always laughter and love and open arms for whoever wanted to join us.
Our children have left home and the two of us sit at one end of our big, long table. The top is worn and if you look really closely you can see the imprint of someone’s homework and a long scratch where the varnish was gouged during a wild game of spoons. I love this table, but what I love even more is the thought of everyone feeling welcome to sit around it. I am reminded that Jesus welcomed all to the table and felt free to invite himself to others’ tables as well. In a society where boundaries between people groups were drawn tight, Jesus crossed them. He broke down the barriers that say “you are in and you are out”.
We continue to live in a society where we categorize people into groups. We group them according to their family of origin, their faith, the friends they hang out with, their marital status or the places they work. The labels we place on people often keep us from inviting them to our table. When reading Ephesians 3:4-6, I am struck by its simplicity:
“The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.”Ephesians 3:4-6, The Message
This is what I want our table to look like. A place where the message of “you are welcome here” is served loud and clear alongside homemade sour dough bread and hearty soup. My prayer would be that hearts and souls would leave our home filled, knowing they are loved unconditionally and always welcome at our table.