Its slightly ironic that I’m writing this week from my kitchen table that my entire family – including myself – hates.
Let me explain.
Last year – in the midst of the pandemic – we (finally) renovated our kitchen. And I love it.
But like any renovation, you set a budget and then continually realize that
A. Everything costs more than you think it will
B. You hate all of your old stuff.
This brings me to my old kitchen table.
There was nothing really wrong with it except it didn’t match anymore. The wood was the wrong colour, the chairs as well. They looked kinda old and out of style next to my new kitchen and I was sure I’d be able to find something better that wouldn’t be too expensive. In fact I found this cool antique oak table with chairs online and I thought it wouldn’t be too big of a project to restore. So we picked it up, donated our perfectly good kitchen set, and now I’m sitting on the world’s most uncomfortable chairs at a “miniature” table (as my kids call it – we’re big people) that just doesn’t work for us. And thanks to Covid – I can’t find anything to replace it that isn’t either back-ordered for months or the price of extensive orthodontic work for my kid.
Now you may be thinking –
what’s the big deal, Melissa? This is a first world problem. And, you’ve got a great dining room table that holds lots of people. So who cares about the kitchen table? (If you are really thinking that you are partially right and maybe a little bit harsh.)
Who cares? I do.
Because my kitchen table means something different to me.
It represents more than just morning coffee or dinner on a Tuesday night or a place to pile all of the paper we seem to accumulate.
Don’t get me wrong – there is nothings fancy about our dining room or the furniture in it. I can easily pile paper there too. Our house is well-lived in and we are happy to use all the spaces.
But there is something safe, welcoming, real and relaxing about my kitchen table that I desperately miss.
This week we are going to be looking at the significance of the table when it comes to experiencing Jesus’ presence.
All through scripture the “table” is an important place where significant things happen. So, I would invite you to sit at a table this week as you do your daily reading.
It could be your patio table if its warm enough outside, your coffee table…even a tv-tray. Wherever your favourite place to eat in your home is, sit there.
Realize it is holy ground. Expect something significant to happen.
Invite Jesus to make his presence felt by you at the table each day. I know he wants to meet you there.
Even if the chairs are uncomfortable.
Day 1: The table is safe
Read: Luke 7: 36 – 50
The woman with the alabaster jar of perfume is described as a sinful woman. Some scholars believe she was a prostitute – but we don’t really know that.
We don’t know what specific things made “sinful” the best adjective to describe her.
In John’s gospel he explains that the “sinful” woman was actually Mary, Lazarus’ sister and a good friend of Jesus.
Regardless of who she actually was, or what she actually did, her story is often sited as a beautiful act of courage and repentance and generosity and honour and anointing. And that’s all true.
But today, I’d like you to realize that the Pharisee’s table – the place she took the risk to expose her sin was safe for her only because of Jesus’ presence.
She wasn’t afraid of condemnation. Judgement. Exposure. Shame. Even though she should’ve been. I mean, she was at a religious leader’s home- and not just any devout religious leader. The Pharisees were at the top of the holy pecking order – their piety was unmatched and they were famous for being strict and unmerciful.
The table in that home represented judgement until Jesus sat at it.
It represented fear and shame, until Jesus was there.
When Jesus is at the table, the table is safe.
Some questions to think about:
1. Is your table safe? Can your family and friends be honest and accepted there? What about strangers? Is it safe for them too? If the answer is no, talk to Jesus about that. Ask Him to make you more like Him and comfortable in the mess knowing that His love is what changes lives.
2. Do you realize that you are safe at the table? That Jesus is reclining there, longing to be eating with you? Regardless of what you have or haven’t done that day? If that is hard to accept, talk to Jesus about it. If you feel safe thank Him for His grace and mercy and love in your life.
Day 2: You belong at the table
Read: Mark 2:13-17
On the first day of my first corporate job I left my cubicle and walked into the kitchen to eat lunch and get to know my co-workers.
I was on the 54th floor of First Canadian Place in the heart of the financial district in Toronto and I was so nervous. I got my lunch and sat at 1 of 2 small round tables, each with 4-5 chairs around them. Slowly people filtered in, rummaging through the fridge or toting some takeout.
I smiled, tried to make eye contact and say hello and waited for them to sit with me.
Except no one did.
In fact, they filled up the other table and then proceeded to take the empty chairs from my table and squish them around the already full one. Some even chose to eat off of their laps, rather than sit at my table.
Seriously. I’m not kidding.
It was clear that I didn’t belong.
Have you ever felt like that?
That no matter what you do – how you dress, what you say, how old you are – you just don’t belong.
Not at Jesus’ table.
It seems that Jesus wanted the world to know that everyone – the righteous and unrighteous, the elite and the ostracized, the learned and the not-so learned – belonged at His table. Look at the crew He was eating with and around in our passage today: fisherman, tax collectors, teachers of the law and Pharisees…who knows who else was in the crowd. But it didn’t matter to Jesus.
When Jesus is at the table, we all belong.
Imaginative Prayer Exercise
1. Think about a recent time you felt like you didn’t belong. Was it at work? School? Church? A social event? A meal?
Close your eyes are picture the scene. Take note of where you are, who was there, what the atmosphere was like.
Remember how it felt to feel left out, or that you didn’t belong.
Now take a few deep breaths and ask Jesus to show you where He was in that space.
Take note of what He was doing.
Don’t rush, if you don’t see Him at first be patient.
When you find Him, ask Him what He wants to tell you or show you. Or ask Him to help you see the purpose in your pain in that moment.
2. Now, think about a place or event that you are going to soon. Work, school, church…you name it.
Ask Jesus to help you see those who may feel like they don’t belong and to give you the courage to welcome them in.
Day 3: The table is real
Read: Luke 22:14-34
Here’s the thing about Jesus – He keeps it real.
He may be all about welcome and belonging and being a safe person – but He does not shy away from hard conversations and He loves you too much to not hold you accountable.
I know we are never Jesus in the story – but imagine with me for just a second that you are in this passage.
You are at your last meal with your besties – though they don’t know that yet. And you know all about what’s about to go down, who’s gonna mess up and who’s not, that things are about to be intense and scary and tragic and painful. Oh, and don’t forget it’s the biggest holiday of the year.
Literally like Christmas…except. You know. This is Jesus’s time.
Now, if you were Jesus, would you bring up the ‘betrayed by a kiss’ thing that’s about to happen?
The upcoming denial by the guy you were building your ministry on?
The upside down order of the kingdom your buddies are bickering about?
Or do you just keep it light and fun and celebratory and encouraging?
When Jesus is at the table He keeps it real because He loves you.
He isn’t willing to let you settle for a life less than what He designed for you. Instead He’s willing to have hard conversations and uncomfortable silences and all of the messiness because He loves you.
When Jesus is at the table He keeps it real.
Talk to Jesus:
Spend some time with Jesus right now, at the table you are sitting at.
Ask Him to be real with you about your life and relationships – with Him and with others.
Ask Him to point out the places you in your life where you are harbouring judgements, worry, fear, sin.
Remember that He is gentle and merciful and kind. He is safe. You belong with Him. You don’t need to be afraid.
Listen for what He says.
Knowing that anything He reveals to you is out of His loving kindness to bring you closer to Him, closer to your friends and family, and produce the fruit of the spirit in your life.
Maybe you are wondering why in the world I asked you to read these 2 passages that never explicitly mention a table.
But bear with me – I think it will all make sense.
There are many, many instances recorded in the biographies of Jesus of Him eating and reclining at various people’s tables. He seemed to love to go out and people seemed to love having Him over. The reclining-thing makes me think He must have been good at relaxing. (I wonder if He ever overstayed His welcome?!?)
In the two passages you read today, people seemed to love being around Him.
In the book of John we read that Jesus was invited to wedding feasts and He hung around at them long enough for the wine to run out.
In our passage from Matthew, the crowds stuck around just to be near Him even after it had been a super long day, they were hungry (maybe even ‘hangry’) and He’d already “healed their sick” (Mt 14:14).
I know that people were drawn to Jesus because He was wise and powerful and welcoming.
But I also think He must been a lot of fun too.
I know I love being around fun people.
I mean, wise and powerful is good but at a wedding I’m more looking for laughter and celebration and some slick dance moves.
And after a day of miraculous healings and mind-blowing teaching and compassion I know I’d want to chill out a bit and recount in awe and joy what had happened.
Maybe that seems sacrilegious to you but to me, it’s a relief. Because it means that the sacred can also be celebratory.
We can laugh, and joke and play games and eat yummy food and it can all be an act of worship when we recognize that Jesus is there.
We can invite and share and recline and revel around the table and bear witness to the miracle of Jesus’ presence knowing that an ordinary table is one of his favourite places to be.
When Jesus is at the table, the table is fun!
Some questions to think about:
- Be honest – is your table fun? Ever? Not every meal or game is going to produce belly laughs but if it never happens why do you think that is? What can you do to put some fun around your table?
- Talk to Jesus about joy. If you’ve got lots of it – thank Him and ask Him how He wants you to share it. If you want more of it because its lacking – ask Him to help you!
- If you know someone that seems full of the joy of the Lord, invite them for coffee or a walk or just a phone call and ask them for some ideas. You aren’t in this alone – lets help each other!
Day 5: The table is never perfect.
Read: Luke 10: 38-42
Before we begin let me just say I am not wielding this passage like a weapon against all of you “do-ers” out there. I have heard so many Pastors speak on this passage and I’ve walked away feeling judged and misunderstood because I can be a bit of a do-er myself. My heart always goes out to Martha because she was hosting a bunch of hungry travelling men and she couldn’t call for takeout and the stove didn’t exactly have a reliable thermostat.
But I know that when Jesus spoke to Martha He did so with compassion and empathy and love.
And when He told her that her sister Mary had chosen the better thing He was not rebuking the work she was doing – He was asking her to examine her attitude and priorities. What He was calling her to was hospitality…not entertaining.
The truth is, most of us have mixed these two things up.
When we have someone over for a meal or a snack or a coffee or a chat we worry about cleaning up and what we will make and the state of our yard.
And of course we want our homes to be welcoming and inviting and that means it probably shouldn’t have yesterday’s dirty dishes rotting in the sink.
But the truth is people remember how you make them feel more than what you fed them.
When it comes down to it, it isn’t our decor or lack of culinary skills or uncomfortable chairs that make it impossible for us to invite others to our table –
it is our pride.
I remember being home on maternity leave with my daughter and being desperate to be with people. I planned “playdates” from before Camille could play with anyone willing to have me over or make the trek to my place. But as she grew, it was harder and harder to have my house “ready” for these playdates – there would be toys everywhere and laundry on the go and dishes on the counter and kraft dinner for lunch – and I had to make a decision.
Was I going to cancel until my house was ready to have people over and I could “host” the way I used to (which I’m still waiting for)
or would I swallow my pride and let them see that I’m not always that put together for the sake of company and relationship.
I’m so glad I chose the latter.
And I hope you will too.
Because when Jesus is at the table, we can leave our pride at the door.
Some questions to think about:
- Make a list of all the things that keep you from having people to your table.
- Ask Jesus to show you where you may be believing the lie that you need to entertain instead of being hospitable/your life is too busy, etc.
- Ask Jesus to help you take a risk – maybe it is asking someone who you know likes to host for some easy food/game ideas. Maybe it is asking your family to help with the chores so that you can feel more confident in having people over. Maybe it is just inviting one person to go for a walk with you.
- Give yourself a “due date” for taking the risk and ask someone (a friend or family member) to hold you accountable.
- Ask Jesus for whatever you need: courage/comfort/compassion. He wants to give it to you.