A Scripture study from Caring, part six of seven.
He feeds me at his banqueting table,
His banner over me is love.
Do you, too, remember singing those lyrics as a child in Sunday school?
Jesus was the epitome of a gracious host. He prepared and served a banquet adorned in love. He knew how to serve a table that offered justice and mercy for all. He brought good news to the poor, healed the brokenhearted, proclaimed freedom for the captives, released prisoners from darkness, included the outsiders and challenged the elite. At his table of abundant love, he took you and me in our brokenness, and made us new. At his table of justice, he reversed society’s seating order—making the least the greatest and most prominent guest of all. This is a gift we can all be thankful for and a gift we should be inviting others to take part in.
The early Church of Acts participated in a table-ology of justice. Everyone was welcome and no person had need.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2:44-45).
There were no needy persons among them, we learn in Acts 3:34. What a beautiful image. Everyone had a place at the table and not a single soul was left in the margins. This is the Gospel lived out in the early Church. This is the Gospel lived and taught by Jesus. This is the Gospel we should still be living out today. Every single soul should have a place at the table and every soul should have their needs met.
In Luke 14, Jesus addresses the Pharisees. They loved to have the seat of distinction and invite prominent guests to their banquets. Jesus looked around the table and noticed how the guests picked the places of honor.
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).
This is God’s kingdom table-ology.
In the article, “Table Manners,” Debie Thomas writes, “When we dare to gather at Jesus’s table, we are actively protesting the culture of upward mobility and competitiveness that surrounds us. There’s nothing easy or straightforward about this; it requires hard work over a long period of time. To eat and drink with God is to live in tension with the pecking orders that define our boardrooms, our committees, our church politics—and that can be tiring. But it’s what we’re called to do—to humble ourselves and place our hope in a radically different kingdom…Jesus asks us to believe that our behavior at the table matters—because it does. Where we sit speaks volumes, and the people whom we choose to welcome reveals the stuff of our souls. This is God’s world we live in; nothing here is ordinary. In this realm, the strangers at our doorstep are the angels.”
Or as we read in Micah 6:8 (MSG): He’s made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to our neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.
Think of some practical ways you can support others you know who might be living in the margins or perhaps are treated unjustly. Make a phone call. Take someone out for a meal. Send an encouraging note to a lonely individual. Invite a stranger to your table for Thanksgiving. Visit a care home. Pursue a prison ministry. Provide someone with financial resources if they are struggling to make ends meet. Treat others with impartiality. Purchase products that support fair trade. Educate yourself in different areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. Look for the outcasts and invite them to belong.
See others through the eyes of Jesus.
Luke 14: 12-14 and Acts 2: 42-47
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for including us and choosing us to have a seat of honor at Your table. Thank you for showing us what justice looks like. As we turn our hearts to you, help us to turn our tables to others. Establish our hearts in your mercy and establish your mercy in our hearts. May our tears blend with yours, forming a river of holy justice and an ocean of boundless love for those living on the outside, who are desperate to come in.
- Subscribe to the Do Gooders Podcast and tune in for good ideas. Hear conversations with those doing good and those with good ideas so you can turn inspiration into action and make an impact right where you are.
- Find recommended resources for understanding and practicing the presence of God through spiritual disciplines in the Table-ology Further Reading book list here.