Luke 14:1, 7-11 –
“On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath … he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’”
In that moment, Jesus taught the difference between humility and haughtiness, and our calling, as his followers to exercise the former and put away the latter.
We the people of God – the followers of Jesus Christ – the church – are called to create tables, spaces, and places of welcome to all, for each table, space, and place draws its meaning from its connection to the present and coming reality of New Creation, where there is peace and justice, and where there are no more tears, hunger, or thirst.
Isaiah 25:6-10 –
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And the Lord will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.”
Jesus pointed the way toward the reality of the New Creation as he preached his mission and ministry statement in the Nazarene synagogue … Luke 4:18-19 …
“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
The Lord has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”
Roundtabling is one really good method for creating tables, spaces, and places of welcome for everyone. No hierarchy, no preferential seating – a complete leveling of status so that everyone knows when they enter in that they, too, are welcome at our tables – in our spaces and places – because ours is not ours, but instead is Christ’s, and Christ welcomed everyone without status, hierarchy, or preferentiality.
Chuck Lathrop’s poem “In Search of a Roundtable” speaks cleary to this concept:
no preferred seating,
no first & last,
no corners for ‘the least of these.’
a part of,
room for the Spirit
and profound peace for all.”
(Chuck Lathrop, “In Search of a Rountable,” Letty M. Russell, “Church in the Round,” [Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993], 149).
Sisters and brothers of the church – let us receive this day blessed to us by God – so that – we are empowered and emboldened to create tables, spaces, and places of welcome for all. May it be so, we pray together saying, Amen in Christ’s name and for his sake as we go forth into the world to fulfill his mission and ministry as we look forward to the coming New Creation!
The Highwomen’s song “Crowded Table” reminds me of such a table of welcome to all!
Rev. Susan Carter Wiggins