When I was a kid, there were no table manners. We did what we wanted and no one really cared. The table was loud and obnoxious. Elbows, chewing with our mouths open, and not one bit of gratitude. I have vague memories of sitting at a table in my parents house when I was a kid. I remember mom making me eat liver. I also remember her making me eat corn beef and cabbage. To this day my stomach turns at the thought of both of those dishes.
I’ve recently begun serving as the new pastor of the Silverlake Community Church in Los Angeles. What does a new pastor preach on when the new pastor arrives to a new church? There’s no handbook that says, “this is what the new pastor is to preach, when they begin a new call.” When I was thinking about what to preach on and as I was looking through the scriptures, I came across Luke 14:12-14:
12-14 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.” MSG
When Jesus comes to break bread, he’s being watched by everyone present. They’re watching his every move. They’re listening to his every word that is spoken, notes are being taken. In a nutshell, the celebrity is being watched for his table manners. Who are the misfits? The misfits are those who have never experienced the blessing of being together at the table. Jesus is simply reminding the pharisees and the lawyers that it’s okay to actually put other people first over their need to work so hard at living out the law. People always trump law and love is a much better option when it comes to loving others as Jesus loved.
I don’t know about you, when it comes to being the church together in the world, I think the table is huge and has enough room for everyone. Everything we do together as a church, starts at the table. The way we love the neighborhood starts from this table. The way we treat one another starts with this table. This table is where we deal with our sin and this table is where we leave our sins. When we leave our need to be so focused on the details and actually start paying attention to those persons who never have come to the table, the misfits, those who never get invited, we finally begin to experience what it means to be in community together and a small glimpse of what the kingdom of God here on earth should look like and sound like. Jesus is simply reminding us that we all need a little lesson sometimes in table manners.
This table today gives me hope that the local church is very much alive and well. We just need to start over when it comes to what we do together at the Lord’s table. We just need to be a little more intentional about who we bring to the table.