Place Settings: Ensuring there’s room

Found a 12- person dining room table on Craigslist for $100, plus 6 chairs to add to our 4 existing chairs (which were also free) for an additional $35.

Score.

So our $135 dinette set seats my family of five very comfortably, except that we all cram onto one end of the table each night at dinner, leaving five chairs totally lonely and empty at the other end. Sometimes I swear I see a tumbleweed scoot across that side of the table.  It’s… deserted. (But not always!!)

We bought the World’s Largest Socially Acceptable Dinner Table so that we could invite lots and lots of people into our home. I heard a sermon three years ago by a friend who said they “always have room for one more,” in a theoretical sense, I assumed.

But it stuck with me and so when we moved from our condo, Giant Table was first on my list of things to purchase. And when we bought the chairs and recovered them (for 20 bucks!) I scrawled prayers and blessings and scriptures on the bottom of each seat for every person who would ever sit in them. (Even the people who disagree with me politically. Even the people who disagree with me spiritually, socially, and physically — i.e. the people who refuse to eat my amazing homemade pies because of “concerns about sugar”– a concept that is increasingly foreign to me. Just Kidding. I get it. And admire it. I’ll be no-sugar again one day. ;))

My heart was that everyone would always be welcome here. Is that hard? Oh. My. Goodness. Yes. ‘Specially this November. Ell.Oh.Ell.

But that’s the Table Christ asks us to set. Not just at Christmas. Because that’s the Table He set for us. Everybody’s welcome to share in His Supper of Redemption. (even the people who need Redeeming. #mindblown Which is all of us #mindblownagain).

There’s no “clean up before you show up.”

It’s just, “Show Up; I made you really good food and anticipated your arrival, as proven by my abundance of place settings, and I’d love nothing more than to sit by you just as you are right this minute.”

And it’s hard for me to read books and blogs and magazine articles about this New (slash, original) Christianity where we identify with the suffering and hurting, because I think… is this hip now? Whew!  Because we were poor. POOR. And you know how lots of church people treated us? Like we needed to look better, cleaner, fancier, so we could be like them! It’s just not true. We don’t need churches full of people who look just like us. So I’m glad it’s posh to be friendly to the underdog. That one was a long time coming. But it’s kind of annoying.

Yes let’s give to the poor and the oppressed, by golly, let’s do it until we have nothing left to give. And then let’s do it a little bit more. But let it be lovingly, rooted in… tender care for the sake of the person… not judgement — which is oddly kind of intrinsic in the nature of giving (we don’t give to people who seem to not be in need)–  so we can feel good about our giving.

Can we give in a way that brings hope and shines a light on the identity of the person we are caring for? As they are right this minute? Not in an attempt to get everyone up to our standards? Like… (I’m guilty of this) … when we see someone who lacks something… we find the thing they’re lacking and then we give it to them. Like, that levels some sort of playing field. Like… now they’re fixed. It’s just not true. I’ve gained more in sloughing off my material stuff than I have in acquiring any amount of stuff. Yet we see people lacking STUFF and we remedy them buy giving them STUFF. That doesn’t make people whole.

So let’s stop doing that.

Because the people we care for (all of humanity)…. already look like Jesus… because they’re made in His Image. Our job, ?am I wrong?, is to call out the parts that look like Him. To speak Truth over souls who are lost. To untangle deception and confusion and lack. Not to bandage pain with the list of “what it takes to make a person whole: socks and food and a job and toys for kids.” And I think we’ll find the people we *think* need “charity,” are quite different than the people to whom we dish out charity out to. (as if charity were something to be “dished.” bah).

What if instead we assumed everyone was on a journey toward Christlikeness and so we loved everyone up and spoke Truth to everyone and encouraged everyone and listened to everyone and created relationships where everyone could share their pain and then we could lead them to the One Who Heals Our Pain. And we went out of our way to build relationships with people who are not like us… and with people who ARE like us. Instead of thinking, you lack things that I have; allow me to help you acquire things like mine; goodbye.

And yes oh my goodness yes, we have to fill real needs. That’s first on the list! If a person is hungry or in need of water or clothes or whatever. Yes duh do that first. But let’s stop stopping there. Let’s stop with “oh you need a job you need food you need shelter let’s get you fixed up and set up so you look like you will function…ready, go!” Instead… what if we started with our hearts. What if we started with relationship. Looking into people’s eyes (not just those who “look poor”). My point is. We are all broken. Let’s get to the business of loving everyone. Poor or not.

Jesus teaches me to remember, there’s room for every single person at this table. I’m not the host of this shindig. I didn’t buy this Supper Table. Jesus did. And it wasn’t a Craigslist find. He bought it With His Blood (whoa #preach) And so HOW dare I judge whomever He invites to sit there?? (Spoiler alert: that’d be everyone — EVEN those church people who tried to shine us up so we could look like them).

We all have a place setting at the Table. And it’s my job as a follower of Christ to learn to hear the stories of ALL of those seated around me and LOVE THEM for who they are, and love them for who Christ is making them to be, and to encourage them in that way  — knowing that I AM SO messed up! And Christ invites me *anyway.* And after hearing their stories, it’s my job to share His Story.

 

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