Jesus at Your Table
By Retired Pastor Harold P. Martin
People don’t always fit the ideal mold. The first question that arises is whose mold? Jesus had that problem. He went to dinner with Matthew and Zacchaeus, among the tax collectors who were hated people. Those people were unloved by both the Romans and the Jews. They exacted Roman taxes from their own people and added their own fees for personal gains.
Jesus refused to be a gatekeeper for deciding who was in the Kingdom of God and who was out. In fact, the most religious people gave him the greatest trouble. He did not seem to fit their mold. His parables usually had surprising twists in them favoring a run-away-son, Samaritans, and short time workers. Whose mold did they fit? Probably not my table, nor yours. Who wants to be popular in that way, with whom?
In our theology we like to declare that God creates the church. God calls people into the church and molds them into disciples of Jesus. The Biblical model is that of the Covenant family. The Biblical model of family is the extended family that provides for the strangers, reaches out for the differentpeople (Samaritans), and refuses to be constantly passing judgment on the outsiders. The Biblical model is a family of obedient faith to a God with different values than much of our world.
When we try to be a caring congregation, who do we invite in? Who is included in the decision-making power centers,of our common life? For whom do we create a converging culture that makes others feel at home? That is not an easy question to answer. It may not be a comfortable one to think about and implement. But for churches to consider how to grow in spirit and in numbers it may be a necessity to look outward instead of inward for clues as to who and how to serve the world around us. Can we dare to believe that it is God who gives us our family way of life in the Church? Who is at our table?