Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jesus and the Story of a Table

Sometimes it is alcohol. Sometimes it is crack. Sometimes sexual slavery or addiction. Sometimes physical disease or abuse. Overspending. Food addiction. Cycles that beg to be broken.

Things that splinter my heart in two at the hearing of them, that tempt me to stop believing in the radical power of Jesus to set the sinner and the sinned-against free. These are the moments in which I must stop and remember the Kingdom perspective. When I must live in the Jesus Creed.

In his book The Jesus Creed, theologian Scot McKnight unveils Jesus' call for us to love God and to love others as ourselves. And how did Jesus illustrate this outlandish idea, this law that trumped all the other picky Jewish laws the Pharisees (or keepers of the law) had come to treasure?

He does it through a table. 

Could this have anything to do with him being a carpenter? I'm not sure, but I do know it had everything to do with him fashioning his Kingdom. The Pharisees message to the down-and-out: smell better, do better, look better, be better, and then you can earn a seat at my table, to eat with me. Then you will be worthy.

Jesus' table story? "...clean or unclean, you can eat with me, and I will make you clean. Instead of his table requiring purity, it creates purity." (Jesus Creed, p. 36)

"For Jesus, the table envisions a new society, and that means that the table is a boundary-breaker and a grace-giver--and place where we can see what God can do when people are restored to fellowship with Abba." (Jesus Creed, p. 39)

In the story Jesus is telling through a table, the Church would not be a place to come for really righteous people to listen to righteous things and sing righteous songs and repeat only righteous things. Not if Jesus really meant what he said in Mark 2:17: "Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'.”

Rather, the church would be a hospital for the sick. 

It would not be a place to shuffle consumer-oriented, middle-to-upper-income people from one church to another church in their same city. It would be a place with healing ointment, and food, and provisions, and love and truth, and it would reek with healing and holiness. The church is to be a place where we fight for the broken and wounded, where we give to see them grow, where we worship to advance God's Kingdom, where we eat together. The homeless and helpless sitting next to the prosperous and the pampered. For we are all in need...and we are all in recovery, in debt to Jesus for what He has so graciously done on our behalf.  

That's what Jesus and the beauty of His table is telling us. Something beautiful happens when we start issuing come-as-you-are dinner invitations.