Summer is filled with excellent memories for me: family road trips, time at the lake, relaxing with a book in a way that doesn’t seem possible the rest of the year. I also remember so many gatherings with family and friends around tables. Outdoor picnic tables, filled with paper plates, freshly grilled hamburgers, and weakly mixed Kool-Aid (always a problem in my family). Indoor dining room tables surrounded by family and friends, each bringing a dish to share. Late nights at the kitchen table passing around containers of ice cream after a busy day at the cabin. What are some of your favorite summer memories? What was on the menu? Who was at the table? As you look forward to the warmer weather, what plans are you making to gather around tables with loved ones?

Throughout his life, Jesus found himself at a lot of tables. He loved to eat with people. For Jesus, and for us today, it was a great way to meet others. Sharing a meal and the space around a table helps us get to know others and to form a deeper sense of community. This was true for Jesus as well. And Jesus didn’t just eat with his friends and family; he ate with some people who were considered outsiders by the rest of society. In fact, he ate with all kinds of sinners, and it made people angry. People started to talk; they thought he drank too much wine, and some called him a glutton. The religious establishment of the day couldn't stomach the fact that he ate with tax collectors and people they judged to be “unclean.” Meanwhile, the more progressive folks of society who rebelled against the establishment hated Jesus for eating with Pharisees. This is just one of the times in his life Jesus learned that you can’t make everyone happy. But Jesus did invite everyone to the table. It didn't matter who you were, it didn't matter what sin you had committed, Jesus said, "let's eat." 

Every week at worship we have the opportunity to dine with Jesus. When we gather at the Lord’s Table and remember the night in which he was betrayed, we dine with Jesus and the community that he has created throughout centuries of table fellowship. The first time Jesus shared that meal, he was more than willing to dine with sinners. As he broke bread with his disciples, the table was filled with imperfect people. Peter, the denier, was welcome at the table. Judas, the betrayer, was welcome at the table. Thomas, and all the rest who doubted and deserted him, were welcome at the table. Jesus knew what those men were going to do, and yet he wanted them at the table. They needed to be there. Why? Because Jesus wants everyone at the table, just like we want all of our friends and family to be at the table at our gatherings this summer. Just like we feel the gatherings to be incomplete when someone is missing. That’s how Jesus feels about his family, all of God’s children, being present at the table. And so no one is turned away.

A couple of years ago, I heard a song on the radio that immediately stuck with me. It’s called Crowded Table. And while at first it made me sentimental for some of the summer memories with friends and family, the more I've listened to it, the more I could imagine Jesus singing it to all of us. We sang it at worship on Maundy Thursday this year. Take a listen to the song sometime, or read the lyrics, and you’ll get a little insight on how Jesus feels about you coming to his table. You’ll hear a reflection of the welcome you have in God’s house.

Pastor Justin