The Church as Table and Home
A friend asked on Facebook "what church meant to you?" I responded with an image of the table, varying dishes, skin color, age demographic, able bodied to disabled. He responded, "Of course you would go the hospitality route."
I chewed on this for a bit wondering if I'm that predictable? Maybe I am, and then I thought two things. One, at least I'm consistent, and two, "well, isn't real, God-giving, breathing hospitality what the church is to embody?"
Isaiah speaks of a time when God will prepare a feast for all peoples. It will have the choicest meat, rich food for everyone. He will destroy the shroud that enfolds people, and he swallow up death forever.
Time and time again, we see this image of the table that God is preparing.
He is preparing a home for us. A home where the need for children to hide in their closet to flee wrath isn't necessary. A table where people will not be judged by their bank accounts or the darkness of their skin or slant of their eyes.
God's table is for the addict who feels the constant shame lurking over them because so much of their worth has been tied up in what they have done; rather, than who has breathed life on them. This ache lies in each human, whether we acknowledge Christ or not. There is an ache, a longing for something more. We are designed to want for better. We are designed to think the word goodbye foreign.
Because we were made deep within our heart's DNA to share life, where death has no sting. We live in a time where the words of Martha and Mary uttering, "if you had been here my brother would not have died," are our words; yet, we don't see the change.
We see how Jesus does not respond to Martha with condemnation or chastise her. Instead, he asks her if she believes in his resurrection?
He doesn't belittle Mary for asking either. Instead, he looks deeply into her eyes past to her heart and gets angry with death. His response is to cry.
The resurrection himself, Jesus, responds with deaths "finality" with anger & tears. As Isaiah said, death will be swallowed up. We too can respond like Jesus with tears and anger in the midst of loss.
We live in a sea of brokenness and hurt. How then do we respond?
I think first, we must respond with tears when the ache is present. Rather, than rushing to fix or mend. Just sit. Listen to the Spirit grieving the pain. Recognize the ache. Realize when grief sets in, our job is not to play Pollyanna. We can get angry with the hurting. I haven't always done this well. I've said insensitive things thinking it was helpful. Maybe you have as well. Truth is, we get to lean into grace and learn to do better next time.
Jesus doesn't just sit in the tears. He actually brings Lazarus back from the dead. Now, I have yet to see this ever happen. But, if we look at what he does, it isn't just to bring Lazarus back to stop the pain. He does this, in order to glorify God and point to the resurrection of life in him.
After seeing my brother's life ended at 37 years, 7 months and 19 days, I know now how Jesus being served in a pretty little box wrapped with a pink bow is fallacy. What I've learned is pain is inevitable. Jesus said that we will grieve and mourn while the world rejoices; but, our grief will be turned to joy like the woman who goes through child birth. She labors in pain to find the joy and her pain is somehow diminished.
Jesus says that no one can take away that joy.
What does all of this have to do with the table, church and home?
If Jesus is preparing a home for us, a table for us where death will be no more, then I believe our jobs is to mimic that table, that home in our very real, earthly lives. We are conduits of this table, of this grace, of this new mercy translated from the resurrection.
Many feel incapable when they hear the word hospitality. Thanks in part to the entertaining in the vein of Pinterest pretty parties and the belief of hospitality as a strength one received on a spiritual assessment test.
When someone tries to equate hospitality as a strength, which some have and others do not, please realize this is not biblical hospitality. I do not have any greater ability to exhibit hospitality because I am an extroverted woman who enjoys cooking and having people into my home.
We share the hospitality of Christ because we believe the resurrection to be true. We believe in the power of the resurrection, which brings joy that cannot be taken away. We prepare the table like Jesus will for us. It's because, we recognize there is this broken song in creation and we are co-laborers with Christ to bring the hope found in the table. We see the longing in all people for home, and we offer up our broken homes to glorify God who glorified the Son.
Church, what are we to look like? How are we to be with those who are hurting and broken? How do we become more than a "good" social club? We recognize our broken hallelujahs, broken hospitality, our broken pitchers and chipped plates as the broken Christ welcoming in the world.
Jesus broke the bread, passed the wine, shared a meal before his crucifixion to point to the resurrection bringing redemption to earth. It makes sense then, why the table reflects the church yes?