“You stand up and invite me to the table.”
– Henri J.M. Nouwen
When was the last time you sat at a table? I am not asking when was the last time you ate. I am asking when was the last time you sat down at a table. What is it like?
Unfortunately, for many of us, the table is a place forgotten. It is pit stop throughout our busy days. It is a place to dump our bags, groceries, mail, and other items daily acquired. Instead of people, things crowd our table.
In many cultures, the table is a center piece of many homes. The table is a place hosting an event. Many cultures pause their day in order to sit around the table. A meal is taken. Relationships are built. Rest is breathed in like filling one’s lungs with fresh air.
Being invited to someone’s table is to be invited into their place, their lives, and their rest.
When we think of tables in Scripture, our minds paint a reproduction of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. However, there are more tables in Scripture which invite us to rest and commune with the master of the table.
The Table for the Fearful
Fear. We all know what it is. We stand before a faceless phantom cloaked in fear. This phantom threatens to take away all peace. We know the promises of God. We know he is with us, but fear rattles our bones, fogs our thoughts, and blinds us.
Yet, God prepares a table for the fearful. Psalm 23:5 tells us God prepares a tables in the presence of our enemies. It is the table of a shepherd. We are his sheep. We are vulnerable to our enemies. Fear paralyzes our steps as we follow our shepherd.
The table of the shepherd is to calm our thoughts. Psalm 23 put the staff in the hands of Jesus. He leads us beside still waters. He is with us in the dark times and the deep, discouraging valleys. Each step of the way, he feeds us at the shepherd’s table. He unpacks the food we exactly need for the next part of the journey.
Our shepherd is leading us, and his table isn’t a one time feast. It is there to calm our fears. His table is to refocus us on him as we take the next steps on whatever path he has for us. Hebrews 13:10 promises us peace through our great shepherd, Jesus. At the shepherd’s table we find his voice filling us with peace (John 10:1-5).
The Table for the Rejected
Remember holding your school lunch and trying to find a table to sit at? How many of us at one time sat at a table alone, because no one wanted us? Was it because we did not fit into their group? We felt their rejection.
In our lives, we may feel rejected. This can even happen in our churches. We walk into the service, and we immediately feel either we belong or not. How does that strike yol? How many churches have we left because we felt unwanted?
In biblical times, those who were disabled were the unwanted of society. They did not have a place. Yet, we find a story in II Samuel 9 of a crippled man finding his place at King David’s table. His name was Mephibosheth. He was the son of Jonathan, and he was crippled. Not only was he displaced because of his feet, but he was displaced because his family’s throne was replaced by David. Mephibosheth was a reject for multiple reasons. Yet, because of a promise David made with Jonathan, Mephibosheth rested at David’s table. The rejected became accepted.
We are the rejected. We are like the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), the woman reaching for Christ’s hem (Mark 5:25-34), the man possessed by demons and exiled to live among the tombs (Mark 5:1-20), and many others mentioned in the Gospels. Jesus invited the rejected to eat with him. Sometimes, Jesus sat at their table (Luke 19:1-10).
Jesus invites us, the rejected, to his table. We feast with him. We talk with him. The rejected become accepted at his table. The rejected find his love and are changed. Instead of being displaced and wandering, we have a place. We have rest. We no longer have to view ourselves as that vile sinner covered in shame. Our shame is washed away as Jesus kneels to clean the dirt off our feet. We are brought into perfect union with Christ. He broke his body, so we can break bread with him. He drank the cup of damnation, so we could drink in fellowship with him.
The Table for the Discouraged
Many of us know what it is like to walk discouraged. We may hold our head high, but the burden we carry pulls our eyes to the ground. The light of hope extinguished from our eyes like candles blown out by the wind. We walk this lonely road.
Luke 24:13-35 gives this road a name – the Road to Emmaus. After the death of Jesus, two disciples walked this road. “Wasn’t the Messiah supposed to free us?” “He showed us all these wonderful things, and now his words are dead.” Disappointed, they walked until a stranger joined them. The stranger inquired at their discouragement. Revealing all, the stranger listened to their downed hearts. However, this stranger began to encourage them. In fact, he stayed with them, and he ate with them. Their dismal discouragement sparked into ignited encouragement. Light shone through the darkness, and they saw Jesus. Encouragement became a eucharist at this table.
Jesus invites the discouraged to his table. He knows we feel disappointed. He knows our fire has been doused by the storms of life. We love Jesus, but we wonder what is happening in our life. So, he invites us to the table to ignite us again. He calls us to rest, eat his food, commune with him, and leave finding that joy in our step.
The Table for the Rested Redeemed
There is one final table mentioned in Scripture – Revelation 19:1-10
It is the marriage feast for the lamb slain for us. With the redeemed multitudes from every corner of life, wearing the gracious robes of righteous, we are seated at the table. Each seat is for a person praising God for the testimony of grace in their life. It is not a feast where we toast ourselves. We toast the reckless love of Christ tearing down every stronghold, climbing every mountain to rescue us. We toast the end of evil and our conquering king.
At this table, there is no more sin to put a bad taste in our mouth. Christ has conquered it. It is the table of rested unity. So many churches are concerned with proving “those Christians over there” wrong over various issues. Yet, those Christians will be sitting at the table with us. In union, we raise our glasses to our savior; not for our church preferences, standards, not our systematic theology, or even to our Christian authors we debate over. Instead, it is all about Jesus.
Your Table is Ready
The most glorious words a waiting guest at a restaurant can hear is, “Your table is ready.”
Those words to the fearful, the rejected, the discouraged, and to all the redeemed have sounded as Christ proclaimed, “It is finished.” With boldness, we can approach the table as Jesus welcomes us. The menu handed to us is written with the promises of God paid with the blood of Christ. We do not need to fear being rejected because of our etiquette marred by fall. Instead, Jesus will transform us over this meal, and every time we come to the table.
Too often we come to Jesus trying to show him we are better than another for our correct labels, correct standards, correct preferences, and so on. We cannot bring our own menu to the table. We must accept his menu and learn to adjust our tastes to his food.
Too often we want the meal to end, so we can move on to the next thing. Jesus invites us to leave our burden and rest. He knows what we need. We do not need a quick bite to eat with him. We need an event centered around him. Do we take time at his table when we are at church, or when we read our Bible, or when we pray, or when we fellowship with other believers? Do we rest or do we just want the fast food? Jesus is there for perfect communion with you. He wants to sit across the table from you. He yearns to hear your heart. He knows your salty tears may fall on his food. But, he wants to give you peace, acceptance, and a fire to continue.
Your table is ready.
Please, take your seat next to Jesus and rest.