Good morning all! A special birthday shout out to my dear friend April! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Today’s scripture: MARK 2:13-16
13Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them.14As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
15And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples – for there were many who followed him. 16When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Yesterday was a fantastic day in my book. The day started by getting up, grabbing coffee and writing the devotional (getting to be quite the little ritual), then I had a meeting to talk about health insurance. Great conversation. Spent some time in the office. Then I went to a meeting with some amazing people to plan the upcoming Salsa para al bien event in May which you should definitely come to. What transpired around more coffee and scones were ideas about how to reach out to the latino community even more, support work of people at Lutheran Community Services, and brainstorm about an event that will continue that work beyond this year. It was comfortable and lovely and productive. Then I tried to go home to write and it wasn’t working for me. I was getting too distracted by this and that and the other. So I packed up my computer and wandered down to Community Plate after a bit to order some lunch and to write in the midst of the lunchtime rush….which I love. I love seeing people as I walk in, I love hearing noise around me as I write, and I love the few distractions by others coming over to say hey and ask what I am writing about. Mission accomplished….felt very productive. I came home to answer some emails and then off to the gym. I won’t bore you with details in between but a bit later some folks came to pick us up to go to dinner at Ann and Denny’s house. What a lovely evening! We ate and laughed and told stories around a lovely table with an amazing view.
The highlights of my day and the most pleasant experiences all took place around a table….all tables with some form of food on them but at the same time the food wasn’t the focus. The gathering of the people around it was. This was the most important and valuable part. There is something about gathering around a table with people that makes everything a bit more intimate, a bit more productive, and a bit more informal yet getting to know one another just that much better. I have come to find out in my time as pastor that the best meetings seem to take place around a table and usually involve food. If I am going to meet up with someone, I always suggest either lunch or coffee. It is less intimidating and it seems as though I am genuinely trying to get to know the person. The table is a bridging moment.
And then there is even the next step beyond coffee….the invitation over for dinner or lunch. I love it when people invite me over for dinner because it sets up the space to get to know each other even better. Plus this allows me to see people’s space. I don’t feel as though I know the person as well until I see where they really live and have decorated and have made it their own space. Then it feels as though I really know you just that bit more, doesn’t it? When you are laughing and eating together, you are creating bonds that last way beyond a meeting on the street, or a passing hug. In the church, we know that a program will be even more successful if there is food involved. This creates intimacy and a fellowship that is indescribable. At the Saturday morning breakfast, it is essential that people sit around tables, are served at their tables and chat. This makes people feel like people again and valued for who they are.
When I travel, I love to eat in people’s homes and when I travel abroad the ultimate gift is to be invited into someones home. This bonds people more than you can imagine and when a gift of tortillas is offered, you know the high value. Food bridges people as much as the table can but to sit down at a table is commitment to the other. And today, I am so excited to join my sister in law for lunch in Portland. I was trying to figure out why I am so excited and I realized that I am not sure that we have hung out, just the two of us, ever and we get to eat lunch together. For me, this is the next level in our relationship as family. We will sit around the table and chat….this is exciting for me. I get to know her just that bit more.
It is no wonder to me that Jesus liked to eat with all sorts of people. This is how he got to know those who were following him. He sat around tables in people’s homes because it was intimate, less intimidating, fun and the place to be. He ate in all sorts of locations just as I strive to. He ate with different cultures and accepted different gifts of food and fellowship. Sitting around the table, Jesus commits to really getting to know people and not just by the outside looks or rumors or even appearance but sits down to create the bridge and to heal the whole being. There is great hospitality offered and great hospitality given on all sides this way. Perhaps we can strive to be like Jesus by eating with people more and more.
Who will you eat with today?
Prayer: Creator God, we thank you for the gifts that you bring at a table together. Bless our time together with one another and allow us to reach out to offer our tables to each other.