You Might Be A Christian If…You Think There Is A Guy In Your Food

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Corinthians 11:23-27.

Andrew and I love to eat. We especially love to eat when we travel because eating is a way to truly get to know a people and culture. When given the option, we like to eat “off the beaten path…” and I would not be surprised if some of our eating “off the beaten path” was actually eating “from the beaten path.”

As my father-in-law says, “It is all protein, after all…”

That.it.is.

One night while on our trip to Nepal our hosts cooked us dinner. Kyle decided to make spaghetti with his special ingredient. Being that we were in a country that marked every meal with curry, Andrew and I anticipated some curry-spaghetti mash-up.

Oh how wrong we were.

The noodles arrived on the table. Next to the noodles sat the pot full of deep, dark sauce. I was accustomed to spaghetti sauce being “fire engine” red; this sauce was much more mahogany in color.

We fixed our plates, adding liberal portions of the sauce to our noodles. Andrew and I twirled our noodles around our forks. “Get ready!” Kyle prepared us! “Guess my secret ingredient!”

*chomp…chew…ch…ew…c…hew*

I looked at Andrew. And he looked at me. His eyes started to water. And I started to giggle, mouth full of mahogany-sauce covered noodles.

Y’all…it was cinnamon!

Cinnamon!

Cinnamon spaghetti sauce!

That was definitely a first. (and only!)

We were certainly surprised at that meal. And we ate the portion on our plates much as we had at other occasions of interesting meals. Because our hosts prepared with us in mind. And I believe they prepared their best because they had us in mind.

I believe that when Jesus prepares his Table for us that he prepares his best because he has us in mind. And because he wants the best for us he hopes that we come to the table prepared. He hopes that we come to the table having made confession of our sin and having reconciled with any sister or brother we wronged. He hopes that we come to the table wanting and expecting to be changed. He hopes that long after the taste of the bread and juice have faded that we act and advocate and sing and serve as if we have just received the gift of the sacrament.

Jesus hopes we are surprised by what we experience at the table. Jesus hopes we are surprised by where the table leads us.

I look forward to gathering with you at Christ’s Table this week. I pray that you come to the table encouraged and expectant – encouraged by the love of our Savior and expectant for what his love will invite you to do.

Prayer: “Lord, you make the common holy: “This my body, this my blood.” Let us all, for earth’s true glory, daily lift life heavenward, asking that the world around us share your children’s liberty. With the Spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry.”* Amen.

*”Lord, You Give The Great Commission,” The United Methodist Hymnal 584.

Joined Together

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 2:11-22.

When I think about unity I picture a massive dining room table – one where anyone and everyone can gather, sit down, and share a meal. There was a commercial last summer about the “biggest back yard barbeque” where the table went on and on; as more people arrived, more tables were added. There was always room. There was always space. Everyone was welcome. What they brought was gratefully received and added to the spread. And there was laughter. And there was joy.

This idea is why Andrew and I have a massive dining room table.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus shares the Parable of the Great Dinner. Jesus said, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his [servant] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the [servant] returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his [servant], ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room’” (Lk 14:16-22).

The image of there still being room, of inviting others to come in, and most importantly, inviting folks – as I have heard described – that no one else wants or no one else sees – is the reason why Andrew and I have a massive dining room table…and is the reason why I think the tables in churches should be even bigger. Our tables remind us that Christ’s table was not just for the healthy, the financially sustainable, the intelligent, the talented, and the successful. Christ’s table is for all people. And thank God for that because as much as I would like to think of myself among the healthy, the financially sustainable, the intelligent, the talented, and the successful, I am among the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. And Christ welcomes me – welcomes us – welcomes all so that “[his] house may be filled” (Lk 14:23).

When you think about unity, what image do you see? And what feelings accompany that image? Take time to reflect on that question and your response this week – and share your image with someone you cherish.

Prayer: “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”* Amen.

*“How Firm A Foundation,” The United Methodist Hymnal 529.

 

 

Stewardship Is An Expression of Hospitality

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Hebrews 13:1-2

This week Tuskawilla’s Stewardship Chairperson will be sharing a message entitled “Angels Among Us” based on Hebrews 13:1-2.  When I read this text the word that instantly grabs my attention is hospitality and when I reminisce on hospitality the image that immediately comes to mind is my grandparents’ dining room table.

Like many families – when the extended family was all gathered at my Nonnie and Gramps’ house there was a kids table and an adults table.  The kids either ate on the porch or in the nook while the adults gathered around the dining room table.  At first I thought this was because adults deserved a fancier dining venue…and while that is true…it is also true that my grandparents’ dining room table was surrounded by countless priceless breakables.  Breakables and young feisty grandchildren do.not.mix.  So to the nook or the porch the grandchildren went.

Like many families – the kids ate first.  Our parents fixed our plates so they could ration out the mashed potatoes.  Once we were sitting at the table gobbling away our dinner they would fix their plates and retreat to the dining room.

A consequence of the kids eating first…is that we were always done eating first…and our parents were no where near done eating.  Who wanted to stay at a table when all of the food was gone?  I sure didn’t and neither did my cousins.  So one by one we would devise ways to enter the dining room.  “Mom, I have a question.”  “Dad, can you tie my shoe?”  “Hey, what are you eating?  I didn’t get any of that.”  And one by one each grandchild would find a seat at the dining room table – sharing a chair, sitting on a lap, leaning against a shoulder.  We never had to squeeze.  We never had to struggle for a place. There was always room at the table.

This image of my grandparents’ dining room table is one of the reasons Andrew and I built our dining room table to seat up 16 people.  I wanted this cherished memory to be my lived reality each time our family gathers around the table.

Showing hospitality – extending the table in whatever form the table takes – is a way of “letting mutual love continue.”  How we extend the table is a matter of our stewardship.  The table could be a handshake, a hot meal, a conversation, a letter, an errand, a commitment.  Extending the table places the needs of a neighbor before the needs of self.  How and at what rate we extend the table is an expression of our stewardship.

Our attitude towards hospitality and stewardship may change depending on who we are serving.  If we are serving a regular Joe on the street…ehhh…no big deal.  If we are serving an angel, well then we are putting on the Ritz!  This should not be!  We should serve everyone as if we are serving an angel.  This does not mean the service needs to be ostentatious; rather, the service should be intentional, and compassionate, and contextual to the person being served, and in the name of our Lord. Jesus takes stewardship one further.  Serve others not as if you are serving angels; serve others as if you are serving Christ himself.  “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:37-40).

In another parable Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God being like a table where everyone – everyone – will find room and be a guest.  Jesus stewarded hospitality to one and all – to the angels and most especially to the average Joes.  Jesus stewarded for us.  How, when, and what will we steward for others?

Prayer: “Christ, from whom all blessings flow, perfecting the saints below, hear us, who thy nature share, who thy mystic body are.  Move and actuate and guide, diverse gifts to each divide; placed according to thy will, let us all our work fulfill; never from thy service move, needful to each other prove; use the grace on each bestowed, tempered by the art of God.”* Amen.

*”Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 550.