Eating at the Kids’ Table: A Thanksgiving Post

I remember growing up that sitting at the “Kids’ Table” was both blessing and curse. When you were young, it was an oasis of laughter and childish chaos away from the more formal “grown up” table.  Things were spilled, crazy dares were made (“I dare you to put green beans in your milk and drink it!”) and on that most awesome of occasions, you could get someone to shoot milk out of their nose.   As you grow older and “more mature”, being relegated to the Kids’ Table was an insult; not quite an adult, but long past the days of eating off of character plates and having your food cut for you.

These memories bring to mind a dinner that Jesus attended:

            [14:1] One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. [2] And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. [3] And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” [4] But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. [5] And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” [6] And they could not reply to these things.

            [7] Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, [8] “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, [9] and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. [10] But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. [11] For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            [12] He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. [13] But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, [14] and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”           

(Luke 14:1-14 ESV)

So to set the scene, Jesus has been invited to dinner with the Pharisees. These were the  “good guys. Yes, we see them as sanctimonious blowhards now, but 1st century society saw them as pillars of the community. These are the guys you wanted to be associated with. And in the middle of a nice dinner with the respectable people of the community, who is there? Dropsy guy.  Dropsy is a disease which involves retention/pooling of water in the body. The point is, he was sick, and it was not only dinner, it was the Sabbath!  To further set the stage, this guy wasn’t simply in the room, he was  εμπροσθεν, or right in front of Jesus.  So with all eyes on Him, what does Jesus do? I mean, this is the sick guy, at dinner, on the Sabbath! Keep in mind, sick people were viewed a bit differently at the time:

            [9:1] As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. [2] And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [3] Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. [4] We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

(John 9:1-4 ESV)

So what does Jesus do with the sick guy at the sabbath dinner? He has compassion on him and heals him.

Jesus knew what the Pharisees were thinking. It’s what any of us would have been thinking at the time.  “Wait, that’s not OK Jesus” and he responds by asking them if they would save one of their children or even one of their animals if it fell into a well on the Sabbath.

Jesus wasn’t looking for the approval of the VIPs and is pretty insulting to the hierarchical structure of the Pharisees when he says “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.  OK,  Jesus, this is starting to get awkward.

Jesus drives the point home when he turns to the man who invited Him and gives guidance on who to invite to dinner (which I’m sure was received well, I mean who doesn’t like having a dinner guest lecture you on who you should invite next time, pointing out that you need to not be so concerned with how important they are)  Yes, Jesus is making the point uncomfortably clear.

          [12] He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.

 (Luke 14:12 ESV)

What kind of warning is that? Lest you be repaid?  You should intentionally seek out those who can’t repay you?  What kind of upside-down logic is that?

“”Don’t invite your friends and brothers and relatives and rich neighbors to dinner, lest you be repaid in kind.” What an unearthly argument! “Danger! Repayment ahead!” “Warning! This repayment may be dangerous to your health!” Who on earth would talk like that? Probably somebody whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); somebody who knows that 1,000 years on this earth are like yesterday when it is gone (Psalm 90:4); somebody who knows that our life is but a mist that appears and in a moment vanishes away (James 4:14); who knows that he who saves his life now will lose it later, and he who loses it now in love will save it later (Mark 8:35); and who knows that there will be a resurrection unto eternal life, a resurrection of the just to live with God a million millennia of eons, if indeed he was our God on this earth. Jesus is the man. No man ever spoke like this man. And the people who call him Lord ought not to be like any other people.” – John Piper

Yes, much of what Jesus said in this text speaks of the Church.  But there is much to be applied here as we join our earthly families tomorrow in this fallen world… I want to sit at the grown up table. I want to be important. I want to brag about what great kids I have. To be honest, I want my family to be proud of my accomplishments and am usually dangerously close to playing “dueling resumes” with those around me. I want to sit on the couch next to the interesting relative, the happy relative, the sweet relative.  Yes, I’m the Pharisee in this story.

So today I’ll watch; Watch for the person who it might not be “OK” to engage because of something they’ve done; the black sheep, the sullen relative, the son or daughter or ox fallen in the well.  I need to stop trying to sit in the place of honor today and give that seat at the dinner to the one more deserving, and let Him be seen by all.  Because the truth is, I’m the one invited to The Banquet who could never repay Him.

I’m called to invite them all to The Banquet, to the true Thanksgiving Feast for those who are His, to join together in ευχαριστια (eucharistia)/eucharist.  Sound familiar? Yes, Eucharist (which we also call communion) is the greek for “thanksgiving”:

So, as it always does, this blog will call me/us back to mission tomorrow; use this temporary day of Thansigiving (eucharistia) to seek out the lost and the hurting and all men everywhere so that they may join us as brothers and sisters in eucharist today, and in that true Thanksgiving Feast for those that love Him.

Marc

The Beautiful Sounds of Worship: A Reformation Day Article

Sitting in service today, I heard the beautiful sounds of worship.  They were sounds I’ve heard many times, but they fell on me with a profound beauty this morning.  Alone and in combination, they told of the beauty of our gracious Lord and the depth of love He has for His people.

Are you imagining this?

or this?

or this?

No, it was this:

and this…

Yes, it was the constant drone of the oxygen machine behind me, and the fussy baby on the pew next to me that God used to open my eyes to the beauty of worship this morning.  You might be thinking, wait.. worship is what we do. That means singing, playing music, raising our hands, dancing, or whatever participation is involved in worship you your tradition.  Worship is something we DO. That’s why we go to church, right?

On Reformation Sunday, I’d like to give you our traditional view of the purpose of the church, the church service, and ultimately, worship.

1. Church, according to scripture, is the assembly of believers to be fed the word and sacrements by the pastor.

I know the current view in the seeker-sensitive evangelical movement is that the church is not for “the churched” but for the “unchurched”, but I would challenge you to find any scriptural support for that.  Don’t get me wrong, evangelism, the spreading of the gospel, is the responsibility of every believer. However, the responsibility of the pastor in corporate worship is laid out plainly in scripture. Feed the sheep, disciple the body of believers, administer the sacrements of bread, wine, and baptism.

2. The church service is where Christians go to receive.  

Again, I understand that the seeker-sensitive model of church popular in the United States over the last decade is that church is where we go to give and serve.  And these are crucial! However, this isn’t the role of corporate worship.  There is no scriptural support, nothing in the bible, which teaches this.  It is a logical outcome of the seeker-sensitive model, which requires an army of volunteers to “do church for the unchurched”.  If you were to tell these seeker-sensitive leaders that you come to church to be fed, you would likely (and I’ve heard this with my own ears) be labeled as uncaring or lazy, as a taker.

Yes, I’m a taker. Go head and fill out the sticky label and put it on my jacket. I come to corporate worship to be a taker. I take; I take, as a helpless sinner, the grace of our Lord.  I take; I take part in the banquet set before me as I am fed the word. I take; I take the body and the blood.  I take, and I leave.  But the story doesn’t end there;

Because I realize that I am freely taking what Christ gives me, I am free to GIVE!

So, I leave the assembled body of believers and I give:

I give as I have received, as I spread the gospel of repentance of sins and faith in Christ to those I meet.

I give as freely as I have been given forgiveness, to those in my life who are difficult to forgive.

I give of my time and money, into the community and into the support of the gospel.

And I give because I have been given, and by receiving I am strengthened each week to go back out into the world and give in my vocation and in my community.

I’m a taker, like the survivor who has been pulled out of the raging sea, dying of thirst, and handed a cup of life-giving water. I helplessly take, and I pass it along to other survivors.

So, in the heart of true worship, I passively received today as I sat with a sickly elderly lady, and a fussy child and his parents.  We sat together as the body of Christ, being fed from the word, and being fed through His body and blood.  And these were the beautiful sounds of worship on this Reformation Day.  How appropriate, as we celebrate Martin Luther’s rebellion against any righteousness by works.  Today I took, and it was good. Tomorrow we will go out into the community together; the old lady, the young parents, and I to give as freely as we received.

May you be a taker on this Lord’s Day.  Take, Eat. Take, Drink, Take…. and go and tell everyone.  Don’t tell them about worship where they can come and work, tell them about a banquet table set for them. Tell them there is rest for the weary.  Tell them to come and feast. Go….and tell them.

Marc