“After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, ‘Come along with me.’ And he did – walked away from everything and went with him. Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. ‘What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners?’ Jesus heard about it and spoke up, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders – an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.’”
(Luke 5:27-32, MSG)
“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘These are true words that come from God.’” (Revelation 19:9, NLT)
Have you ever noticed how frequently Jesus used the table as a central gathering place for his teaching? A careful read of many of his central teachings reveal that it’s as if he knew that his followers would receive and respond to his message of the present availability of the Kingdom of God most completely if they had food and drink in hand, seated in proximity to him, ready to engage in heartfelt discussion. It’s amazing actually to pick up on how often the Gospels record his most well-known words spoken around a table – the Last Supper, dinner at Mary and Martha’s, on the road to Emmaus to eat with his friends, at the home of Levi, a notorious ‘sinner,’ among a small handful of ready examples. What does the table facilitate for Jesus? As Rev. Emily M.D. Scott, the founding pastor of St. Lydia’s, a “Dinner Church,” puts it: “To know the other always takes place on the smallest level possible: one human sitting down with another. But in doing so, we encounter something huge: the limitless presence of God.” Recently, I’ve been picturing Jesus with the determined warmth of a beloved family member who takes great joy in inviting you to share their table during the holiday season, whispering “I don’t care if you you don’t feel worthy or able. Simply pull up a chair and eat with us – you will not regret it,” all the while knowing that if they can simply convince you to join them at the table, your heart will open to the loving transformation of the Kingdom that proximity to one’s neighbour facilitates while being asked to pass the salt.
Invite a friend to ponder this Kingdom value of Jesus’ with you this month, using the spiritual practice of “Imagining the Text: Ignatian Contemplation” to imaginatively enter into the scene of Luke 5:27-32 in The Message.