Ties that bind and crowded tables

Respectfully Written by Kelly Dial

September 15, 2019

What is it that binds us together? Is it the good we do, the bad we do, or something else that compels us to live in community with one another.

The gospel reading from Luke, Chapter 15 finds the scribes and Pharisees criticizing Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus responds with a parable about lost sheep. The owner with one hundred sheep leaves ninety-nine together while he searches for the one who is lost. When that one is found and rejoins the flock, the rejoicing is great.

It is easy for us to exclude those who are different, to drive out those we don’t understand, to strive to keep our community small and homogenous. It takes no courage to send away those who don’t fit into our mold. Our small acts of exclusion often morph into prejudice and hate. That is not the way of Jesus.

Jesus invites us all to the table with him. He is the host who sets up an enormous table in the back yard in preparation for a shared dinner on a pleasant fall afternoon, complete with falling leaves and a fire to ward off the chill after sunset. He sets the table with a mosaic of dishware, nothing matches but that makes it that much more beautiful. There are flowers in Mason jars, bowls brimming with fresh vegetables, and a chair for everyone. Everyone. When the table become full, he makes it longer. Our Lord wants us all at the table enjoying each other’s company. He wants peals of laughter and the squeals of happy children to float up toward the sky.

As a good host, Jesus know when someone is missing whether it is the life of the party or the shyest of wallflowers. He feels their absence before he sees it. He glances at the rest of his assembled flock, leaves them to continue their meal, and goes to find the missing one. He returns when he has found them and leads them to the seat meant just for them.­­­­The assembled host greet the lost one by name and bring them into the fold with joy.

A portion of the lyrics to “Crowded Table” by the Highwomen encapsulate the vision Jesus has for us:

“I want a house with a crowded table
And a place by the fire for everyone,
Let us take on the world while we're young and able
And bring us back together when the day is done.”

God invites us to his table to worship. We are not bound together by our sinfulness or our sinlessness. We reside in the same boat. As the Prayers of the People proclaimed “We pray for those who are lost, that they might be found. We pray for those who are sure they are not lost; we ask that you find them too”.

What binds us together in community? The love and forgiveness that is given to each of us. Every single one.

Thanks be to God.