Who is welcome to your table?

Table Fellowship

Sermon – June 12th 2016

4th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

By Roland Legge

1 Kings 21:1-21a

Luke 7:36-8:3

By Roland Legge

 

Next Sunday we are going to take part in the sacred meal which we call communion.  Why do we do it?  We do it to remember Jesus.  But even more importantly we do it because it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge that we are all part of God’s amazing family.  This means that every person on earth is part of our family!!

 

Jesus is calling us to love our family even those we do not like. This is no easy task!  But I have no doubt that this is what Jesus expects of us.  Do you agree?

 

Our scripture passages today introduce us to two members of our family the religious people looked down upon.  One of them, the so called “sinful woman” from the Gospel would be no different than a poor person would be today.  Why was she condemned? She had been labeled a sinner.  We do not know what her sins were even though she has been called a prostitute to this very day.  She was certainly a woman that made all the righteous people uncomfortable.

 

We know she was a woman who had been touched deeply by Jesus.  I am guessing that it was Jesus that helped her to recognize that she was loved by God even though she had sinned.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus had helped her to find meaning, purpose and hope in her life.  This woman was so thankful to Jesus that she, with great emotion, shared her heart felt appreciation touching Jesus in intimate ways. This public demonstration of love probably made Jesus host’s even more uncomfortable.

 

Jesus new that she was sorry for her sins because of her genuine penitence, shown in her tears. Through the woman’s brokenness God was able to break through to her.  Unfortunately, the Pharisees were too blinded to see the truth.  Sadly, they could not see the beauty of the transformation taking place because of their denial of their own sinfulness.  Would this sinful woman be welcome at your table?

 

 

Jezebel is a woman who would not be welcome at our table.  Have you ever been called a Jezebel?  If we have most of us would not take this as a complement.  Over the centuries Jezebel has been labeled as evil personified.  She was a woman to take seriously. But was she really as evil as we think?   We are all a mixture of saint and sinner. Maybe if I give you another perspective of Jezebel you might feel more comfortable in inviting her to the family table.

 

Jezebel was a Queen and she took her role seriously. She was also a zealous follower of Baal. Her religion was different from her Jewish husband.  It was an older religion.  It had both male and female gods.  Also, the gods of her religion seemed to be a lot less demanding. So it made sense for her to keep worshiping her god’s.  But then she was seen as a threat by Elijah because she was promoting, what was for him, the wrong god.  Jews were fervent in their belief in a single God rather than a religion of many gods.   Barbara J. Essex sums up well for me a more accurate memory of Jezebel.

She was not a harlot or seductress.  She was not involved in any sexual scenes.  She was a woman from another culture and worldview trying to adjust in a new and strange land.  She was not a villain to be eternally despised—she was religiously committed, politically savvy, determined, self-assured, bodacious, and clever.  She was dedicated to her family and a zealous missionary for Baal.  And she died as she lived—royally!

Bad Girls of the Bible by Barbara J. Essex The Pilgrim Press Cleveland Ohio 1999 pp. 63

Does this question your perspective of her? Are we now ready to invite Jezebel to the table?

 

Now back to our own time. Besides ourselves who are we going to invite to the table.  It is obvious we are going to invite all our friends and family that we get along with.  But who are the people the Spirit wants us to invite that we would rather not?  I know there are people that would make me feel very uncomfortable. What about you?

 

Most weddings I have done in my life have been great.  But once I began to prepare with a bride for a wedding she became very nasty and aggressive.  She decided very quickly that she did not like me and was determined to not have me marry her.  I didn’t.  It was one of the very few times in my life when a person has made accusations against me that were far from the truth.  I was angry and hurt.  I was hurt again when the congregation invited someone I did not respect to be the celebrant for the wedding.    But yet I know that this couple is invited to the table.  I need to remember that the pastor who did the wedding should be invited to the table too.  The miracle is that God invites us to the table no matter how imperfect we are.

 

I remember in grade one when I broke my leg I had the privilege to bring a classmate home after school to play.  I remember there was one girl I did not want to bring home.  But my mother made it very clear to me that she needed to be included.  It would be wrong to exclude her.  That was a powerful lesson for me.  Yes, this girl I wanted to exclude needs to be invited to the table.

 

Inviting my ex-wife to the table would make me feel very uncomfortable.  It is very tempting to blame all the problems of our marriage on her.  I have come to a place in my life where I can be thankful for all I learned in my first marriage.  I wouldn’t be as mature today if I had not gone through the trials and tribulations of my first marriage. I know I need to invite Yvonne to the table even if it will be difficult for me.

 

I do not believe that God is calling us to put ourselves in danger.  But I do believe God is calling us to keep breaking down the walls between us.  This is no easy job!! It is a lifelong calling.  We might not get further than trying to see that of God in another person.  It might not be more than naming an abuse which gives the abuser the opportunity to take responsibility for their behavior.

 

Who do you need to invite to the table? Who are the people you most despise?  Who are the people who have a lifestyle that makes no sense to you?  Who are the people that make you feel uncomfortable?  Who are the people you feel inadequate around?  We could fill our church several times over with the people we need to invite to our family table.

 

Are you ready to come to the table?  God is expecting you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “Who is welcome to your table?

  1. Hi Roland. Just to let you know – my blog has gone private because I will not be writing it anymore. I’ve not closed the site entirely as I hope to visit on occasion. This post is interesting to me. I’ve worked with many victims of violence (including young children). I don’t feel that I would be able to invite their perpetrators to my table. For some the work is to help the abuser change through forgiveness. For me it is more about breaking the cycle of violence from victim to perpetrator. The only way to do this is to condemn the actions of the victimizer. I guess we all need to share talents in this life.

    • Hi Elaina, thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree we need to keep people safe. I was encouraging my congregation to finding the Spirit in surprising places. As soon as we only see another person as a monster we take away any possibility for healing. I am not saying that all can be healed. I realize that some cannot and will need to be kept away from the general public for life.

      Also, I find that many people misunderstand the concept of forgiveness. I think in most cases of abuse the most we can hope for is for the victim to reclaim their life. To not allow violence and abuse to poison their lives. I appreciate the Mennonites and Quakers who work with sexual offenders to hold them to account and support them getting their life together. I also think that we need a different way to make it clear to sexual offendors that their behavour is unacceptable. Too many people get off because the victim is the one who is often put on the defensive. In Canada a big radio personality was aquited from sexual abuse charges. Is it still bad in UK?

      • I’m in the U.S. Here if one is privileged, he or she may get away with murder. I’ve never written about this before (not even in my journals) but my daughter was sexually assaulted when she was 13. Once it was discovered that the perpetrator’s father was a police officer, she did not receive justice. I know forgiveness is possible, but I’ll never trust a rapist who wants to kiss and make up. I had to focus on my daughter and she is now married to a man with the motto: happy wife, happy life. I think you do wonderful work. Very often perpetrators were once victims. The cycle continues if not for people working with both victims and perpetrators.

      • Elaina I am glad to hear that your daughter has done well and has a partner that truly loves her. I can only imagine the pain this man caused your daughter and you. It makes me angry when men get away with this especially when he was a police officer that works with vulnerable people. No I would not ever want to see him in my life again. Your daughter has done well to move on in her life, not having allowed him to poison her life. How do we make this behaviour totally unacceptable? I am angered when our society excuses men by saying “boys will be boys”. This is a taught behaviour and not one natural to men.

      • I know Roland. It isn’t a natural behavior for police officers either. For the record the young man confessed. It was his father’s (the police officer) intervention that obstructed the case. The young man’s mother divorced his father due to domestic violence, and the father harassed a social work who tried to protect his mother. Yes, I would say the behavior is learned. My daughter listed me as her hero on My Space. She wrote “because she went through hell with me and brought me out sane.” But I know it was God who brought us through. That’s another story. Peace.

  2. An eyeopening post Roland. It reminded me of the quote by Oswald Chambers: Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself.
    Yet, many times, we find ourselves running away like Jonah, because God (and not I) is willing to let those people in.
    Blessings to you!!
    Dajena 🙂

  3. Roland, this is such a thoughtful and balanced perspective concerning both the assumptions we may make about others, and the deep divisions (at least in the U.S. and England) we find ourselves facing in recent months. Thank you!

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