A More Complicated Table
Jesus’ last supper with the disciples has ignited Christian imaginations for centuries, inspiring everything from iconic paintings to hilarious memes in the COVID-19 era. As with so many of the well-known scenes in the Christian story, I wonder if the table has become too commonplace for us to grasp the gravity of those moments.
I think about the days leading up to that oft depicted meal in a borrowed upper room. The mounting tensions, the growing fear. A rising sense of triumph, people shouting “save us!” in the streets, and an increasing precariousness surrounding Jesus as his disciples quibbled among themselves.
Serene and richly painted scenes of men gathered solemnly around lavish tables seem slightly off.
Jesus shares the table and washes the feet with men who will betray him, deny him, and abandon him in the coming days. I have a hard time showing up for dinner with people I disagree with on far lesser things, and foot washing certainly isn’t involved.
Christian faith as expressed in the US has largely been shaped by our consumer mindset, teaching us to focus on our own needs and wants: I want Jesus on my side, and in my heart, gathered around a table of people just like me.
I want my bread molded into a personalized wafer, not broken and crumbly.
I want my cup portioned out just for me, so I don’t have to share.
Communities of faith have been established based on the judgment of gatekeepers who seek to ensure that everyone on the inside is just alike, and to expel those who are “other.” As long as we continue to be fearfully preoccupied with the differences of our neighbor, we will miss the ways in which Christ is coming to meet us in their words, their embrace, their presence.
We will miss the moments in which they are passing us crumbly bread and inviting us to take and eat.
For many of us, we were given one or two hills to die on—one or two public concerns which were the line in the sand between belonging to the people of God and being seen as an outsider.
In reality, the only lines in the sand are being drawn by the One who refuses to condemn and refuses to judge. The line in the sand is love, but that isn’t always an easy rallying cry around which to build a coalition. It’s a more complicated table to dine at.
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