One of the most sure-fire ways to get under my skin is to cop a grandiose (and often far-reaching) “Well, the Bible clearly says…” in the middle of a conversation about the intersection of faith and policy and our shared life together as humans flying through space on a living rock. There’s not much about that scenario that is abundantly clear. We exist in tensions and grey areas, always learning from one another and from our mistakes.
There are some things, written time and time again, forming a consistent arc throughout Scripture. These things we seem all too ready to overlook or cast aside.
That God is with us.
That God is for us.
That God, for some reason, chose and continues to choose to work with and through us.
That God moves to draw more and more people to Godself.
That the revelation of God’s grace gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
From a chosen family, to a chosen nation, to a priesthood of believers.
From a tent, to a temple, to an ascension leaving us staring into the clouds with wonder.
The table gets bigger time and time and time again until John has a vision of a giant feast with people from every tribe, and every nation, and every tongue gathered at around the table.
Within this arc there is no space for building walls and closing doors, that’s the wrong direction.
The table never gets smaller, only bigger.
Groups of people are not kicked out, only welcomed in.
First the Jew, then the gentile.
First a call to love your neighbor, then a call to love your enemy.
So for those of us who claim this tradition, that’s the arc of our story, too. It’s not just that we read about this expansion of the God’s grace and love in a morning quiet time, it’s the pattern our lives should reflect.
First your people, who sing the songs you like…and then the people who sing the songs you cannot even begin to sing along with.
First your people, who preach the messages that feed you…and then the people who preach the messages that make you angry.
First your people with whom you know which jokes will be funny and which values may be assumed…and then to the people who could not be more unlike you.
The table always gets bigger.
That’s how the story goes, the story we signed up not just to believe but to be a part of when we decided to follow Christ.
We decided that it was more advantageous to build bigger buildings than bigger tables though. The fastest way to build a bigger building is to gather a whole bunch of similar people. We blessed this idea and called it “church growth.” I’m not sure which hermeneutic we used to get there, because when I look at the growth of the Church in Scripture it hardly seems like a bunch of similar people who gathered. The Church seemed to grow when there were a lot of people with differences who gathered in defiance of the social constructs which pushed them away from one another. The Church seemed to grow when this rag-tag group of Jews and Greeks, free people and slaves, rich and poor gathered and shared and dared want and hunger to exist in their midst.
The Bible clearly says that.
Which is inconvenient, so we ignore it.
It is inconvenient for the table to get bigger. This is not a happy-clappy, Instagrammable feast with flower crowns and microbrews.
It’s hard to come to the table with someone who sees the world differently than you do.
It’s hard to break bread and pour wine with someone who may abandon you after dinner.
It’s hard to wash the feet of one who would betray you.
But this is the way we have chosen.
It is fine if you are compelled to work for walls and new policies to keep people out in order to “keep your family safe,” just realize that is a different story you will be living in when you make that choice.
It is fine if you chose to hold on to your anger because a person or a group has hurt you, just realize you are choosing a different story when anger become the center and the animating force.
The table always, only gets bigger in this story, and it is most inconvenient to continue to choose to live in it.