Peculiar Meals – The Gift of a Dinner Table

Every Tuesday night for the last two years, two of my friends have done something scandalous. They don’t publicize it. I don’t think they care what others would think. What they do is really quiet simple and remarkable. Every Tuesday night they open up their home. They invite others, just for a few hours, to be a part of a loving family each week. For a few hours each week a glimpse of heaven can be seen over some bread and wine in this small town.

The grace of God is something that is radically subversive. It has an unusual habit of turning the world upside for everyone around. In the Bible, in the Gospel of Luke, there is a story about a woman who comes to Jesus in religious man’s house.[i] The story starts out with this religious guy hosting Jesus. As the evening goes on, a woman walks into his home uninvited. We do not know much about her, the text seems to suggest she might be a prostitute or some other outcast of society. What we do know from the reaction of those present is that the host thinks she at least is filthy trash. The type of person that they believe should be thrown away. In this story she pushes past the people and begins to cry. She cries and washes the feet of Jesus with tears. As she is crying she wipes Jesus’ feet off not with a towel but her hair. As she hovers over his feet she kisses them in adoration. She pours a substantial amount of costly perfume upon him. The host at this point objects. The host objects on the ground that this woman is filth. The host objects that Jesus should have known better than to even allow this woman to touch him. At this point Jesus interrupts the host. Jesus interrupts not as to defend himself but to defend this unwelcome stranger. He begins by telling a parable about a debtor. At the end of he explains the parable, defends the woman and gives to her grace. He gives to her not something that she had asked for but what she needed. In his compassion he administers unmerited grace which turns the world upside down for everyone in the room. Jesus makes her clean.

Compassion and grace requires us to be welcoming, listening while paying attention to others and creating space for them. It requires slowing things down. It requires us to move beyond being task oriented to becoming oriented towards people.

How did it come about that a little bit of heaven would show up in Newport, NC on Tuesday nights? For much of the world the spaces we create in our day to day lives ends up towards graceless selfishness. Quiet often we as people end-up saying something like this is my space, my house, my turf when it comes to our possessions and families. We forget that as Christians we are called to a new life, life that is oriented towards loving our God and loving all which he loves. One thing our God loves beyond a shadow of a doubt is people. All people. One evening last year I asked my friends why where they inviting both strangers and friends into their home every Tuesday. They answered they were trying to love God and to love others through the small things, through the means that they had been blessed.

Our world is filled with hunger, suffering, pain, want and all kinds of loneliness. Jesus once fed a crowd of thousands and they delighted in Him but when Jesus attempted to feed them again, this time spiritually, they left his side spiritually hungry.[ii] Only when we feast upon the grace of Jesus will we ever be satisfied. My friends’ actions of loving others with a shared meal is always served with heaping portion of grace. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus once said “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “[iii]

I will never be home til heaven opens, but on every Tuesday night in this small town I get to see a little bit of heaven, a glimpse of home. Each meal is infused with the spice of that eternal banquet. These meals are always informal, yet by the end of the night something peculiar and special happens. I find my heart is drawn closer to God. I see through them in their graciousness a glimpse of my heart’s desire, Jesus. Grace comes and it scandalizes me. In a small town where I grew accustomed to being tossed a side as unwanted trash, they have been teaching me the meanings of grace and what it means to be loved.  It wasn’t something that I asked for, but in the opening up of their home I came to find something that I needed.

[i] Luke 7:36-50

[ii] John 6:1-59

[iii] Luke 6:20-21

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