At an oval conference table, my clergy colleagues pulled up a chair and glanced at the agenda. Hmm. Stewardship season again? At the head of the conference room table, a tall white haired elder with broad shoulders and a booming voice took his seat. As he described how he and his family wrote their first check to the church every month, I shuddered with fear. After I paid the rent and the car payment, there was barely enough for groceries. But as a minister of the church, I was called to give. So I began, in 1988, to give $10 a month.
When I saw a child with cancer in Nicaragua gain access to chemo because of our congregation’s generosity, I became motivated to give more. As my own son was mentored by caring church members who went out of their way to encourage and guide him, I realized that such grace couldn’t be purchased anywhere. It was pure gift.
This year, when the theme “A Place at the Table” was chosen for our stewardship season, it made perfect sense to me. I realized that a wise elder had invited me to the table decades ago. The congregation daily makes a place at the table for the poor and marginalized here in Kansas City and around the globe. And my family has been welcomed repeatedly at God’s table. So why wouldn’t I want to make room at the table for others? After all, we Disciples of Christ gather at the table of Jesus every Sunday and we are always wanting to make room for just one more, to include all of God’s children at the table.
But then a few days ago, I just happened upon a little line in the gospel of Luke that startled me.
“…a Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table” (Luke 11:37)
Suddenly I reversed my perspective on a “place at the table.” Jesus was the one without a place at the table. And this man, a Pharisee, who was both faithful and flawed, invited him into his home for supper. Could it be that Jesus still waits for us to invite him in to have a place in our homes, our lives, our world, our church?