Guess who’s coming to dinner. It’s the title of a 1967 romantic comedy, starring Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. It’s also an invitation to reimagine who Jesus prepares a table for.
With U.S. Thanksgiving approaching, millions of Americans are planning to gather around the table. Leslie Josephs, reporting for CNBC news, warns travelers, “holiday airfare will be most expensive in five years as pandemic fears wane.”
If you want to see your family, it’s going to cost you. This sounds more like a ransom, yes? Either way, you and I are going to lose.
Sitting at the Jesus table will cost you too. Carrying a cross and still, we come up empty-handed. Jesus’ last supper reminds us of just how quickly the tables turn.
All of this got me to thinking about our table manners and Jesus’ table ministry as outlined in Luke’s Gospel. It is a frequent scene in ancient times.
A savior, who knows his way around a kitchen and can teach effectively, Jesus prepares the best meal you’ve ever had, complete with miracles. No one can top that!
He could stretch a meal, feeding thousands with the contents of a lunch bag. Jesus knew the way to the disciples’ hearts was through their stomachs, charging them over a meal.
He challenged gender roles and social expectations, reminding Martha that her place was not in the kitchen but at his feet. He said that an unnamed woman, whom the Pharisees only saw as “sinful,” was a better example of hospitality.
Besides, “Jesus ate good food with bad people,” Jean Leclerc reminds us. Ironically, those bad people included those closest to him.
Using Jesus’ parable of the great party in Luke 14 as the centerpiece, Table Manners is the newest resource from The Raceless Gospel Initiative.
It is meant to be read in one sitting. Connecting over a meal, this resource is outlined like the steps one would take to have dinner.
But the conversation doesn’t end there. I am sure that there are leftovers, and I have provided to-go containers as this is not the only time that Jesus can be found sitting at a table.
Over dinner, notable thinkers and philosophers would share their wisdom. At the table and in Luke 14, the disciples learn about the “kin-dom” of God and who is invited to the festivities.
The fellowship table is where it all happened, where persons gathered to talk shop and synagogue business. According to this parable, it all comes together when we all come together, called for dinner by Jesus, the host, who is also God in guest flesh.
It is no simple meal and no easy way of living. We will sit next to people we have written off and looked down on. William Willimon says of Jesus, “He is an uncomfortable guest and even more abrasive host.” The seating arrangement is meant to rub in his words of radical inclusion.
Table Manners is not about which fork to use. I will not remind you to sit up straight or keep your elbows off the table. If you make a slurping nose while eating soup, you’re still welcome. Instead, this is about what hospitality looks like. It is a call to sit down at the table and to mind your manners.
For too long, the focus has solely been on ensuring that we have a seat in the “kin-dom” of God. Today, I invite you to sit down, listen to this story and to hear who will be seated next to you.
It will not be who you think. When Jesus sends out the invitations, guess who’s coming to dinner.
For your copy of Table Manners, click here.