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Bringing life to the table

Bringing life to the table

Bringing life to the table

24 September 2019

Photo: Toa Heftiba

By Sandra Pawar

I have an idea. It’s not a new idea, mind you, but it comes straight from Scripture.

It’s an idea that started with Jesus, really. It is the idea that eating together is the new (yet old) mission field.

You see, eating meals with others truly matters. Jesus loved to host parties. He loved being with people and gathering them around the table. And he didn’t care who was there!

He invited and ate with prostitutes, tax collectors, men, women, young, old, white, black. Everyone had an invitation. In our family, we love hosting people, but it hasn’t always been that way.

When my husband, Ashish, and I got married, I didn’t like people coming to my house, and I certainly didn’t like cooking for them. It was hard work for me. I didn’t know how to cook and when I did, it was a disaster.

These days, though, it’s a different story. On most Friday evenings you will see us gathered around the table with family, friends and neighbours.

It’s our ‘neighbours evening’ and we have made the commitment to have people over for a meal. I still don’t like to cook; I find it nerve-racking and I still consider myself a learner.

My husband, on the other hand, is the master chef and makes some amazing food. So we have a deal: I invite people and he cooks (and cleans). Pretty good deal, isn’t it?

I am learning that our dining room table needs to be open to others. It can’t be just reserved for our family – we need to be people who invite others to share life and meals with us.

You see, at the table we don’t just feed people, we build relationships – stories and memories. It is at the table where food and stories are passed from one person to another.

It is where each of us learns who we are, where we come from, what we can be, to whom we belong, and to what we are called. When Jesus sat at a table with others he spoke of theology and life, love and truth.

He did evangelism and discipleship over fish and bread and wine. The table is of such significance in the Scriptures and an invitation to recline at it is everything.

Jesus invited to the table people who had never been invited to a banquet or a dinner. He made the dinner table accessible for all and set an example for us to follow.

Just think, we may be the only invitation some people receive. An invitation to share their lives, their stories, an invitation for them to be seen and heard.

And this provides an opportunity for us to share Jesus and his love for them. Who are you inviting into your homes and to your table? People who are rejected by society? Jesus invited them. People who are broken? Jesus invited them. The outcasts? Jesus invited them. The sinner? Jesus invited them. Those different from you? Jesus invited them.

People want to be seen and heard. The words we speak and the love we show reflects love and grace. The invitation we extend speaks of Jesus.

The best dinner table I have ever sat at was in the red-light district of Athens, Greece. It was a homecooked meal made by a female Salvation Army officer.

The evening began with the officer walking down the street in the middle of the red-light district and giving women who were being prostituted big, warm hugs in the middle of their shift. She extended an invitation to dinner that night at the nearby Salvation Army centre.

Thirty women, still in the middle of their shifts, walked up the stairs of The Salvation Army that night, sat and listened to the Bible story of the woman at the well.

They heard how God knew her story and that he knew their stories, their names, and that he loved each one of them greatly. The women prayed together, and then sat down at a long table and shared a home-cooked meal.

Laughing and sharing life, these 30 women who had been rejected and used and abused, who had been deemed by most to be unclean and unworthy, discovered that in God’s eyes they were worthy and valued.

At this dinner table there were 30 women who on this night were seen and heard and loved and valued. It still is my favourite dinner party ever.

Jesus had an idea: the dinner table as his mission field. So, who are you inviting to your table? Is it part of your mission field?

Sandra Pawar is Multicultural Planter, WestConnect Salvos, Sydney.

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