Everyone Has a Seat at Our Table

Good news. According to the CDC, those who have been fully vaccinated from COVID-19 can now spend time together indoors and unmasked. So, no more excuses. And I’m speaking to myself.

Hospitality is not one of my spiritual gifts. I like my space, my quiet, and my time to defrag, whereas Laura likes our space, our noise, and our time to defrag with others. She never wants an empty dinner table. She even has a wooden sign hanging in our dining room that says, “Everyone has a seat at our table.” I remind her that we don’t have enough seats for everyone, but she seems undeterred.

I know I should like people better. I am a pastor, after all. And I do like people; I even love them. But I recognize that love requires me to show hospitality. It’s even in the Bible. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9, NIV). How’s that for convicting?

Yes, we need balance between community and solitude, between everyone sitting at our table and everyone sitting at their own table. Boundaries. But I can’t use boundaries as an excuse for not showing hospitality. And now I can’t even use COVID as an excuse for not “spending time together indoors and unmasked.” 

Eugene Peterson calls this, eucharistic hospitality. Hospitality of “good grace,” where we sit together with Jesus at the head of the table. If I want to be in the presence of Jesus, I had better get used to sitting with others at the table, because that’s where Jesus is. He ate with sinners and tax collectors (Mark 2:15). He ate at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:1-10). When he was shown a lack of hospitality, he reprimanded his host and affirmed a prostitute who showed up uninvited and served him well (Luke 7:36-50).

There’s a reason Jesus used a meal to commemorate his own death. He truly was showing eucharistic hospitality. So, again, if I want to be in the presence of Jesus, I’d better get used to joining others at the table.

In The Pastor, Eugene Peterson tells the story of a time someone asked his wife, “Do you have any pearls of wisdom that you can give us for raising our children?” Her answer: “Have a family meal every evening.” She went on to say,

I know that it might be difficult, but it should be possible to get everyone away from the TV in their rooms with their microwaved meal on a TV tray to eat together. A time to gather the events of the day into conversation, to enter into the mutuality of passing and receiving, of stories, potatoes, carrots, and pork chops. Share food and conversation with one another. Listen to one another. Receive a blessing (195).

Indeed. Eucharistic hospitality. No more excuses. No more grumbling. Pull up a chair, because everyone has a seat at Jesus’ table.

Indeed. Eucharistic hospitality. No more excuses. No more grumbling. Pull up a chair, because everyone has a seat at Jesus’ table.