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The Power of a TableAbbye Pates

By Abbye Pates

February 2014

 

"The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be - and experience - a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favorite will be returned - oh, how it will be returned! - at the resurrection of God's people." 

-- Luke 14: 12-14 (The Message) --

 

Jeff and I love to have people in our home. There is a specific place in our lives where people are welcomed: the dinner table.

 

Old and young, crass and well-spoken, addicted and free, black and white. This table is where we come to have a basic need met: the relieving of hunger. We cook the beef, boil the potatoes, roast the broccoli and pour sweet tea into mismatched glasses. We happily serve it all on our table set with wedding-gifted plates and handmade cloth napkins.

 

Before we start, a candle is lit and we pray. “Thank you for this space, this food, these people and the time we’re about to share. Amen.”

 

And while stomachs are filled with food, other hungers are also satisfied.  Hungry souls find authentic human connections. Tired and stressed out bodies find rest.

 

One night at our table, two sisters and their three kids squeezed around our table made for four. The sweet children had been eating pre-packaged, microwaveable food in a cheap motel room for weeks when we first met them. This family stayed with us a short time as they waited to move into an apartment.

 

They hungered for good food, security and love. While at our table and in our home, they were prayed for, loved, and taught. The children grew calmer each day, their anxieties melting though they were sleeping in yet another unfamiliar bedroom.

 

Bonnie was another guest in our home. It wasn’t long before Jeff and I were coming home and experiencing Bonnie’s home-cooked meals and other gifts. In our kitchen, she provided hospitality to us even as we provided it to her.

 

All our guests have graced our dinner table not only with their presence but with their stories. While we have heard many interesting and funny stories from the guests at our table; and we've also heard many of sadness and loss.

 

What is it about this table that helps us share and listen so well? We are undistracted as we sit across from a friend. We look into each other’s eyes as they open themselves to us. Good things happen at dinner tables.

 

Jesus once participated in a dinner party with a top leader of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were familiar with inviting important people to their parties (always considering themselves as the important ones), but now this simple but fascinating “unimportant” man from Nazareth was at their dinner table. During dinner, Jesus told many stories. In one story he addressed the issue of inviting people to dinner.

 

Bonnie’s meals for us might be an example of what Jesus was talking about. Her gifts back to us were significant, welcomed surprises after a long day’s work. What better reason is there to invite people to our tables?

 

Welcoming people to our dinner table can be the beginning of someone’s welcome to Jesus.

 

Much wise counsel and healing words have passed over our table. Many confessions and frustrations have been shared. Many words of apology and forgiveness exchanged. Many have heard of Jesus in a fresh way as they saw his people live together and practice community for the first time.

 

Maybe you, like me, think daily about what it means to be on mission with Jesus. We listen for God’s “go,” but let’s also listen for God’s “stay.” Remembering the words of Jesus, let us open our homes and tables to the ones living down the street or working next to us. Let us be open to those asking for groceries to feed their children. Let us find ways of hospitality to offer the peace of Jesus to those living in chaos.

 

Many of the friends that have sat at our table have heard the name of Jesus all their lives, but have never seen his people love each other well and follow him unswervingly.

 

Your table can be the place someone finds Jesus this week.

 

About the Author

Abbye West Pates is a singer, songwriter, recording artist and worship leader. She is also a Regional Recruiter with Friends4One. She and her husband Jeff live in a diverse neighborhood in Memphis, TN. They are committed to practicing hospitality to those that are often overlooked. You can find her original music at www.abbyewestpates.com. Email her for more information on Friends4One, her hospitality ministry or her home concerts.

 

A Word From James 

What do you hold in your hands that Christ can use to announce his love and grace? A guitar, a checkbook, a hammer, a dinner table…?  Invite FollowOne to help you, your children and your church take new steps in response to God’s call to serve lost and hurting people? FollowOne is helping Christ followers young and old bring glory to God by serving the poor, transforming communities and taking the Good News to strategic populations around the world.

 

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