November, it seems, is all about the table. From Thanksgiving to Friendsgiving and all the gatherings in-between, we bring family and friends together to eat, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company. But how often do we let the pressure of hosting or old family arguments get in the way of being able to really enjoy the people seated at our table with us? This month’s IF:Table contributor, Bri McKoy, reminds us that a table where Jesus is present is one filled with meekness, humility, and service. May these be the banners we choose this Thanksgiving season and may we always make space for Jesus to show up and eat with us. Pick up Bri’s new book, Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace around the Everyday Table, and then make room at your table for a pot of Bri’s delicious Leftover Turkey Pot Pie Soup!
Jesus has spent the better part of my six years of married life teaching me the importance of gathering people around our table.
Gathering when everything is imperfect.
Gathering even when I burn the meal.
Gathering when there are not enough chairs.
He has shown me how he came eating and drinking. How He pulled out a chair at the table of sinners. How he would rather eat with a broken people than a have-it-all-together people. How He spent His last hours as a free man around a table.
If we pay attention, we can see how many times Jesus appeared at a table. This man who could have come and overthrown kingdoms took a different, quieter way. He took his place in this earth not on a throne but at the tables of the everyday common person.
When the Pharisees ridiculed the people Jesus ate with, He said clear as day, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matthew 9:13, The Message)
This is why I wrote Come & Eat. Because my hope for our tables is that it can be just a whisper of what the table for the Supper of the Lamb will one day look like. Jesus sat at tables of brokenness and joy. He sat at tables filled with questions. Tables filled with doubt. Tables filled with hope. We can allow our tables to be a place where His love can shine bright. Our small invite to a meal can reveal a larger invitation, the invitation to life everlasting.
And, so, this Thanksgiving let us be intentional people-gatherers. Let us choose humility at the table the way Jesus did.
A table illuminated with meekness is the most piercing of all. A humbled and meek table shows up unadorned because the people at the table are the treasure. Though our guests might have come to see us, a table laid with meekness hopes that the guests leave feeling enjoyed, not just entertained. Meekness at the table pulls out a seat for the exile, the weary, the poor, and proclaims, “It is my joy to eat with you, not my burden.” We embody the very beating life of Jesus when we choose to stoop low in service of others. We put away our fancy frills and lean into the person at the table, not the presentation of the table.
Jesus’ meekness was displayed through his ultimate and final act on the cross, when he did not spare even one drop of blood to save humanity. And isn’t this how God calls us? He calls us to lay down our lives. Despite our privilege or our zip code. It’s just like how he called Joseph or Noah. Moses and David. Esther and Mary. Each of them with varying degrees of status or power but each with lives all used up and wrung out to save other lives.
Pouring myself out at my table looks like me taking the humble position Jesus did with the person sitting right in front of me. It looks like me intentionally stepping away from the preoccupation of my own insular concerns and instead looking to wholeheartedly engage with the need Jesus has brought to my table. My friend Edie often reminds others of a quote from Pauline Phillips, journalist and creator of the Dear Abby column in 1956: “There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who walk into a room and say, ‘There you are’ and those who say, ‘Here I am.’”
This is the best and most concise explanation I know for the heart behind a table laid with meekness. It seeks out the other.
This Thanksgiving may we be people who throw open our doors as guests arrive and say, “There you are!” May we choose service instead of status.