When I see that phrase, Big God, Small Table, I quickly get melancholy. I feel this way because I am trying to figure out how American Christianity (in particular, the Protestant part of it), got to this point in our history. What started as a movement of the Pax Christus (the power of Jesus) has become a movement that seems to be content with following the Pax Romana (the power of Rome). By that I mean, the church of Jesus Christ should be about a Big God and the need for a bigger table not creating ways to reduce the size of the table or who is allowed to sit at it!
The church should be about offering extravagant hospitality to everyone- no matter their gender, sexual orientation, political views, or even whether they have faith in a Big God who offers them a big love. As the Apostle Paul understood, "It is the power of God dwelling in us" that makes us who we claim to be as followers of Jesus, and in that power, it is no longer us, "but Christ who lives in us" — Christ's words, actions, and invitation to a bigger table.
I know it is true for many of us, that the American Church is not doing a great job right now of dealing with the current divisiveness that has taken place not only during our last presidential campaign, but in our current cultural climate. As John Pavlovitz states in his new book, The Bigger Table:
Can the table really be expanded so that everyone has a place? What is the way forward, given the unprecedented divisiveness we're experiencing? How do we transform this nearly paralyzing sense of sadness into something worth pursuing? Many people are grieving the loss of the America they thought they knew; they are mourning their old picture of home or their image of church. As with all grief, eventually there must be movement. — Pavlovitz, John. A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community . Presbyterian Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Let's face it, the American church has been part of the divisive landscape of our country throughout its history — slavery; lack of child-labor laws; women unable to vote or get equal pay; prohibition; war; calls for peace; educational inequality; human rights violations of the LGBT community, people of color, immigrants, and those from a lower socio-economic background; bigotry; racism; politics. You name it we have been a part of it — the good and the bad. There have been attempts by the church as well as political leaders over this country's history to make God's table smaller. Perhaps, in the here and now, this community of faith should be what we say we are going to be — a place where no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcomed here. Your current faith understandings are not a requirement for being welcomed here. Your social or economic statuses are not roadblocks to our welcoming you. Your gender, sexual orientation, skin color, or even political persuasion is not an obstacle for you to be welcomed here.
The extravagant love and hospitality of Jesus should always convict us of making God's welcoming table even larger! The invitation of Jesus to those in his culture was not limited. However, he was constantly reminded the "church of his day" that they cannot be about the business of limiting who is allowed to be at the table — to be part of God's realm on earth as in heaven. He reminded the religious folk of his day and the religious folk of today, to practice mercy and compassion on those whom we may deem as "undeserving" of both.
In November, we will be looking at offering extravagant hospitality. It is the hospitality of Jesus that we will look at in our messages. We will focus on a Big God and a bigger table available to all — not only here at Spring Creek, but beyond these walls.
NOVEMBER MESSAGE FOCUS
11/5 – The Altar of Community – Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11
The practice of hospitality can be a virtue that allows us to joyfully encounter God in others and in self.
11/12 – Extravagant Hospitality: Holy Welcome – Matthew 10:40-42
"In the United Church of Christ, we claim extravagant hospitality at the heart of our vision for the church, and we commit to live that out the best we can. Jesus, interestingly, doesn't speak of extravagance here but of one little cold cup of water."- Kate Huey (UCC- Weekly Seeds)
What is the "cup of cold water" that you offer others?
11/19 – Prepping for the Apocalypse: Extravagant Hospitality to the Family – Psalm 107:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Do you dread the annual "Family Thanksgiving dinner?" There are two little words that may help you to be thankful even during those sometimes "tense" gatherings?
11/26 – To What Church Would Jesus Belong? – Acts 2:42-47
People want a church that is true to Jesus, aligned with his ministry and mission. Would Jesus want to belong to Spring Creek?