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Tables Create Societies

Our Jr. and Sr. High students are currently working through Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. This may be one of the best studies we have ever done for a number of reasons, but I was particularly appreciative of the chapter “The Jesus Creed as a Table.”

The basic thrust of the chapter is this: tables can create societies and tables can divide societies.

Think about the life of Christ…he is regularly sharing a meal with someone. In fact, the people Jesus shares meals with is one of the main things that gets him into trouble. He is always eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” And, even when he is eating with Pharisees, he allows “sinful women” to touch him and recline near him (see Luke 7:36-50). Clearly, sharing meals (i.e., sharing the table, table-fellowship) was significant in Jesus’ day. It is no less significant in ours…

One of the most frustrating things I see as a youth pastor is table/couch/vehicle dynamics. Take, for example, a summer trip to Cedar Point. This trip takes over 3 hours and usually involves a couple 15-passenger vans. Even though it is 6:00 am (in the summer!) when we begin our trip, our students are already stewing about one issue: whom will I sit next to? In fact, the careful observer will realize that there is tremendous political work going on behind the scenes about who sits with whom and, even, which van they are sitting in. I have tried to overcome this ritual in a variety of ways: teaching about it, talking about it ahead of time, yelling, forcing people to sit in a certain seat…but I just can’t seem to shake it.  (one of my greatest accomplishments as a youth pastor is convincing most of my Sr. Highers that sitting “shot-gun” next to the old guy is really the best seat in the van!).

The same is true for teens during the lunch hour at school. The lunch table remains one of the most significant “social indicators” in the life of a teen. Tables are significant, both for who is at your table and who is not at your table.  Unfortunately, most teens spend a considerable amount of time trying to be at the “right” table (or “cool table” as we said in the eighties).

Unfortunately, these two examples show our teens for who they are: Pharisees.  Teens are so consumed with table/couch/vehicle dynamics that they forget about everyone but themselves.  This represents a failure to love God and love others.  It represents a failure to live out the Jesus Creed.  Is it any wonder that many of my teens tell me that their non-Christian friends find no attraction to Christianity?  Why is this, I ask?   Because Christian teens are often no different from everyone else.  They are exclusive.

But I don’t want to pile up on our teens.  I’ve also been blogging about Christian parenting recently and I think it is safe to come to this conclusion: our teens act like Pharisees because we act like Pharisees.  We, too, are exclusive in our “table-fellowship.”  We, too, fail to love others.  We, too, are exclusive.

What we need to keep in mind that table-fellowship today is a foretaste of our eternal-fellowship with Christ.  Luke 14:15-24 seems to make this point very clear.  Therefore, to say it another way, our table-fellowship today should resemble our eternal-fellowship with Christ.  In fact, this seems to be Jesus’ challenge in Luke 14:12-14:

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,  14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (NIV).

Tables can create societies and tables can divide societies.  Let’s be a people that uses the table to create societies that love God and love others.

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  1. April 7, 2008 at 9:15 am

    I really enjoyed what you said on Jesus Creed brother.
    I believe it is our job to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The two books that have changed my life so far besides the Bible are: “Adventures in missing the point” by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo; and “They Like Jesus But not the Church” by Dan Kimball. We need to know things are changing and we need to let elders know the truth. I like how you encouraged him to keep the conversation going.

    I also want you to know that I like your blog brother.
    I have added it to my favorites and look forward to reading it often.
    I pray you have a blessed day!

  2. brianmcl
    April 8, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks…we have fun on here and we often end up talking about Jesus Creed in our staff meetings a lot. It makes for fun.

    I’m sure we’ll cross paths in the blog world many times!

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