Our kitchen table is a mess. Even when it is wiped clean and clear of clutter, it is still stained. Splotches of red, pink, and green paint won’t scrub off. Black permanent marker bled through paper. Pencil scratches and indentations mar the surface. A water glass ring remains.
This table serves as the place where the kids do homework, make crafts and build school projects. We eat most meals in this space, whether home cooked or from the fast food restaurants we frequent too often. I cover it up with a tablecloth when we have guests, but underneath the scars are there. Sometimes, I am embarrassed about how unkempt the table looks, but I won’t get rid of it, whether we ever get a new kitchen table or not. The memories that table represent are too strong.
In the Christian tradition, we talk a lot about Jesus at tables, hanging out with people, eating, sharing time. Many of those people were outcasts in their society, and Jesus’ willingness to sit and talk with them shook the norms of the day. When we share communion, we come to the “table” to remember Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, his life, death, and resurrection. At our church, all are welcome to God’s table, especially those of us who are imperfect and wounded. And aren’t we all?
If we visualize God’s symbolic table as physical and present today, we would see a crazy mess too. Set full of food and drink to be sure, but the table’s surface bears the blemishes of the many people throughout the ages who’ve spent time with God. That table discolored with tears, sweat and blood stains. Prayers are written in pencil and permanent marker too. The pockmarks left by the people who’ve scratched and clawed for survival or banged fists in frustration and anger clearly evident. Glorious marks of creativity and inspiration splattered throughout. The table has worn edges because it is crowded, but with room for more always. The love contained in the stories and memories shared is ingrained and never erased. God doesn’t feel the need to cover up this table to hide its imperfections.
As we journey through life, facing hardship, feeling desperate, expressing gratitude, or experiencing joy, let us imagine that table where we can meet God. Pull up a chair and make your mark at the table. Or yet, pull up chairs for others and demonstrate God’s love by welcoming them without reservation. God is always at the table ready to talk. Let us find peace at his table and follow his example.