From its start, The Table has pursued four core practices: Welcoming, Listening, Gospeling, and Going/Joining. We hold these practices as central to the life of our church as they help us to embody our values. Over the next four weeks, we will share brief reflections on each of these core practices. First up is Welcoming.
Quite often when thinking of Welcoming the idea of hosting comes to mind. It is natural that we would connect these two concepts; however, our hosting as the Body of Christ takes on a different shape than what we commonly see around us. Hosting implies a sort of ownership of the space — the host graciously invites others to join them, but it is on their turf and they may even be the one providing a meal. Hosting can be ripe with power dynamics which is why it is a fertile space for posturing. As a result, there is a temptation for people in these spaces, whether they are the host or the hosted, to see it as an opportunity to make an impression. Many of us have received the idea that to make a way for ourselves we must put our best foot forward or impress someone.
Even Christian hospitality and hosting runs the risk of playing with this currency of charisma. At The Table, we seek to practice Welcoming in the ways we saw Jesus welcome. Much of Jesus’ ministry took place around tables and over food and drink. Jesus held space in a way that was able to cut through pretense and allow people to get real. He welcomed in a way that allowed people just to be. People came to Jesus looking for answers or with things to prove and Jesus undoubtedly wanted what was best for them, but he did not impose his agenda upon them. Instead, he met them where they were really at.
This is the type of Welcoming we seek to practice at The Table. We aim to hold space for people to come as they are and to provide a space for them just to be, because we believe that God can only meet us where you are really at. In our workshop that kicked off our Lenten series on Racism and Repentance a couple years ago we gained new language that enhanced our imagination for Welcoming in the way of Jesus. It was in that workshop that I first heard the term “guesting.”
It is God who welcomes us all as guests as we gather around the Lord’s table each Sunday. It is not our church, but God’s. This understanding of whose space we enter into together lays a foundation for a completely different way of occupying that space. Instead of seeing ourselves as the hosts — or those on whose turf we gather — we instead see ourselves as guests who get the joy of joining in the Welcoming of other guests alongside us! This understanding of our role in God’s Welcoming frees and empowers us, not only at church but in all of life, to release our desire for control so that we can truly live into love.
We have been welcomed by God. We practice Welcoming each other as we gather in homes and around tables. And we extend Welcome to neighbors, strangers, and enemies as we walk through life.
Reconciliation is central to the work of Jesus and it is central to God’s work in the world. We, being reconciled to God, are invited to join in this work of reconciliation by Welcoming others to come as they are to join us as guests around the Lord’s table.
Brothers and Sisters, may you walk in the confidence that you have been welcomed into the Kingdom and may that confidence free you to generously love and practice Welcoming today. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!