Room at the table

Photo by Nicole Michalou

by Demi Prentiss

The Gospel for this week reminds us, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). For many, Jesus’ promise seems laughable, as we have faced the isolation enforced by Covid prevention measures and now the reduced attendance many congregations are experiencing. The past few years have cramped our vision and promoted scarcity thinking. Fear cripples our imaginations, and perceiving abundance challenges our common sense.

In Isaiah 54:2 the prophet reminds the Israelites to think bigger: “Clear lots of ground for your tents! Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big! Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep” (The Message). Like Israelites returning from exile, we in the post-Covid church are called to widen our vision and our embrace. Open our doors to welcome unfamiliar people and experiences. Sharpen our vision to perceive who our supporters and our allies are.  Be courageous to invite contributions – both monetary and intangible gifts.  Partner with both modest givers and big spenders alike.

Last week’s Gospel story of two dispirited disciples walking to Emmaus has always invited my speculation: What was the “tell” that allowed the two breaking bread with Jesus to, at last, recognize him?  When the Risen Christ broke the bread, did they catch a glimpse of the nail holes in his hands? Was it the distinctive way he blessed the bread, or broke it, or poured the cup of wine that tipped them off? Perhaps it was the way he said “Abba” as he asked God’s blessing for the meal? Or the gestures he used as he handed food and drink to the others at table with him?

I like to think that the real giveaway was his hospitality – the way he embodied the message of open-handed abundance as he presided at the meal. “Enough is as good as a feast.” All who dine with Christ experience abundant life.

Jesus challenges believers to see him in the people we encounter every day – the stranger on the road, the surprise visitor, the people at our table, even those who are not our favorite companions. Where we see Jesus, we are called to see the abundance that he brings. As we widen our vision and our embrace, we enlarge the site of our tent – we make plenty good room, and shift our perception from scarcity to a heightened awareness of gift and opportunity.  For us personally and for our society, our recovery – from pandemic, from hard-fought elections, from the dangers of everyday living and the fear of the unknown – may well depend on our ability to incarnate the abundance Christ promises. “Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.”

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