November 2022 Connection

Bridging Divides and Setting Tables

As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call
righteous people, but sinners.”
-Matthew 9:10-13 (CEB)
What have you done to bridge the divide lately?
It’s a tough question, isn’t it? It almost sounds like a Jesus question. Not necessarily gentle, but also full of truth and conviction. Seems like one we should have a quick answer to, but at the same time makes us really think. Yep, those are Jesus-style questions. In the above passage from Matthew’s Gospel, we find Jesus sitting at the dinner table with tax collectors and sinners. Sometimes, we forget that this dinner might not have been like our typical eat-quick-so-we-can-get-to-piano-practice dinners on Tuesday nights. There’s a pretty good chance this was a Shabbat meal – dinner on the sabbath day – and it would have been full of ritual and moments of holiness. Jesus is eating this dinner with his disciples, and who comes and sits down but tax collectors and sinners. Sabbath dinner gets awkward…quickly! This meal that is full of ritual and celebration of God’s goodness is infiltrated by those who probably weren’t welcome at many sabbath dinner tables. We don’t know who they are exactly – Matthew just calls them sinners and tax collectors. But, at the same time, we know exactly who they are, don’t we?
The Pharisees see it. Now, hear me out, Pharisees were not bad people. They just understood their faithfulness to rely on ensuring that God’s laws in scripture are followed and never ignored. They wanted to preserve what they understood as the foundation of faith. Jesus sometimes let things slide, and
that raised eyebrows! But what is Jesus doing? He’s making the table big enough to welcome those who don’t necessarily fit in at any other table.
So, back to the initial question, “what have you done to bridge the divide lately?” We have to be careful as we answer this to remember that Jesus has don  quite a bit to bridge the divide with us, too. We don’t have it all figured out, and the proverbial table is not yours or mine. It is, has always been, and will continue to be God’s table. Room has been made at the table for us. What are we doing, each of us to make room for others?
You see, this question isn’t about who is right and who is wrong, and who will be the bigger person to let the other person sit at the table. This question is about drawing closer to someone else, in spite of anything that might divide us. I believe this story from Matthew’s Gospel is there as a reminder to us that there is plenty of room at Christ’s table, and when we sit at it, we’ll also be sitting with those who live, believe, vote, and relate to others differently than us. The table then becomes vast! So, what’s then served at the table? Grace. Love. Peace. Hope. That’s all!
Does that mean that we’ll all start to automatically live in peace and harmony with all those on the other
side of the divisive canyons in our lives? No. That is possible – and it is the hope – but that takes a lot of
work! But, sitting at the table and pulling out the chair for someone else is a great place to start!
What have you done to bridge the divide recently?
Pastor Brian
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