Mind Your Manners: Jesus Is Eatin’ Here Today

Look ahead today & you’ll see Jesus. He’s in front of us. On The Table. He says, “This is my body. This is my blood.” Here’s the one place-above-all we can know Jesus, not just know about him! And if we are open, hungry, empty, longing enough, somewhere inside, we just may look at the loaf and cup and yearn,*

Bread of heaven,

Hold me together,

Be forever near me,

Bread of heaven.

…Lighten my darkness,

Pour over me your holiness,

For you are holy.

Bread of heaven….

* …with apology to Amy Grant for changing breath to bread.

Now look to your right and left today. Jesus is also At the Table! So mind your manners! Best behavior in his presence! But how?

Jesus says, know your place! Watch your elbows. Mamma says, “Not on the table.” Jesus says keep ‘em to yourself. Don’t try to elbow your way… at this table or in this life. Be humble, like him. Take the lesser place. There’s already a place-setting here with your name on it! So don’t cop somebody else’s, thinkin’ somehow it’ll make you look better to God, to anybody. In our get-ahead world, Jesus contradicts every other voice and bids us be content with the place he’s already set for us at his table! In fact, this Labor Day Sunday reminds: we have Kingdom Work to do. So, at the Lord’s Table let’s talk about the kingdom-stuff-we-have-to-do. 

  1. Come when you’re called. Don’t rush in. Don’t hang back, either. Jesus says, “Mind your manners. Don’t think more of yourselves than you ought.” (Paul.) He wants us to get our timing right by getting our hearts right. Two table things bugged my mom. ‘Me: tryin’ to beat everybody else to the table before it was ready. She understood me: tryin’ to put myself before others. ‘Needlin’ my sister. ‘Spyin’ out the meal for what to avoid, or load up on. NOT OK! Jesus took mom’s side. ‘Still does, with us all. O, this table-talk’s a figure of speech. ‘A visual way to ask: Are there places you’re tryin’ to get the best at someone else’s expense? Are you just needlin’ somebody, weedlin’ their territory? If so, at this table, Jesus wants a word! Don’t come ‘til you’re called. Then, come right away! My mom & Beverly just love my line, “I’ll be right there… I just gotta….” When Jesus calls, come straight away. He’s emphatic! “Don’t finish plowin’. Family-stuff-first’s no excuse. [God’s takin’ care of it]. Even leave the dead to bury the dead. I’ve called you to seek the living [the Kingdom is that urgent]!” It’s just good manners to come exactly when called. Somehow, some way, for some purpose: Jesus is callin’ you. Now!
  2. Take your place with dignity, no false pride, or phony humility. In Christ’s company, it’s impolite/offensive to be other than you are. Puffed up’s out! Phony self-put-downs, too. False humility’s a cover for courting new compliments. (When your spouse says, “Tell me what you think” in a new outfit, what you think may not be what you want to tell!) Jesus says, take exactly the seat with your name on it! Author Anton Chekhov 1ce got a letter from his brother, signed, “Your insignificant and obscure little brother.” Chekhov wrote back, “Do you know before whom you should confess your insignificance?…‘Before God, …intelligence, beauty, nature, but not people. Among people, show your worth.” Don't confuse “coming-to-terms-with-yourself” (honestly) and “recognizing your insignificance.” (George F. Kennan) Own up: you’re sinner enough Christ died for you. Happy up, you’re treasured enough, Christ died for you. You have a place at his Table. What a place.
  3. Don’t just play in the food or snoop over it. And don’t be in a hurry to get up and go. Where’ve you got to be that’s better? Nothing less than the Bread of Heaven’s offered HERE. How many of us don’t really get fully nourished? We play in our food. We’ll worship but not study. (Or only when we feel like it.) We’ll study but not serve. ‘Help with our hands, but not witness with our lips. Sound familiar? Sometimes we’re just snoops with the Word. How many times do you hear some convicting word in church or scripture and lament, “I wish my spouse, partner, parent, friend, neighbor, were here? He/she really oughta hear this.”  Well, YOU are here… and to amend an old ad line, “This word’s for you, Bud!” So… don’t be in a hurry. Stick around for the conversation, fellowship, communion. OK, I admit we need to get better at getting’ out “on time”. But we do well to ask, “What’ve I got to do that’s better than to sit at Table with my Lord?” Afterall, it’s eternity’s job description!

Jesus is payin’ attention: Table manners matter! And so does our guest list when the meal’s at our Tables, in our lives. Says Jesus, “Invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.” Expand the circle of the included, for Jesus’ sake! The Letter to the Hebrews lays this out. “Let brotherly love continue,” our Table fellowship. But it continues, developing Jesus’ inclusive theme. 

“Show hospitality to strangers because you may be entertain[ing] angels unaware.” (Like Abraham, long ago.) You never know what spiritual doors your personal hospitality may open. Christ-like welcome is contagious. Imagine starting the day waving at the school bus driver, picking up the tab for a stranger standing in line for coffee, or eating next to the kid at school seated all alone. Hospitality: God’s grace thru-you!

“Remember those in prison.” Christ’s Church was largely formed behind bars! Visitors are scarce.  But Kairos ministries can allow us to touch inmate families. Angel Tree Christmas kids’ gifts are good. But what of their birthdays? Many are in prisons without bars. Assisted living folks need visitors & errands run. Care givers to the home-bound need care. Says Hebrews, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices please God.” 

“Let marriage be held in honor by all.” Work on your marriage. Who knows what a love-note at lunch can do to make a more active partner in faith, a more faithful partner in life! (Flowers, gentlemen, do not bloom only in mid-February!) Ahh, we neglect those closest to us. An extra hug can be a mighty work to bring to Christ’s Table those we never meant-to-make-feel they dine alone. 

Be content, not avaricious. Contentment enables generosity and includes those who feel left out of God’s love. God has provided for us. God “will never leave or forsake” us. To make room at the Table is to take on the same towel and basin Jesus did on the night he invited us to be his friends and do his work forever. It is a constant giving-away. That includes our time, our spiritual gifts, our money, our company.

Remember your “leaders.” Church, government, education. Under constant criticism. Can you imagine praying for them all, with no agenda but that they would be so worthy, we can imitate their faith, as the Hebrews writer urges? Next week, we will provide a list, as part of Celebration Sunday. We hope you will use it to jot a note to some or all, just to say, “You are in our prayers, and our prayers are in Christ.”

Christ before us. ‘Beside us. Mind your manners. Remember how!

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