But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you,
for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’Luke 14:7-14
One of the first things that I did when I began to lead a “Children’s Time” in worship was to sit down with the children on the large chancel so that I could look them in the eye, pay them respect, ask questions about Jesus or love or their lives- because perhaps they could impart wisdom on me and the large traditional congregation that blanketed the sanctuary.
It’s true. The children came to church to be taught a lesson. A Jesus lesson...from me. In August of 2012 when I started sitting on the chancel each week I was frightened to speak in public and especially across a large, old fashioned quilt of wealthy church goers. It was like a quilt that was patterned after old curtains that hung in a farmhouse in Oklahoma. The quilt lay over a rod iron bed in a guest room. Sometimes, coming in handy, sometimes no use at all.
I sat, because I wanted to be with the children. I sat there with my paper in hand with text all typed out. Every word. I was no doubt shaking, my voice trembling with Good Morning, Children. And, then in a mechanical - get-me-through-this voice, I began to read to them, I mean teach them about Jesus. Those first weeks and months, maybe a year were humiliating. Each week, I found myself sitting on the chancel, inviting the least of these to sit with me. Or, maybe, just maybe, each week, Jesus invited all of us to the chancel steps to sit together to teach all of us: me, the children and the old quilt.
The Kin-dom of God is like a small child sitting on the chancel with their nervous pastor. The Kin-dom of God is a place where the child and the pastor teach each other.
Jesus was not messing around. Like a teacher walking into a rowdy classroom in the first week of school, he took the chalk and pressed it hard up against the slate board and wrote the word equilibrium. And then asked the class to define the word: a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced.
He drew a line straight and hard across the middle of the slate board in a state of frustration. Some people will come to the table, he said, and eat but sit up here and he pointed above the line. Some people will come to the table to eat and sit below the line and pointed below. If you sat above the line, I want you to move down and if you are below the line I want you to move up.
The kingdom of God is like gathering around a table at meal time and creating equilibrium.
Tables or altars create equilibrium. The child sits, the one without formal education sits, the queer sit, the politician sits, the teenager sits, the chronically ill sits and the anxious pastor sits. Long ago, I placed two large tables in my modest home. I wanted a place for everyone to sit. I rarely invite more people than the chairs that surround the tables. I wanted a place for everyone to sit and tell stories, light candles, give blessings, model sacrifices by offering kindness, generosity and compassion even if it is difficult.
The table... the one that sits in the dining room,
Perhaps in the kitchen,
maybe the small, low table that you place your feet on in the evening,
The altar that withstands the lives of many generations,
hard flat surfaces that are balanced
And when we are gathered around the table, there is an equilibrium
There is a strength to hold all of life
and inspire us to continue to draw close to God,
because we are all invited to sit. In the eyes of God, we are all equal.
And the water is poured. And, the bread is broken. And, we are all nourished by the communion of our shared humanity. And, we are all reminded that each of us is always invited.
The kin-dom of God, Jesus said, is like inviting a small child to sit with you at the banquet, taking them into your arms, laying hands on them and blessing them. Amen