By Nell Green
He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers and sisters or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous,” Luke 14:12-14
Our dining room hangs an art print. I first saw it at the JAARS center in Waxhaw, N.C. It depicts Jesus at the table, like the Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Rather than the disciples, it depicts the people of the world seated on either side of Jesus. They all appear to be listening to Jesus.
I reflect on the two paintings. Judas is seated in the painting by Da Vinci, depicting a place at the table for everyone – even those with baggage and deception. Peter is there. He was about to flee and deny Jesus. Thomas is there. Thomas thought they were going to Jerusalem to die. After the crucifixion, he doubted the resurrection. In his head, it was all over. Matthew was a rotten tax collector. I doubt even three years in Jesus’ company could wipe that stain from his reputation. They all had issues they would have brought to that table.
So would we. Is this why they are all leaning away from the central figure of Jesus? Were they in some way afraid? Ashamed? Uncertain?
In the print on my wall, the people depicted have their own issues. But their demeanor and body language is different. They are relaxed. They are attentive. They seem comfortable regardless of the issues they may bring. While the artist of this creation certainly wants us to know that all nations, tribes and languages are welcome, I also think we are to learn that there is no reason for fear, shame or uncertainty.
Jesus himself taught “when you give a banquet invite…” The invitation is to all—even those who least expect an invitation. Hesitation to accept may be based on some fear of a prejudice that persecutes us. Hesitation to accept may be because we are ashamed of some aspect of our lives. Hesitation to accept may be because of fear that others at the table will not welcome us.
Jesus is saying there is a place at the table for everyone! Your CBF field personnel invite those least expecting an invitation. They invite the poor, the crippled, the blind…the marginalized, the forgotten, the lonely.
In Togo, West Africa, Mike Hutchinson invites a young boy into the kitchen to cook with him. Mike discovers a talent. No longer on the streets, the young boy now cooks meals for Togo House. It’s a place at the table to exercise one’s gifts.
In a remote West Africa village, Karen Alford journeys with a young woman dying of breast cancer. Estranged from her family because of her faith, Karen offers her love and palliative care. It’s a place at the table for death with dignity.
In Antwerp, Belgium, Janée Angel leads a congregation of immigrants and refugees. Bible study, music, prayer, a cup of coffee and a chat, she welcomes old and new friends. It’s a place at the table to grow together in Christ.
Field personnel in Asia painstakingly learn a language, put it in written form and work to translate the New Testament. It’s a place at the table to share and learn about Christ in one’s own heart language.
A solar panel goes up in a small church in a remote Indonesian village. Now there is a light in the darkness. Parents and children can gather for fellowship, doing homework or weaving on their looms. It’s a place at the table after a day of hard work to enjoy community.
In Uganda, refugees find their way to CBF ministries, Refuge and Hope and Amani Sasa. It’s a place at the table to experience healing and hope, a place at the table to sit and stop their journeys on the refugee highway.
In Spain, Michelle Norman welcomes to the table an immigrant mother with her children. It’s a place at the table to share the pain of a home filled with domestic violence. It’s a place at the table to grow in self-confidence and to seek help.
Because of your generosity in responding to the Offering for Global Missions, a place at the table is possible. Without the Offering, field personnel cannot be present to invite. Without the Offering, there is no table.
Thank you for giving to the Offering for Global Missions. May our Easter tables be a place where those least expecting an invitation are welcomed.
Nell Green serves as the CBF Offering for Global Missions Advocate ensuring the long-term presence of CBF field personnel around the world.