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Who are you inviting to your table?

Who are you inviting to your table?

Once again I invite you to read the words of one of my favorite Christian pastors, Jon Pavlovitz, who just doesn’t happen to be Episcopalian/Anglican, but models Jesus really well to me.

Jesus broke bread with people.

For as often as we see him preaching on a hillside or through the city streets, we find him at the table; not just with those who agreed with him, not just with his fans, not just with the well-manicured religious folks, not just with the ragged moral outcasts.

He extended fellowship to all humanity as it crossed his path. He came close and reclined beside people and across from people—and he lived with them. Sometimes he used the occasion to teach, but just as often he was simply present to them. Through this radically intimate table ministry, Jesus modeled the way that we are to live this life of faith; how we always need to make people our priority, how much relationships really matter, and how true proximity allows us to see what we need to see in people.

I don’t know Kim Davis or her story or her heart, but I’m going to guess that she’s probably never had a great deal of real, meaningful fellowship with LGBTQ people. She, like many Christians, knows where she stands on an “issue”, and she knows the verses to recite and the platitudes to offer, but she may not have ever really considered the human beings that comprise that issue. She may not be able to see that they are brothers, children, friends, mothers, co-workers; that they have built careers and started families and endured trials and laughed and celebrated and grieved—and all that they are.

As I watched her these past few weeks, unemotionally dismissing couple after couple, matter-of-factly shutting them down one after the other, robotically appealing to a distant God she wasn’t reflecting, I grieved both for the couples and for her, because it was far less than what this is supposed to be, and far less than what I see when I look at Jesus. I began to notice that in image after image that flooded into my news feed, that huge counter that always separated Mrs. Davis from those she was turning away; how that barrier was much more than just a couple of feet of painted particle board, it was the massive expanse of not knowing the other. It was the great emotional chasm created when we don’t seek to understand. It was the kind of distance that only cultivates contempt.

If Kim Davis is truly acting in what she believes to be obedience to Jesus, then I’d love to see her follow his example. I’d like to see her invite all those same-sex couples she dismissed over for dinner (or better yet, visit them where they live). I’d like to see her sit across the table from them and break bread with them and listen to their stories and see their selfies and hear about their faith journeys. I’d like them to hear her story too.

If Mrs. Davis were to participate in such a sacred extension of hospitality, two things might happen that desperately need to happen across so many tables in this world.

Sitting and breaking bread with real, breathing, feeling, loving flesh-and-blood gay folks, she may find their humanity surprising, their paths not so dissimilar to her own, and she might find her own faith convictions challenged there. She might even find herself seeing those people as important as her principles. She may actually come to love them deeply.

But even if none of that happens and even if her religious convictions remand unchanged, she will have done something both faith affirming and beautifully redemptive. She will have shown those watching, how Jesus responded to those he crossed paths with; none of whom were really worthy but who were treated with dignity, as if royalty. People always left Jesus’ presence feeling more seen and known and loved than before, and unless we Christians do that with those we disagree with, our testimony will always be inferior to its aspirations.

I fear what will continue to happen in the wake of all of this, is the building of larger “counters”; more distance from which we can shout at one another and caricaturize one another, but I truly pray that we who claim faith will seek something more.

If Kim Davis were to ever sit at a table and share a meal with those she turned away these past few weeks, I would gladly be present and bring a dish to pass—and I know for certain that Jesus would be there too, because that was his heart and his example.

Who are you inviting to your table?

The original is posted to Jon’s blog as Jesus, Kim Davis, Some Queer Couples, And A Beautifully Redemptive Dinner Party
The image is from nytimes.com

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Prof Christopher Seitz

Washington Post makes it clear that marriage licenses could be issued without her name. Luke the Muslim truck driver who does not with to haul alcohol, there are good, legally prudent ways forward.

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Bill Paul

Whatever we may think of the clerk in KY, the depiction of Jesus here just isn't the one in the gospels and Pavlovitz is open to the charges of eisegesis and sentimentality. I mean, almost every sentence is puzzling. Take "Sometimes he used the occasion to teach, but just as often he was simply present to them." Really? "Just present"? And why belittle teaching/preaching with "sometimes" when, as we have it, the gospels contain preaching and teaching as a primary way in which God deals with us, and refer to this as an ongoing and distinguishing characteristic of Jesus. I won't deny the importance in our world of a 'ministry of presence' but the portrait of Jesus is not convincing. And we find Jesus "at table" as often as he preaches and teaches elsewhere? Well, no, we just don't if we take the time to turn the pages of the gospels and see what Jesus does. How this can pass for serious comment is beyond me.
Bill Paul

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c seitz

Good essay from my Yale friend RR Reno on this topic at First Things.

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cseitz

Not sure it is that straightforward but you're entitled to this view of course.

God bless.

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Melanie DuPon

I so love reading John Pavlovitz, it was a pleasant surprise this morning to read his words here. Again John reminds us of the essential Jesus.

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