When my grandpa died and we began to sort through his belongings, the question arose of who would take the dining room table. Newly married and without a lot of furniture at the time, I offered to give it a new home. The table was a circle that could be extended, and came with one original matching insert, as well as three additional inserts made out of mismatched plywood hastily crafted by my grandpa - I guess at some point he decided that he needed a bigger table.
I have many memories of that table from my childhood. My grandparents house was always full of family, friends, and neighbors, and the table was the central gathering place. As a child, I remember thinking that the table was massive. I remember our large extended family crowding around it for every Christmas dinner and Easter lunch. Now as an adult I can see that the actual table isn’t that big at all; but as our numbers grew, my grandpa simply kept making the table bigger.
There are a lot of tables mentioned in the Bible, because tables are naturally communal places. And it is difficult to practice hospitality without eventually ending up back at the table. We invite people into our homes, and we share meals because that is what families do. We meet physical needs through food and drink, but then we eat and drink them together in order to meet spiritual needs as well.
We know that the banquet table in heaven will be filled with all kinds of people. God’s table has places of honor for even the least of us. And while we are here on Earth we are called to show this same hospitality in our own lives and at our own tables. We are called to make space for people in our lives and at our tables because that is where they can get close enough to see the love of Christ in us. I don’t ever want to turn people away because there is seemingly not enough room.
Jesus also spent a lot of time at tables. He ate in peoples homes, he broke bread with tax collectors and sinners, and he shared his final meal at the table with those closest to him on the night he was betrayed. At that last supper he took the bread and wine and served it to the disciples as the holy depiction of his own body and blood. And every Sunday, as we take communion, we are invited to join Christ at this holy table just as the disciples were.
When I look at my dining room table, imperfect as it may be, I want to remember all of these things. I want to be reminded of the communion table, and the grace that was shown to me through Christ’s sacrifice. I also want to be reminded of God’s banquet table and the call to practice hospitality in my own life. And I can’t help but be reminded of my grandpa too, and how he taught me that sometimes loving people well means making a little more room at the table.