Monday, May 22, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Table

From an email last week, "Last Sunday, Mothers Day, there was an insert in our bulletin listing 31 things we could pray for our children. After church, I happened to bump into someone I hadn't seen for a while at Tim Horton's.... she shared with me some of her concerns about her grown up children and her grandchildren.... well, I shared with her the list of prayers and ended up giving it to her..."

From another email last week concerning the DaVinci Code presentation we'll have on Saturday, May 27 @ CoHo,
"Hi Stew, thank you for the invitation. I don't know the first thing about the Davinci Code, other than it is a fictional book creating quite the spiritual-stir around the globe. Personally, my faith is unwavering. I could care less about their facts - the only fact I need lives within my heart & spirit. Circumstantial fluff conjured up by the media is hardly enough to sway my faith. However, I think it's great that you are offering this, as I am sure there are individuals who could be troubled with questions, and even doubts. "

I love what God is doing in our midst. This week in The Jesus Habits we look at 'Table'.

Jesus used the metaphor of a table to create an inclusive society as opposed to the divisive & separate nature of the Pharisees.

Cultivating the Habits of Jesus is important for our spiritual and emotional well being. There is a song called Who I Am Hates Who I've Been,

I watched the proverbial sunrise
Coming up over the Pacific and
You might think I'm losing my mind,
But I will shy away from the specifics...
'cause I don't want you to know where I am
'cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.
This is no place to try and live my life.

Stop right there. That's exactly where I lost it.
See that line. Well I never should have crossed it.
Stop right there. Well I never should have said
That it's the very moment that
I wish that I could take back.

I'm sorry for the person I became.
I'm sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

I talk to absolutely no one.
Couldn't keep to myself enough.
And the things bottled inside have finally begun
To create so much pressure that I'll soon blow up.
I heard the reverberating footsteps
Synching up to the beating of my heart,

And I was positive that unless I got myself together,
I would watch me fall apart.

And I can't let that happen again
'cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.
This is no place to try and live my life.
Who I am hates who I've been
And who I am will take the second chance you gave me.
Who I am hates who I've been
'cause who I've been only ever made me...
So sorry for the person I became.
So sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again'
cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

"What will you do to mend past failures? How will you turn about the negative events that you caused in the first place?"

For us, we have God's grace embodied in each other... we don't have to hate who we've been because we're becoming more like Jesus.

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. Doug Larson

Jesus wants to 'domesticate' us weeds to His ways and Habits and turn our life into the most radical expression of living possible!

Luke 6:47-49
"I will show you what it's like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn't obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins."

That passage is all about Habit formation to the way of Jesus. When we do things our own way we're just like weeds.

Tony Campolo said that when his wife, Peggy, was at home full-time with their children and someone would ask, "And what is it that you do, my dear?" she would respond, "I am socializing two Homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation."Then Peggy would ask the other person, "And what do you do?"

Some of our contexts differ from each other, but our essential need to form Jesus Habits is the same. We do this in our homes, in our relationships, at school and at work. We commonly do this around tables.

Tables create societies-they can also divide societies. Jesus used the image of a table to create an inclusive society. He wanted to include people, especially the lame, the sick, those that needed a doctor, while the Pharisees wanted to uphold purity laws & exclude people.
At the time of Jesus Jews were to eat with those who were pure. You were also to eat kosher foods. There were many injunctions in the Old Testament & followed up by other practices detailing how to stay ‘pure’.

What the religious authorities said about Jesus illuminated some of his table manners: The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, `He's a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!' Matthew 11:19

What else was Jesus doing for table manners?

Luke 2:14-17
As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector's booth. "Follow me and be my disciple," Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus' followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, "Why does he eat with such scum?" When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."

For Jesus the table was to be a place of fellowship and inclusion and acceptance. It was a place to practice the greatest commandment, God For Dummies if you will, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.'

What Jesus was showing us, the Pharisees were rejecting as a practice, a habit that indicates our heart condition.

The Pharisees said that ‘you can eat with me if you are clean.’ If you are unclean, take a bath and come back tomorrow.

Jesus says that clean or unclean, you can eat with me, & I will make you clean. Instead of his table requiring purity, his table creates purity. Jesus chose the table to be a place of grace.

When the table becomes a place of grace, it begins to act: it heals, it dreams, and it hopes.

The table heals those who are spiritually and socially sick, because Jesus can heal. At the table a person can find God’s love and the love of others.

The table enables dreams because it shows us a new vision for who we are & what we are to become. When we sit at the table we see a new and living society, the kingdom of God at work. The table is a boundary breaker and a grace giver- a place where we can see what God can do when people are restored to fellowship with our father God, Abba. The table is a place where doors are open, invitations are offered and people are included. It creates a society, a counter cultural place-an upside down kingdom.

The table is also a place of hope because it anticipates what is yet to come. Sharing the table is a foretaste of what lies ahead in the kingdom: ethnic boundaries won’t matter- no Jew nor Greek, no slave or free, no male or female. Those who sit with Jesus at the table are getting a little taste of paradise.

Is there room at the table for me? YES!

We welcome to the table everyone, whether you have sexuality issues, need career guidance, lack purpose, struggle with your health, suffer from addictions, are experiencing marital or family problems, are broken and have no hope. Especially if you’re broken and have no hope.

Come to the table…

The Table assumes and requires face-to-face interaction and communication, whether in NT times or an Internet age. Three things marked the early Christ followers expression of the table: It was centered in Jesus Christ—believers met together as Jesus' followers, constituting his body; this fellowship was a gift of the Holy Spirit; and the table was missional. That is, the table Habit was directed toward a purpose outside itself—actually being a living witness to Christ and the gospel's power in the world.

Jesus never promised us that our life in this world and journey of faith with Him would be without pain, uncertainty, the unexpected, the incomprehensible and hardship. Perhaps there’s another dimension of truth to the Gospel message that people are yearning to hear that is outside the confines of a well-ordered, trouble-free, formula-based, prosperity laden, purpose-driven life.

"The life-death-life" cycle: "saying grace" before meals first arose from the deep understanding that, in order for life to be sustained, something had to die … which, of course, is the cornerstone of God's Grace, as well. Death bringing life, death following life, life after death … and so it goes. Our old self dies-our old habits are unlearned and we form Jesus Habits in their place.

Drinking the cup is not a heroic act with a nice reward! It is not part of a tit-for-tat agreement. Drinking the cup is an act of selfless love, an act of immense trust, an act of surrender to a God who will give what we need when we need it.

Jesus’ inviting us to drink the cup without offering the reward we expect is the great challenge of the spiritual life. It breaks through all human calculations and expectations. It defies all our wishes to be sure in advance. It turns our hope for a predictable future upside down and pulls down our self-invented safety devices. It asks for the most radical trust in God, the same trust that made Jesus drink the cup to the bottom.

Drinking the cup that Jesus drank is living a life in and with the spirit of Jesus, which is the spirit of unconditional love. The intimacy between Jesus and Abba, his Father, is an intimacy of complete trust, in which there are no power games, no mutually agreed upon promises, no advance guarantees. It is only love—pure, unrestrained, and unlimited love. Completely open, completely free. That intimacy gave Jesus the strength to drink his cup. That intimacy has a Name, a Divine Name. It is called Holy Spirit. Living a spiritual life is living a life in which the Holy Spirit will guide us and give us the strength and courage to keep saying yes to the great question. Henri Nouwen

Want to become a Christ follower? Trust Jesus and his ways and surrender to them.

Communion around the Table

…Christ followers must consistently invite our neighbors into our homes for dinner, sitting around laughing, talking, listening and asking questions of each other. The home is where we live, where we converse and settle conflict, where we raise children. We arrange our furniture and set forth our priorities in the home. We pray for each other there. We share hospitality out of His blessings there. In our homes then, strangers get full view of the message of our life. Inviting someone into our home for dinner says “here, take a look, I am taking a risk and inviting you into my life.” By inviting strangers over for dinner, we resist the fragmenting isolating forces of late capitalism in North America. It is so exceedingly rare, that just doing it speaks volumes as to what it means to be a Christ follower in a world of strangers.

Definition of Friendship:
Part 1 - Someone who is safe enough for me too be who I am
Part 2 - Someone who is honest enough to help me be who I can be
Ask, “What do I do that Limits Our Relationship?”

That sounds like the definition of a good church, too: people who will be safe enough that we can be who we are and honest enough to help us become all of who we can be!

Can you enjoy friendship celebrating an Oilers win on Whyte Avenue but miss it through the people you journey with in faith, what we call a church?

Practice getting around a table this week.


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