The Table

And the Table Will Be Wide

 And the table will be wide.  And the welcome will be wide.

And the arms will open wide to gather us in.  And our hearts will open wide to receive.

And we will come as children who will trust there is enough.

And we will come unhindered and free.  And our aching will be met with bread.

And our sorrow will be met with wine.

And we will open our hands to the feast without shame.

And we will turn toward each other without fear.

And we will give up our appetite for despair.

And we will taste and know of delight.

And we will become bread for a hungering world.

And we will become drink for those who thirst.

And the blessed will be the blessing.  And everywhere will be the feast.

Jan L. Richardson.   janrichardson.com 

On August 21, 2017, an estimated 100 million Americans came to a very special Table where their full attention was on the heavens to observe an astronomical event of major proportions – a full solar eclipse.  For many, along the path of totality, it was a spiritual experience as they watched the sun move behind the moon, causing near pitch darkness in places.  In this writing, it is not important that I present in depth the scientific explanation of why and how but it is important we recognize that this event brought so many together for a singular purpose.  Later, as testimonies became public in the news and social media, it was very clear that each viewer of this phenomenon felt its impact personally and was awakened to a deeper sense of awe to something beyond them, “resensitized” to the living heavens where creation continues without end and beyond our notice. If in truth, it caused us to feel in a very short span of time our own mortality, then a scientifically predicted event became a spiritual explosion to our awareness of God, turning our full attention toward him.  Today is August 22.  As the sun rises, and we return to our daily routine, this event will have left its mark. For now, our senses for many are more acute than before the experience.  The Table was God’s heaven and the effect of the sun’s dramatic journey from the rare perspective we were given here on this speck of dust in the vast universe, held our attention, our gaze, our breath and then, at last, our spirit.

“And we will turn toward each other without fear.

And we will give up our appetite for despair.

And we will taste and know of delight.

And we will become bread for a hungering world.

And we will become drink for those who thirst.”

 For years and months for many and the rest a few short days leading up to this amazing prediction, preparations and travel plans were being made.  Whether you were along the path of totality in Oregon where they were planning for one million visitors or off the coast of Charleston, SC on the USS Yorktown where in shock and awe they experienced lightning and thunder at the moment of totality, you stood with millions of others looking up at a phenomenon that drew us together in a spirit of “oneness” more than in the spirit we normally come together for a global event – guarded islands and exclusively aware to distance ourselves into classes with cultural boundaries, haves and have-nots.  The event was free to everyone to watch and take from that which we needed most, which I believe for many, was the God element.  As a world, we starve for it.  We want it more than anything.  We need more “knock your sox off” moments where we can peer behind the screen and see God.   Look inward. God is causing a stirring within you to process a little deeper what you saw and experienced on August 21.   

 Job 36:15,16, 22-33 NIV But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. ’God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’? Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song.  All humanity has seen it; mortals gaze on it from afar. How great is God—beyond our understanding!  The number of his years is past finding out. ‘He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion?  See how he scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea. This is the way he governs the nations and provides food in abundance.  He fills his hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark.  His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach.’”

 Find and read the Scriptures that tell about this amazing Creator who is so much more than a phenomena-maker.   He lives. He loves. He loves us.   He longs to live in us and through us. 

 How do we become spirit? –  how do we become hope for a dying world? How can our life become the supernatural phenomenon that ministers to our family and our friends and coworkers? How can our life become the Table where others gather with wonder and come to be quenched and satisfied? 

 The hope that people need is so simple and it is based in love. Living out Philippians 2:1-5! In part it states simply “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”  Just telling someone about the hope that is in you is not enough, it needs to come from a heart of love – a heart that has been transformed as we are told in the last few verses: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus;”

 The opening prose written by Richardson is referring to the Table where we all come together with our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the physical manifestation of God on earth for us to see and experience through the Holy Spirit.  He stands at the Table waiting for us with bread and wine that has been bought and provided for each of us through His blood and sacrifice. We can become so busy in the day to day machinations of our lives that we forget how to keep sacred and alive the hope that is in us.  We even block being thrilled by this very personal hope we have been given.  The Philippians 2 reference helps us to keep ourselves in check as we come to this Table daily.  We can meet every day life at this Table. The discipline of this mindset must come from our effort yoked with Christ.  Believing that, builds our resolve.  We are called to be bread and wine to the world, the holy sacrament that restores us to a life of mindful purpose.  The daily news grips us with many emotions that distract us with a herd mentality and we begin to lose sight of the beauty around us, especially the beauty within each other.  We are not like the animal creatures God created.  We don’t just instinctually glorify God with our life here on earth, we must choose to do it intentionally and purposefully.  A beautiful designed life is created through partnership with Christ. It doesn’t just happen.  It’s easy to lose our distinctiveness and awareness of the unseen spiritual network of support that gets us through each moment of each day. It is at this Table where we find ourselves again and resolve to do better. 

 One Table that comes to mind was on the side of a Galilean lake where thousands gathered to hear the stirring words of hope coming from the Creator of hope who did and said everything in love giving the words the power to transform the heart of the listener.   Here is that experience:

 John 6:1-14 NIV:

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee that is, the Sea of Tiberias, and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

10 Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”

It was a child who came forward that day with all he had – five loaves of bread and two fishes to lay on this Table.  A child who was humble and forthcoming offered all he had for the benefit of others. From this child’s offering, possibly 15,000 -20,000 were fed if we include the women and children in the crowd who were not counted in the reference because Jesus can magnify every positive act.  Jesus tells us that we must become as a little child to have the Kingdom.  Could Jesus be telling us with this story that we need to willingly bring everything we have to the Table where He waits to feed the world including us?

“And the table will be wide.  And the welcome will be wide.

And the arms will open wide to gather us in. 

And our hearts will open wide to receive.

And we will come as children who will trust there is enough.

And we will come unhindered and free. . .”

 When Jesus asked His disciples about feeding the crowd, Phillip stated: “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  This sounds like us being our rational selves – seeing the glass half empty instead of half full, not realizing in that moment that the Man who changed water into wine could have an amazing solution for this problem as well. 

God has promised a phenomenal new world that is coming.  It won’t just be a two to three minute occurrence. It will be beyond anything we can imagine.  The prophet Joel describes the day of deliverance when all loose ends will be tied up, wrongs made right and promises kept. The second chapter of Joel is filled with startling images but it is also clear beginning in verse twelve that God wants us to come to him and respond to the call he has given each of us to be the hope and spirit to this world now, not wait for the next shock and awe moment when we are briefly shaken from our despondency.

 Joel 2 NIV in part.

“Blow the trumpet in Zion;  sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains  a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden,  behind them, a desert waste—nothing escapes them.

They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry.With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle. At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course.They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks.They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses;  like thieves they enter through the windows.10 Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.11 The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command. The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.  Who can endure it? 12 ‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Surely the Lord has done great things! . . .  22Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.23 Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust,  the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.

26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. 28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams,  your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens

and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.

 I hope you will read Joel 2 in its entirety.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus’ return after the war of good and evil is fought will be the ultimate coming together for the whole earth as we look to the heavens:

Matthew  24:3-14 NIV

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’

Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

‘Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’”

 “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:27

From the Pulpit Commentary:

Matthew 24:27. – As the lightning…east…west. That is, shines from one end of heaven to the other. St. Chrysostom’s comment explains the similitude: ‘How, then, shineth the lightning? It needs not one to talk of it, it needs not a herald, but even to them in chambers it shows itself in an instant of time throughout the whole world. So shall that coming be, showing itself at once everywhere by reason of the shining forth of his glory.’ We are told, ‘every eye shall see him.’ His advent shall be sudden, universal, unmistakable; in a moment he shall be present, visible in all his power and glory. From the language of this verse probably has been derived the orientation of churches, and the mode adopted of depositing the bodies of deceased Christians, so that they may at the resurrection face the Lord when he comes from the east.”

 In Revelations, Apostle John writes about His final coming:

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev 1:4-8 NIV

 This Revelations’ reference describes beautifully the amazing events to come when God comes to live with us in community on earth:

 Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.’

Revelations 21:1-7 NIV

 “. . . And we will turn toward each other without fear.

And we will give up our appetite for despair.

And we will taste and know of delight. . .”

 From Psalm 78 NIV

”My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”

 “And we will become bread for a hungering world.

And we will become drink for those who thirst.

And the blessed will be the blessing.  And everywhere will be the feast.”

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