A few years ago some friends of mine moved their dining room table and chairs into their living room and their living room furniture into their dining room. Putting the dining room table in the living room allowed them to accommodate a larger crowd for family dinners, especially when their children got married and started having children of their own. Since it has been this way for a few years, I suspect this is a long term arrangement. Now to be honest, this arrangement works quite well. They have a large family room off the kitchen, and with the former dining room being adjacent to the kitchen, people can easily talk and visit while a meal is being prepared, and then eat dinner without being crowded.
Now, I have to admit that at first I was a little tentative in regard to my friends’ shifting their dining room and living room. In the years since they did it, however, I have come to understand the wisdom of their thinking. The meals I’ve shared at that table are always very enjoyable, with great humor, good food, good companionship, and lots of elbow room. And if we began to feel a little crowded at the table they could just put in another leaf, and there was always room for more.
In reflecting on my friends’ decision to move their dining room table into the living room, it seems to me that it is a real metaphor for what church is all about: It reminds us that there is always room for more at the table of the Lord. Church is (or should be) a place where all are welcome—no exceptions, no limitations, no exclusions. The embrace of our Church can be no less than the embrace of our God’s love.
Jesus was always very clear about the expanse of God’s love. We are told that he dined with sinners and tax collectors. Moreover Jesus was even known to invite himself to someone’s house for dinner. And of course, there was also that occasion when a woman known to be a sinner, burst into the middle of dinner and washed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them when her hair. I believe that in sharing a meal with anyone and everyone Jesus was sending the clear message that God’s love is extended to everyone, and that there was always room for more at the table of the Lord.
As someone who by necessity often eats alone, I really enjoy those occasions when I can share a meal with others. I especially appreciate when the table is filled, and the laughter and love flow freely. For me this is a wonderful image of the table of the Lord— where the table is large enough so that there is always room for more.