Table of Love

Table of Love

Love for One Another
Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:8-10 (nrsvue)

Today as we continue our “Come to the Table” series, we are going to imagine our kitchen tables as tables of love. Now I am not talking about romantic love, though your kitchen table may be where you have an occasional candlelit dinner or leave love notes to your partner. But the love that I am talking about is agape love. Agape love is more than an emotion. It is a love that demonstrates itself through actions.

Okay, so let’s think about things that we do at our kitchen tables. We eat with family. We share a cup of coffee or tea with a friend. We help our kids with their homework. We play cards or board games or do puzzles. Maybe at our kitchen tables, we pay our bills or write a letter to a friend. During the holidays, our kitchen table might be where we make our Christmas lists or Christmas cookies or wrap Christmas presents. The kitchen table is also a place where you may sit and talk to your partner or your kids about a problem that arises or plans for a family vacation!

At our kitchen tables, we laugh, and we cry, we dream, and we plan. We serve one another, and sometimes we even fight. Lots of conversations and relationship-building happen at and around our kitchen tables. Now some of it is filled with joy and happiness, and some of it is filled with grief and struggle and brokenness because that is what real life is like. But hopefully, our kitchen tables are safe places where we can be who we are. And no matter what the conversations and the actions are that happen there, hopefully, they are all done out of a sense of unconditional love, acceptance, and grace. Because that is what kitchen tables are all about!

Now I wonder, this morning, when you first heard the words “kitchen table,” what picture came to mind? Did you think of the kitchen table that you have right now? Or maybe the kitchen table that you remember as a child? Perhaps you even thought about the kitchen table at your best friend’s house where you used to do homework or play games after school.

Interestingly enough, when I think of a kitchen table, I don’t actually think of any of those. Because the first picture that comes to mind for me is my Nana’s kitchen table. I thought about it a lot this week, asking myself over and over again why that image comes to mind so strongly for me. I finally realized that my Nana’s kitchen table was always a place of unconditional love, grace, and hospitality. Not that those other kitchen tables weren’t, but on Sundays when we would visit my Nana, we would all sit around the kitchen table as my Nana cooked dinner.

Now I never saw my Nana’s table without a tablecloth on it, and there was always a small vase of flowers that she picked out in one of her gardens. If there wasn’t a vase of flowers, that meant that it was winter, and there was a bowl of nuts with an old nutcracker. And my grandpa, he’d always have a box of old watches or clock pieces by the table that he was tinkering with or old coins to show us from his coin collection.

When we spent time in my grandparent’s kitchen, we talked about all kinds of things. It didn’t matter what kind of week you had had, or even if you had done something wrong during the week and gotten in trouble. Everyone was just happy to be there, spending time together. Now to say that there were no black and white rules is not really true because respect and good manners were always expected. But it was easy to be respectful out of a sense of love, not fear of judgment or punishment. And when it came time to eat, every meal at my Nana’s house started with a word of prayer because faith and an attitude of gratitude were just the way it was. All in all, my memories of my Nana’s kitchen table overflow with hospitality, unconditional love, chocolate chip cookies, and abundant grace!

Folks, Jesus often confused people, especially people who only knew and understood acceptance that was conditional, like, “in order to belong, you must do a certain thing or live a certain way.” Because love, for Jesus, was far more than a list of rules; it was all about relationships.

In today’s scripture reading, we hear a few of the ten commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” (which means to want something that belongs to someone else.) Now granted, this list most likely was used to bring order to chaos when the Israelites were in the wilderness. But I wonder, does the list feel like a warm welcome or a way of showing unconditional love and hospitality? I’ll read it to you again, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” It doesn’t to me.

The truth is, when we put conditions and requirements on love, it leaves little room for grace. And Jesus was all about grace! Because grace is about being accepted for who you are and receiving love that you can never earn, instead of being judged for who you aren’t and having door after door closed in your face.

If you think about the stories of Jesus that you have read or heard in the past, Jesus never chose people because they had accomplished something great, because they were perfect, or even because they followed all of the rules. No, Jesus looked at their hearts, and he gathered them together to engage in conversation as a way of moving toward right relationship. You see, through conversation and relationship, we are able to better understand one another and offer grace when needed rather than judging with a bunch of black and white “do no wrong” requirements. But the truth is, this way of living is difficult for some because society teaches us differently, telling us that we are “in” or we are “out.” We are acceptable, or we are unacceptable. We’re worthy, or we’re unworthy. We are right, or we are wrong.

I don’t know about you, but the love and the relationship-building that we find around our kitchen tables sounds like a better way to live, not focusing on fear but surrounding ourselves with fellowship. Not worrying about brokenness but working together to pick up the pieces. And not drowning in grief and despair but being held in the arms of unconditional love and grace. Maybe we need a few more kitchen tables in the world or people like all of you to share the unconditional love of God with others.

Friends, I recently heard a benediction that speaks clearly to what the world needs today, so I leave you with these words: “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness in the world. All things break, and all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go and love others intentionally, extravagantly, and unconditionally because the broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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