March 16, 2010
Eating and drinking with sinners? Horrors. What was Jesus thinking? Could it be that he was not terribly interested in purity of the kind that sets up boundaries and barriers and separates one person from another? I've been wondering if the basis for unity among Christians is not agreement or 'like-mindedness' but is more our ability to look one another in the eye and hear one another's stories around the Lord's Table. The basis for unity is our transcending not our differences from one another, but the negative consequences of those differences. The basis for unity is not overcoming difference in favor of similarity, but appreciating difference as part of our unity in the magnificent and endless possibilities inherent in creation. What we discover around the Table is that we are eating and drinking with sinners and they discover our sinful or distorted being at the same time. Like the prodigal, we discover the prodigious love of God for all of creation in our difference around that Table. It is as we learn to recognize, understand and even appreciate difference that we become more fully ourselves, more clear about who we have been created to be and more compassionate toward others.
It is as we allow our attention to be turned toward what really matters and toward that which is of ultimate worth that we are participating truly in worship. We properly look for the effects of worship in our lives and not in the worship itself. Frequently we will not be aware of those effects of worship in our lives. At other times we will notice that we are living with a little more compassion for the follies and foibles of others than was the case in the past. Or we will discover that we enjoy being a little more generous and a little less anxious than our internalizing of all the world's messages of scarcity had previously allowed us. Once in a blue moon we might enjoy some experience of the presence of God in our being convicted of sin or called to repentance; in our being aware of forgiveness and granted a powerful sense of common cause with those about us; with our knowing the might and majesty and glory of God in a theophany during some magnificent anthem; or simply being touched at the moment of communion when just for a second or two we know ourselves one with our creator and unaware of time. All such gifts during the worship itself are exactly that—gifts of grace—and not something we can conjure, manipulate, coerce or guarantee.
So we find ourselves being welcomed as sinners and eating with others like us in the company of our gracious host—the one who runs to meet us as we lay bare our hearts before the throne of grace.