Table Etiquette

“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.” – Luke 14:1

Have you ever been to a fancy luncheon and felt out of place?  Especially if you are sitting at a table full of strangers…?

It seems like everyone else knows each other.  They are engaged in friendly or professional banter—and all you can do is sit there and fix the napkin on your lap—over and over, hoping you drank out of the right glass, feeling like people are watching you.

I wonder if Jesus felt like this—even for a moment.  I assume the Pharisee didn’t invite Jesus because he liked having him around or was his friend. He was still trying to figure Jesus out.  Put him in his place.

But Jesus did not get caught up in the hustle for position and recognition.  Jesus saw what was going on and called folks to account, taught them some “table etiquette.”

Jesus’ table etiquette was not the usual about politeness and manners.  Jesus’ table etiquette was about inviting his listeners to go beyond the ordinary and to see what it was God was requiring of them.

A table where no one was left out.
A table where no one felt unwanted.
A table set with love and grace.

Like the turning of the money tables in the temple, once again Jesus was turning the tables of power and elitism and exclusion.

Jesus’ table etiquette requires a relinquishing of self-aggrandizement. A letting-go of always needing to place ourselves in positions of honor and recognition.

Jesus’ table etiquette says: “It can’t always be about you.”

Those who have struggled with the Black Lives Matter movement have trouble giving up their seats at the head of the table.

Hearing the words “Black Lives Matter” automatically says to them “Oh, this means I don’t matter.”

This is not the point of the movement.  In a country that professes to be “post-racial,” it has become necessary to lift up the fact that Black Lives Matter.

Not only. Not instead of.  But, too.

And since our policies, our legislation, our policing have not behaved as if this is so…it is imperative that all of us who claim love and justice as tenets of our faith in Jesus—must proclaim—unapologetically—that Black Lives Matter.

It can’t always be just about you.  Or just about me.

Jesus sets the ultimate welcome table.  A table where there is no seat without honor, without grace, without love.

Jesus sets this table and calls us to do the same.


Divine Host, we are grateful for Your welcome table and our seat at it.  May we live to make room for all.  Amen.

About the Author
Marilyn Pagán-Banks is Pastor of Namasté UCC, a new church start; serves as Transitional Pastor of San Lucas UCC; and is Executive Director of A Just Harvest in Chicago.