The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowds away, so they may go buy food.” Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” – Matthew 14:15-16 excerpted (NRSV)
It used to be that if you didn’t understand it, weren’t baptized, didn’t believe correctly, or weren’t morally pure, you were barred from Communion. It was called “fencing the table.” Everybody did it.
But these days some churches are unfencing. Completely. They say Jesus never turned anyone away from his table, so neither should we.
Never mind that Jesus was always a guest with no table of his own to welcome anyone to. Or that the early church emphatically excluded notorious sinners, the unbaptized, and heretics. Or that the church has consistently taught that Communion is for members. Only.
We’re opening our tables anyway, even though we’ve never done it this way before. Really. Never.
Now many people once ruled out are coming. Little kids, unbaptized adults, intellectually disabled people, the weary, the sin-sick, the doubting, the curious—they’re all coming.
Because they want it, this gift they can’t explain, don’t believe in correctly, or were told they don’t deserve. They want it, this company for their loneliness, this healing for their estrangement, this home for their wandering, this approval for their very beings. This pardon. This love. This memory. This meeting. This mercy. This food.
Above all, this food. For a bottomless hunger.
And the church that’s always needed to have all its theological ducks in a row before budging an inch; the church that’s always gone to the wall for its beliefs and put others up against the wall for theirs; this obtuse yet still teachable church is finally starting to obey Jesus: “You give them something to eat.”
There is so much hunger.
The church has bread.
We don’t have to be deserving. All we need is to need the bread. Thank you, Jesus.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.