The table is set.

Sometimes, I need to avoid the news (and Facebook) for my own sanity. My heart just gets heavy after awhile. I saw those pictures of Aylan, that poor little boy who drowned with his family and washed up on the Turkish shore, and my heart broke. I want to unsee those photos, but I can’t. He was Ian’s age, and he will never have a single opportunity that Ian will have because he was born in a country where the government decided to slaughter is own people in a desperate power grab. His parents were just searching for a home.

Meanwhile, someone posts something on Facebook about how this Kim Davis hoopla is evidence of the criminalization of Christianity in America, and I just want to scream. Or cry. Of course, I know those voices don’t really represent the opinions of the majority of my friends, but it’s the loudest voices on social media that algorithms like. I know that those conversations are better had face-to-face, around the table with people we trust, and I am remembering a Dallas Willard quote that Emily Freeman talks about in Simply Tuesday: “I am giving up my right to have the last word.”

And I don’t really want to blog about Kim Davis either. Plenty of other people do it well, and I don’t need to be counted among them. I don’t want to be a current events blogger; I just want to share what I’m learning from the tiny moments of my life, from the quiet ways Jesus speaks to me. This morning, there’s this image I have of the kingdom of God, and that’s what I want to write about.

This morning I saw a video of Syrian refugees arriving in Germany to cheers and balloons and cardboard signs proclaiming, “Welcome!” I got choked up watching it. No doubt those families will have the hardest possible road ahead of them, full of struggling to learn a new language, find jobs in an unfamiliar culture, build a new home with only the clothes on their back. But they had a warm welcome, a glimpse of hope. Someone looked at them for what I imagine is the first time in years and said, “You are welcome here. Do not be afraid.”

In church yesterday, we heard a sermon about the Parable of the Great Banquet, which is a story Jesus told to some religious leaders. The story paints a beautiful picture of how Jesus understands the kingdom of God. In the story, a man prepares a feast and invites his friends, but they all turn him down because they are busy with their ordinary lives–their vocations, their families, and their “Well, this is just the way life works,” concerns. So instead, the host sends out his servants and says, “Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.” Together, they have a party.

luke14

On NPR last week, before her court appearance, I heard about how Kim Davis was in her office each day, locking herself behind a closed door and drawing the blinds. She simply refused to offer any grace, joy, or hope to any citizen of her county (let alone same-sex couples). And which is a better picture of the kingdom of God? Kim Davis, alone and isolated? Or a crowd of people with signs and huge smiles, offering love and encouragement and a warm welcome?

When I read Jesus’ parables, it seems as though he is constantly telling people, “Stop assuming you know who’s in and who’s out.”

I want to be one who stands with pink balloons in hand and says, “The table is already set! The food is warm. You are welcome here.”

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