By Steven Norris
“Why don’t you come sit over here with us?” It wasn’t really a question — more of an invitation, really. The day had arrived. I was being asked to sit…at the adult table. For years, I had been relegated to the kid’s table at Thanksgiving, but now, as a result of increased progeny and the passing on of elders, I had been officially promoted.
Seating arrangements have honestly never been a big deal to me. However, they certainly were important in the culture of Jesus’ day. Jesus minced no words about those whose chief concern seemed to be about sitting at the head of the table or in the seat of honor.
Listen to this harsh rebuke recorded in scripture: “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets” (Luke 20:46).
Last week, I started a series of articles seeking to articulate a positive vision for the church. Instead of focusing on what we should be against, I want to articulate some things we should be unambiguously for. Let me continue with this: I believe in a church where all the tables are round.
Imagine this situation: a status-conscious group of social-ladder-climbers arrive at an event, looking to sit at the head of the table only to find that there is no head —no place of honor set apart. Instead, all guests sit as equals around the table. Such a church might communicate prophetically: “In this community there is only one head — and it is reserved for Jesus.”
Too often, our churches merely reflect the division and hierarchies of the world in which we live instead of the radical community of Christ. Divisions based on position, power, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and the like persist in our churches. We have struggled to embody the vision cast by the writer of Galatians, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Such egalitarian togetherness isn’t merely a “pie-in-the-sky,” unattainable, utopian vision. Animated by the unifying power of the Holy Spirit, however, it is not only a possibility, but a likelihood. As one writer put it, “[It’s not] that ethnic, economic, and gender differences would disappear, but that they become meaningless in light of a unity that was far greater, the common bond of Jesus Christ.”
With Christ as the head, may our churches strive to be a place where all have a seat at the table. May it be a place where each member seeks not the seat of honor but the towel of service. May it be a place where humility reigns.