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The Wilderness and the Borderlands: Maundy Thursday

After he took a cup, and he has given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink it, all of you.” (Matt 26:27 ESV)

When I think of Jesus I see a man at the center of a table. He is surrounded by the women, men, and children he loves. There is food at the table; people are smiling, laughing, telling stories to one another and Jesus is gazing in wonder. Jesus is in awe of the community before him. He breaks bread and offers wine to commemorate this moment. Around the table are his friends, the objects of his desire; they bare the sores and joys of three years together. Each individual has his heart and he possess theirs. This Jesus doesn’t want to leave; he wants the meal to go on forever. This Jesus is holding in tears to be strong enough to go to Golgotha. He breaks down away from the table in prayer. Jesus too desires the table. It is Jesus’ invitation to the table which further states our reliance upon it.

tableGrowing up impoverished and ignorant of anything else, food meant everything. I frequently remember my mother, a light brown woman with a lanky frame, making biscuits, scrambled eggs, and southern fried salmon in the kitchen, the fragrance tickling me awake. My brother and I would get up with just enough energy to stumble into the door and everything along the way; we would get our plates together and walk away back to our room. We never ate at the table. We were fed but we didn’t have the relationship that is embodied at the table.

The truth is we are all trying to get the table. The Table becomes a place of refuge, a place of welcome, a place of love and embrace that receives you for who you are but doesn’t leave you that way. The Table is a place of transformation from individuality into community. However, community is costly. Community becomes the location where the tensions of society are exposed and the ugliness of our uniformity, security, and ambivalence become present.

To be the Christian community is accept that all are invited to the table. It is to define the substance and seating order from the perspective of those who need justice the most. The table reorients itself to a place of remembrance only when the people who are at the table resemble individuals who are in the wilderness and on the borderlands of your community. Those marginalized are not simply placed at the head of the gathering but become the focus of the redemptive work of the Church.

This Maundy Thursday may we acknowledge all are welcome to the table because Jesus sits among the oppressed. May we hunger for a righteousness Jesus that feeds the poor. And may we empty ourselves while serving a God who drinks with those who thirst for justice.

ChrisheadChristopher D. Williams is the Director of National Service Chaplaincy and a Fellow for the Center for Faith a Service. A former teacher, he is in his first year of seminary at McCormick Theological Seminary. Chris is blogger writing for wineandbread.org, a website devoted to faith, food, and fellowship