International Ministries

Table Grace

April 17, 2014 Journal
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Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." 

John 13:1, 34-35

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as He sat at table with them the night he was betrayed, but it was a concept he modeled on a daily basis. With no guarantee of love in return, he loved them and asked them to love each other. He served them and asked them to serve each other. He led by example and invited his followers to do likewise. Knowing that he would be let down by those closest to him, he still choose to offer grace and an invitation to new life. This grace offered from the table was meant to permeate the very ordinary, everyday relationships and life experiences of his friends.

In service and engagement around the table, Jesus was showing us what real love looks like. This last week while in Bolivia visiting IM colleagues JD and Rhonda Reed, I had a few opportunities to taste and see a similar kind of table grace:

*reminiscing and eating Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican rice and bean dish) with 15 year old kid missionary, Grace Reed, who asked that I make some for her birthday because it reminded her of Costa Rica and all of the memories we shared there.

*conversing over salty grilled piranha, rice and yuca with local Bolivian pastors about the biblical and ethical issues surrounding the trafficking of people. We explored our partnership in God's dream of preventing further exploitation, protecting the most vulnerable among us, promoting justice by prosecuting perpetrators instead of blaming the victims and partnering together to build supportive and sustainable communities that reflect life and promote the well-being of all of God's creation.

*drinking orange Fanta and sitting around the Baptist seminary table with the Urban Ministries leadership group while struggling with the Judges 19 account of the gang rape and murder of a nameless, voiceless and powerless concubine. Many had never even read the biblical account, let alone heard it preached. I experienced table grace as I listened to the passionate reactions of my table mates as they honestly confronted the cultural and systemic power imbalance that continues to negatively impact women and girls, justifying abuse and violence in the name of religion. As much as we can see what real love looks like in Jesus' actions around the table, we can see what lack of love looks like in the Levite's actions. The Judges account is meant to disturb us to act differently, while Jesus' actions are meant to encourage us to love accordingly. 

*listening to Carmen's story of faith and transformation after enjoying crepes and coffee at her dining room table in Cochabamba. Impacted by the life and witness of my IM colleagues, Iris and Mario Morales, Carmen now leads and coordinates numerous ministries of care and compassion through House of Hope. Her spirit, compassion, hopefulness and hospitality reflected for me, like Jesus, what real love looks like. I look forward to deepening my new friendship with her and Goretti, another inspiring Bolivian servant leader who will be in Green Lake for the ICAP meetings in May. 

*spending significant time with Rhonda in the car eating a salteña, at a police station, at the kid's school where she serves as the nurse, in airports, visiting House of Hope ministries, waiting for a late night dinner to be served, in the hospital, and at home, I saw and felt her love to the end

*laughing with and listening to teens Abie and Grace over coffee and paninis

* playing photo booth, basketball, and indoor catch with 9 year old Nathan and then making mashed potatoes for him when his Mama was sick

*being picked up late at night from the airport, driven all over Santa Cruz and beyond for numerous workshops and events, and then being dropped off way too early in the morning at the airport by JD. His servant attitude was a form of foot washing and I felt loved.  

Jesus offers us table grace for our everyday lives. I have experienced it lately and I hope you can, too. 

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life- and place it before God as an offering." Romans 12:1

Have a blessed Easter,