The specific feast/table of Christ that we read about on Sunday in concert with Psalm 23:5 (and in which there wasn’t actually a table) was the meal Jesus shared with the disciples after his resurrection as told in the Gospel of John. Yesterday we talked about the challenge of the table set by God, as it, when viewed through the life and ministry of Christ, was a table in which strangers, oppressors, and oppressed, were brought into contact with one another. Thinking benevolent or empathetic thoughts about ‘the other’ is easy. Unfortunately that is as far as many Christians go. The table of Christ is a life, belief, assumption and behavior challenging event.
In the story from John, the challenge deepens although the grace may be even greater. In yesterday’s story God grace at the table brought diverse people together, united wealthy and poor, elite and expendable in a new family, the family of those called good by God. This is the only identifier that matters and it leads to relationship of trust, service, sharing and care which subvert the previous distinctions. But in todays story from John, it is not just a conceptual or ideological divide that is bridged, it is personal hurt, pain, abandonment.
Jesus invites the disciples that had abandoned him and specifically Peter, who had denied knowing, following and supporting him. I think it is safe that at this table enemies were present. I realize that we are not told that Jesus thought of them as enemies, but if we were treated as Jesus was, I believe we would want revenge and not a picnic.
Based on Jesus’ statements throughout various gospels, in which wrongs were to be forgiven, slapped cheeks turned without responding with a slap, enemies prayed for, etc, I think this meal gives us a vision of reconciliation. The world of violence, of warfare, torture, along with personal betrayals, infidelities, and cruelties is turned upside down at this table. Only, as I said earlier this week, it is not simply the same players playing different roles in the same game, oppressed becoming oppressors. At the table the system of hierarchy and oppression is overcome as the crucified one invites his betrayers to sit at table with him.
Jesus does not respond to their betrayal and desertion with anger, vengeance or violence. Instead he gathers them for a meal, which would most certainly remind them of the meal he shared with them just a few days earlier, and at which, according to the Gospel of John, he anointed them with the Holy Spirit, so that they might continue his ministry as his empowered representatives. If we read on in this post-resurrection meal story, his conversation with John is to urge him to leave his nets once again and take up the calling and anointing that Christ has bestowed upon him before the desertion episode.
To be anointed is to be reminded that we are chosen, called and empowered to continue Christ’s ministry. We are his ambassadors.