What’s happening around your table?

Jul 9, 2019

Steph Duff

It all started during Holy Week. I was reading through familiar passages of Scripture, but something new caught my attention (isn’t this one of the best traits of God’s word? No matter how many times we read a book or a passage, He will teach us something new, if our hearts are open.) Matthew 21:12-13 describes a scene in which Jesus walks into the Temple and overturns tables. 

In fact, He’s long used tables to get His people’s attention. 

He broke bread at tables, for people who would ultimately betray Him in His final hour, using tables for forgiveness.

He set a table in the middle of the wilderness for Peter –setting up tables in our wilderness to draw us to Him.

He flipped tables in the temple –disrupting any comfort, any distraction, to ensure He has our full attention.

In the modern world, tables are used for dining, and in some cases, as drop zones for the day’s groceries or stack of bills. In the ancient world, tables were used for dining, but as we can see, they were also used for much more than a dinner party or to house our plates of food. In Matthew 26, a woman breaks open an expensive vial of perfume on Jesus as He dined at Simon the leper’s home.  Sitting around that table, He corrects the scoffing disciples, saying she was preparing Him for burial. Tables are not simply where we eat our food, they are where we fellowship, and learn lessons. 

I live alone, and most evenings, it’s my coffee table where I eat dinner. There I also gather with my girlfriends when they visit. At this table, I meet with my Heavenly Father for time with just the two of us. I’ve traveled all over with Back2Back, meeting remarkable children and learning about cultural customs, and I can testify: the table is a place of gathering, fellowship, exchange, and ministry. 

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The first time I met Wendy, an 18-year old Haitian boy from Harvest Care Children’s Home, we connected across a picnic table beneath a coconut tree. God distinctly put this young man on my heart, and I asked a fellow staff member to translate a conversation for me. Wendy shared how Haitians viewed my tattooed arms and I shared the why and story of the ink on my skin. I heard about Wendy’s dreams for his future, and his desire to connect with people who visited his country. On this muggy, Haitian day, I developed a friendship with a young man to whom I still write letters. We didn’t eat anything on this table, just sat together with a patient translator and connected. 

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There’s a slab of concrete under a large palapa at a children’s home in Mexico where I sat with America and played dolls on a makeshift “table” in the space between our folded legs. The communication barrier between us meant play was our language. Sharing a “table” with a young girl who doesn’t speak English – that is the power of a gathering place. Any story, language, or age can gather for connection at a literal or makeshift table, and it will honor our shared Father and strengthen our faith. 

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The front marble steps of the Elijah Home in India are a gathering place for the older girls on campus. Together they sit one in front of the other, braiding hair and singing worship songs. When you’re a lucky visitor and are sitting with them, it becomes a prime interview spot. Warm afternoons, right after school, is where you could find me everyday for 2 months in 2017. Together, we drank hot chai, as they shared their days and asked me questions about my own schooling, family, and faith. Laughter was easy and the barriers of our differences in age, life experiences, and cultural expectations quickly dissipated. Those marble steps became the “table” in which we snacked and drank hot tea, and for an hour everyday, we were young girls learning from each other, chasing after the same loving Father.

Whether it’s an actual table or simply a place you gather with others, the table is a place of ministry. I’ve learned about Jesus’ love at my coffee table with a sister, as I have on makeshift tables and picnic tables in India, Mexico, and Haiti. When we walk hand-in-hand with Jesus, every meeting point, every conversation, is opportunity for connection. When we say yes to a life with Jesus, we are entering into an agreement language and cultural barriers will not deter connection and there is always more room at the “table.” 

Questions to consider…

Where are you making space for ministry at your table? Where is fellowship, learning, and growing taking place that you wouldn’t necessarily expect it? When is the next opportunity where you can pull out the proverbial chair and invite an unlikely guest to “dine” with you?

In Scripture, and in the world today, there are multitudes of “tables” to gather at. Where will you sit next?

Steph Duff is a writer, daughter, sister, and really loud laugher. By day she lends her voice on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries. By night she is readily found with her nose in a book and spending time with her dachshund, Addy. At all hours, she can be found consuming copious amounts of coffee. She feels most herself in the heat of India and prefers her mugs big, her books long, and her words intentional.

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