My parents were in town this past weekend, so we took them to one of our favorite restaurants. Upon being seated at the table, the host took the extra place setting away. Not only did it get me thinking, but it also disappointed me because I always like the extra set of silverware in case I drop mine.
A couple of days later we had some friends over for a meal. We ended up with an extra place setting. Instead of taking it up, my wise spouse simply left it out. Maybe she knows that I often drop my fork, but I would like to think it has a deeper meaning.
Most progressive type Christians are fond of “making space for others at the Table.” This is all well and good but maybe it doesn’t go quite far enough. Yes, it’s better than many of our sisters and brothers who tend to yank the extra place-settings as soon as everyone they deem worthy is seated. I’m just thinking we sell others and God short when we only make space for someone.
Take a moment and think how you feel when your group is trying to make space for one more. You feel crowded, inconvenienced, even uncomfortable. We often make space with a spirit of frustration over having to do so. That frustration carries over to how we view the person or group that has caused us discomfort. I wonder what would happen if we shifted our practice to intentionally leave room for others? What if we expected others to show up in our lives, communities, churches, and at our tables?
Look to the Last Supper for some clues about how Jesus might proceed. I’ve long thought that in the room for that meal were more disciples and friends than just the 12 disciples. It was probably pretty crowded because Jesus doesn’t strike me as someone who would turn anyone away. He would intentionally leave room for others, not just make space for them. It’s why when I give the Words of Institution, I always make clear that it was disciples and friends who were gathered on that night. I bet it was a pretty packed room that night. I don’t think Jesus would have had it any other way.
I’m working on this myself. I’m glad we left the extra place setting out. A friend we had not seen in a while showed up and we had plenty of room for them. It’s a start. I suspect when we leave room for others, we will leave a little more room for Jesus as well.