You prepare a table for me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

 

If you wanted to select a strange place for a meal, this would be the top of the list. I think of mealtime as respite and as refuge. Being on alert and keeping my eyes focused on those around me for signs of dangerous activity is not generally good for digestion. Yet, right in the center of the antagonism and strife that is life in this world, God spreads His cloth of gathering and puts out His very best tableware. All of this effort and the care that God takes in getting the perfect food ready for us takes some time, too. This is not a situation where the Lord works some snap of the fingers magic and it all appears. There is no microwaved, instantly ready food here. Rather, the Lord puts the touch of His love and grace into each and every component of the meal.

 

It seems that there are at least two main points to this verse. The first involves recognition and thankfulness for the care and the provision that God does provide to His people. The perfect food that is God’s love, mercy, and grace is lavished upon us. He provides us with the real nourishment of His Word, and the Lord feeds our souls with the presence of His Spirit. Christ welcomes us in a manner that clearly indicates that He is delighted by our presence at His Father’s table. We are truly home regardless of situation or circumstances. Even in our times of greatest sinfulness and rebellion, Christ welcomes us with His very best. We are honored family members, and the Lord’s cup of blessing is kept full to overflowing by His own hand of service.

 

This is a wonderful, poetic picture of what it is like to live in a relationship with Christ. However, it seems that there is something more here. The fact that God does all of this in the presence of our enemies is a statement of the realities of life in a world where there are very active and aggressive forces that are opposed to Christ and to His followers. It is not possible to follow Christ by being engaged in the world and to not have enemies around us. Yet, I think that God wants us to view the mealtime that He establishes for us as a time of fellowship and of offering. Christ asks us to be open about the source of our comfort and strength. He wants His people to freely engage in the banquet and to speak plainly and boldly about our Lord and His love for all people. This feast is not exclusive, for Christ desires to see everyone seated at His table. He wants us to invite our neighbors, our acquaintances, and even our fiercest enemies to share in Christ’s meal of peace and reconciliation.

 

Here at the Lord’s table is where these differences that divide and the animosities that fear spawns can be set aside for an hour or so. Around a table that is set with grace and furnished with the soul-deep safety that comes to us in Christ, we can enter into the sort of peace-making that is only truly possible through the reconciling love and sacrificial intent of Christ. It seems quite deliberate on God’s part to set out this place of respite, comfort, and replenishment in the shadow of the very death that humanity’s sinfulness brings about. In this rocky and troubled place, Christ smoothes out a corner where peace can dwell if even for only a short time. He calls to us to lay down our weapons and set aside our concerns and reluctance so that we can greet those who are different and with whom we believe we are in conflict and offer the bounty of the Lord’s table of blessing to them. Here we can look face to face into their hearts and perhaps, in that miraculous way that the Lord works, we can begin to reconcile differences as we share the love of Christ that frees all people from our bondage to sin with its violence and death.