A Disorderly Inclusive Table


  1. Sermon Manuscript
  2. Sermon Audio
  3. Sermon Video


In the Greco-Roman world in which the Jews inhabited, dinner or the Symposium had a traditional standard that everyone was expected to follow. Most of the moral teaching in the culture came through table fellowship. Jewish society at this point was group-oriented. You were either “in” or “out.” These structures were deeply rooted and everyone knew their place.

The next time we see Jesus reclining at a table, it’s in the home of Simon the Pharisee. At some point during the meal, an uninvited woman pushes her way in to get to Jesus. She shreds the social-political construct of the Symposium in her desire to get to Jesus. Respectable women were not welcome at the table, certainly not women who “lived a sinful life.”

Jesus does know what she has been, a sinner, and what she is now, forgiven. As he invites Simon into the story, he reveals to Simon that he too owes money, just like this unnamed woman, who pushed her way into the meal. The tables are flipped, Simon now has a decision to make.

Jesus doesn’t challenges Simon’s belief that the unnamed woman is a sinner, he just challenges Simon’s belief that he is not. “You both owe money you can’t repay,” Jesus says. But Simon doesn’t believe that he is like her, maybe he believes he’s better, he’s righteous, but Jesus welcomes both of them to the table. He will demonstrate this fully on the cross, there, he reconciles us all to God again. Jesus’ death on the cross isn’t some kind of quid pro quo by which God gains the necessary capital to forgive sinners. No! Jesus does not save us from God; Jesus reveals God to us on the cross! Jesus does not provide God with the capacity to forgive; Jesus reveals God as forgiving love.

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

This unnamed woman was willing, after learning that Jesus was at Simon’s house she was willing to go to him in humility. It was shameful for her to let down her hair. It was too intimate, personal, it broke all the rule of the culture, but she couldn’t help herself, she was overcome, she was caught up in God’s love and provision. As she pushes her way in, uninvited, she discovers what she wanted forgiveness, reconciliation, welcome. And she found God willing and ready to forgive. She found space for her at the table. God through Jesus forgives her sins, but in order to receive her forgiveness, she had to acknowledge her need, acknowledge her sinfulness, she had to be willing to ask for forgiveness.

Jesus wants to heal us by making space for us at the table. We can imagine Jesus says, “I don’t want to fix you. I want to give you what you never knew you always needed. I want to build-up the foundation that has always existed. I want to make you whole again.”

Jesus knew that these images: a table, food, an open cup, carried significant weight in the human psyche. No matter the culture, these are the first symbols a person uses to identify and idealize who they are: separate from and in community with the people around them. Not my mother’s arms, but a table suited just for me. Not my mother’s milk, but a variety of food that I can choose to eat or choose to abstain from, using all of my senses as a tool for deciding. Not a nipple, but a cup that I am trusted to bring to my mouth with my own two hands. Not me in someone else’s world, but me invited into “the” world. This is where I belong, and it is enjoyable to be a part of it.

So when the church comes together as the new community gathered around a resurrected savior, and we declare God’s welcome to all… we announce the Good News… we announce that our exile is over, and we can home again. We announce space.

Maybe you thought there was room for you at the table only to be rejected. Come to the table and share this meal and allow the victory won for you (and us) to wash over all the hurt, the pain, and the rejection. You can find you spot at the table again.

Maybe you were rejected and told that you can’t fellowship with the people of God because you are unclean, that you are sinner then come to table and receive the forgiveness for your sins.

There is room at the table for you because Jesus made room for you as he has made room for all of us.

Come to the table not with a heavy heart because there is place for you here. There is peace at this table, there is joy at this table, there is love at this table for you.


As you listened to the sermon (or read the sermon summary), did anything about the woman’s situation hit you personally? Did you recall a situation or relationship where you felt judged by someone else, maybe for a good reason, maybe not? If so, sit with that feeling for a minute or two. How do you feel about that situation now? Is it still painful? Invite Jesus to join you in looking at this situation. Can you sense how Jesus is being towards you? Is it similar to his response to the woman? Is it different? If you are apt to journal, you might take a minute to jot down some notes from your prayer.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: spiritual.practices@annarborvineyard.org.

Leave a Reply