At the Same Table

Psalm 35
Luke 22:14-30

Today we find ourselves in the second week of Advent, not only preparing to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, but looking even further into his life and ministry. Today we find Jesus near the end, gathered at the Passover meal, “eagerly desiring” to be at table one last time with those gathered in his midst. Soon after, he would be betrayed by one of his own, charged, convicted, and executed.

We look back to Psalm 35, a prayer for God’s help by a person accused falsely, persecuted by his enemies. The psalmist calls upon God to fight against those who fight him. The psalmist cries, “How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my life from the lions.” He continues, saying, if you save my life from these enemies of mine, then I will praise you.

The psalmist believes in his heart that God wants all servants of God to be well. Yet he struggles with reconciling how suffering at the hands of his enemies could possibly be in the interest of a great God.

How have you been repaid evil for good in your life? What is God’s role in any struggles or sufferings you face? How do you expect God to respond when you experience discrimination, singling out, or maltreatment?What might be the response of Jesus to such experiences?

Jesus, like the psalmist, is about to suffer at the hands of his enemies in today’s Gospel passage from Luke. Peter will deny him. Judas will betray him. What does he do? Unlike the psalmist, Jesus does not beg and plead with God. He does not wish for his enemies to suffer. Jesus instead gathers his friends and enemies all together, in one room. In their midst institutes the sacrament of Holy Communion, telling them, “do this in remembrance of me.” Gather together, share with one another, and be nourished.

After friends and enemies alike eat together. Jesus knows one will betray him. They almost immediately miss the point, arguing about who among them might be greatest. Even after a shared feast, they ask, “who will be first among us?” Jesus meets his disciples in their brokenness, and calls them toward wholeness. It’s a wholeness only encountered by being together.

Jesus calls us to gather with friends and enemies alike. Jesus calls us to sit at table with our enemies, along with our friends. Because it is in a place of nourishment, of community, of sharing, of reconciliation, that God ultimately works through each of us to restore us to wholeness.

This Advent, we are called to wait patiently for the coming of Christ. In places of prejudice, exclusion, and struggle, we patiently wait, continuing to meet face-to-face with even our enemies at table. In doing so, in opening our hearts even to those who hate us, we run the risk of running into the very Christ we thought had run from us.


Rev. Allison Rainey English serves as Associate Priest at St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach, California. Allison graduated from Claremont School of Theology with a Master of Divinity in 2008. Her passions for work in the church include liturgical development, pastoral care, youth ministry, and responsible social engagement/community building among the church.


God’s People Are Comforted

Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.

—Isaiah 40:1-11

In this scripture I hear a conversation between characters from Winnie the Pooh. Owl, the wise one starts: “Comfort is coming, Israel has served her term and now, she will be redeemed. The loving Lord has given her new life. It has been long, and hard, but we have persevered and stayed faithful (even though we grumbled!) and now we will rejoice in God’s favor.”

Then the sweet, open, innocent voice of Winnie the Pooh: “Make way! Clear the brambles from the road, smooth the mountain passes, the Lord has shown God’s glory and soon we will all be able to see and feel it. God has spoken to us!”

And yet, in spite of the good news Eeyore complains: “Who cares? Everything is ruined anyway. The grass has withered, the flower has faded. We are like the flowers, withered, tired; God has come too late for us. Woe, woe, woe.”

Winnie answers him: “No, my friend, the grass may be withered and the flowers may have faded, but…can’t you see?  God’s word is forever! Come up here, on the mountain with us, and see. Sing praise to God with us. Proclaim with us, “Here is our God!”

And Owl sums it up, “Rejoice, indeed. Our Lord comes in might, with strength and protection and reconciliation. God will gather us as a shepherd gathers his sheep, and God will carry us, lead us, gently, into life.

Our world right now seems dusty, barren and barely livable. Many in the United States and more around the world live without enough food. People are still warring against one another; women and the poor are oppressed, still. It does seem as if life is withered and faded. We hear very few hopeful stories in mainline media. We receive so little nourishment; our souls may feel withered and faded.

The media get a lot of footage and pictures out of the barrenness of the world. That withered grass is good press; the soulnessness of humans is good press. Those are the news reports that lead the evening news; those are the front page articles in the newspaper and in magazines. We often get a lot of mileage out of pouting and proclaiming gloom and doom. It is so much easier to complain about the hurt we have received, to moan about how much we have suffered and how much we don’t have. But does that really feel better than joy? Does it nourish our soul as much as recognizing God’s gifts?

The story of Advent is this: Jesus is coming! Jesus IS coming! The One who encourages, reminds, prods, enlightens us is coming! Our God is coming to breathe air into us, to water our parched souls, to show us how to create with God a world of potential, a world where God will gather us, and feed us, and lead us gently into life. Our God is full of love for us, God weeps with us at the sorrow in the world, God yearns to share our lives, to fill us with love and teach us how to share that love.

How many times do we hold on to the memories of the bitterness and the times of hardship, keep our eyes and hearts closed to the potential of forgiveness and reconciliation, keep ourselves from reveling in the love of God, who, after all, is all.

My prayer is that this advent we remember the voice of the herald, O come, O come Emmanuel.  God with us (forever), God within us (always and forever).  Alleluia, Amen.


Terri Gibbons is a member in discernment in the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of the Claremont School of Theology and plans to serve her ministry as a Chaplain for end-of-life care.