home > Pastor’s Desk > 2023 > July 21st > COME ON IN AND JOIN US

Some people think of ‘church’ as a place of religious rituals. To them it a place where sermons are preached, hymns are sung, weddings are conducted, funerals formalised, and babies are dedicated or ‘christened’. But I want to help people to reimagine what ‘church’ actually is intended to be in our day. To do this I want to introduce the biblical concept of the table. We all use tables. We use a table to display a vase of flowers. We use a table to put cups of coffee or tea on. We use a table to do our homework. We use a table to put beautifully large photo books on. And we use a table for our family members and guests to come together around and enjoy a meal. But then, there is the way that the Bible speaks of the table and if more people could realise the significance what this means, it would dramatically effect how they think about church. To begin to understand this we need to start in the Old Testament and begin to realise that “the table” was the means a person received status. Thus, we begin our survey of the Bible by looking at the incredibly unlikely promotion of Mephibosheth in one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.

The new king, David, had previously formed a covenant with the son of the previous king, Jonathan, that if anything untoward should happen to him that David would take care of his family (1Sam 20:12-15). After Jonathan had been killed in battle, David sought to honour his vow to Jonathan. An enquiry was made as to whether there was indeed any family members of Jonathan’s family whom David should care for. The answer came that there was indeed someone: Mephibosheth. King David then summoned the former royal servant, Ziba, who bore responsibility to care for the orphaned son of Jonathan (and grandson of the late king Saul).

¶ Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him,
“All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson.
And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce,
that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat.
But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.”
Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king,
“According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.”
So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.
And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica.
And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants.
So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table.
Now he was lame in both his feet.
Second Samuel 9:9-13

Mephibosheth was a cripple who could offer nothing to king David – yet David granted him the right to “right gave Mephibosheth royal privileges and royal status. This story of Mephibosheth is a picture of what God has done for each of us. We were all ‘spiritually crippled’ when God in His grace reached out to each of us and saved us, adopted us, and made us joint-heirs with our heavenly brother, the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17). We now, like Mephibosheth, have been granted access to The King’s Table. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, described this as and the table of demons) –

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.
You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
First Corinthians 10:21

Many believers refer to the table of Lord as if it means holy Communion in the same way that the Lord’s Supper does (1Cor. 11:20). But we must come to see that when God invited us to ‘the table of the Lord’ it was a statement of His acceptance of us and His adoption of us as His royal sons and daughters! Just like Mephibosheth who was taken out of his desperate plight and given access to the King’s Table which totally changed his status, the LORD has taken us out of our desperate plight and granted us unimpeded access to the King of Kings’ Table! This is quite unlike the royal banquets of our modern era in which kings and queens would hold invite honoured guests to occasional dinners. But what king David did for Mephibosheth – and what GOD has done for us – is not merely occasional, it is a permanent invitation to join the king every day for dinner! Turning up at the king’s table for this daily meal was a statement on behalf of the invited guest of their acceptance of the king’s offer of adoption. To not turn up each day required an explanation to be given to the king lest it appeared to be seen as a rejection of the king’s offer (1Sam 20:24-29). Thus, when we assemble each Sunday we are coming to the Lord’s Table as His children to partake of the meal that He has provided for us – including the Lord’s Supper  and the serving of the ‘Bread of Life’ (John 6:35, 48) as the Word of God is sung, preached and taught (Rom. 16:25, 1Cor. 15:1).  

Our gathering as a church is like a gathering together for ‘a meal’. But it is as if we are hosting a meal in which everyone is invited. Perhaps it is not everyone’s usual experience to have a total stranger turn up unannounced at their home at dinner time who then expects to be seated at your dinner table and fed! But, this should be the usual experience of every healthy local church – including ours. We should not just expect that first-time visitors will turn up at our church, but we should also expect that such people will be welcomed to our ‘dining table’ church service and made to feel welcomed. Therefore, those who are welcoming people as they come through the front doors of our church are helping to set an enormously important welcome-culture! Then, our auditorium-greeters are also reinforcing this welcoming culture as people move into our auditorium.

Each Saturday we use social media to invite people from all kinds of backgrounds to join us at our Sunday ‘dining table’ church service. This is because we want everyone to feel welcome at our church as we meet together each Sunday together and in various homes throughout the week. 

It is when a family and their guests gather for a dinner and are seated around the dinner table that they talk, share their stories, reflect on their highlights and lowlights, pray, pray for each other, and discuss important and not so important things. Thus, the dining table is a gathering point where there is laughter, enjoyment, sympathy, music, food and celebration. 

God settles the solitary in a home
He leads out the prisoners with singing,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Psalm 68:6

There is a significant difference between a house and a home. A house is just a building. A home is where a person or people belong. As more and more people experience disconnection and loneliness, it is my hope that together we can be a family that some people don’t ordinarily enjoy. And it is my hope that we can be a home for many people who even though they have a place to live – they don’t have a home. The Psalmist declared that God settles the lonely in a home (Psa. 68:6).

In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:22

Make yourself at home and… What comes after this invitation is a request to help with the dinner. This might include setting the table, putting condiments on the table, taking the meals to the table, clearing the table, washing the dishes, and offering drinks. Make yourself at home and join in by helping. The more people join in and help, that more people we can welcome to take a seat our ‘dining table’. 

The New Testament Church is often depicted as the place where ‘the table of the Lord’ is located. Thus, the Bible describes the Church as made up of those people who have been legally admitted to the Table of the Lord where they come together to serve one another, enjoy a soul-nourishing meal, and be ready to make room for one more person to join them at the dinner table. This is why we invite everyone to come in and join us. 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

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A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING BUTS

I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.

OPEN

What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.

ONE THING I HAVE TO SAY

​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR I WILL RECOUNT 12 WONDERFUL THINGS (An Explication of Psalm 9)

This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.

HE WAS BORN A KING

The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.

THE SHEPHERD IS THE LORD

Of all the 150 Psalms, Psalm 23 is probably the most loved. As we read it we can easily imagine its author, the young shepherd-boy David, making the trek through a ravine where bandits, bears, and predators lurked as he led his small flock of sheep through to fresh water and green pastures. As he reflected on how he led and cared for his flock he must have pondered of how the LORD was like a shepherd to him. As easy as it is for us to imagine teenage David composing this beautiful Psalm, it is also easy to imagine how the God he describes as his shepherd in this Psalm is also a shepherd to us. God, as a shepherd, provides what we need (vs 1), restores our soul (vs 3), when we are unsure He leads on the right path (vs 3), He protects us from evil (vs 4), comforts us in times of distress (vs 4), strengthens us in our moments of weakness (vs 5), He gives us honour when our opponents attempt to bring us shame (vs 5), and He provides a place of belonging for us (vs 6). This is what a shepherd does, David tells us, and it is ultimately only found in the True Shepherd, the Lord Immanuel.