Monday, November 13, 2023

Three Table Stories

Jesus’ table stories of wedding feast and a banquet host impelling his servant to invite people with disabilities to eat at his feast (Luke 14:1-24), sparked for me, three table stories: a Polynesian wedding dinner; worshiping at the Church of the Exceptional; and a church lunch hosted by our Deaf fellowship.

the hall where the wedding feast was held

back view of bride, serving guests
The bride serving her wedding guests

a young girl dances to a hymn
 The young girl had danced to a hymn.
The first story happened when my wife and I had a gift of one week in Moorea, French Polynesia. Through a church connection in New Zealand, we were introduced to a French Protestant Church pastor who brought us to a wedding dinner up a mountain. As unknown strangers and ignorant of the local language and customs, my wife and I expected to be seated furthest from the bride and groom. Instead, we were seated near the head table and served food by the honored bride.  

stock photo -- young man with Down syndrome

The second story happened when I was a young teen, worshiping with my parents at the Church of the Exceptional in Macon, Georgia.  A few pews away from the Lord’s Table, I was seated next to one of the many congregants with Down’s Syndrome, who occasionally poked my ribs to smile at me. I kept redirecting this young man - older than me - to pay attention to the preacher at the altar. 

A woman address a group
Mary Kay Hudspeth at Deaf Awareness October 1, 2023

The third story happened when our Deaf Fellowship invited hearing people to a dinner to introduce Deaf ways and sign language.  To my surprise our Deaf hosts outnumbered the intended hearing invitees. I later learned that some invitees did not come because they did not know who the Deaf were. 

Three tables, three stories of humility, differences, and invitation.  At Lovers Lane and Walnut Hill, we intentionally invite and provide access for people with disabilities and those who are Deaf. But what is the response of able-bodied, hearing people when it is those with disabilities, or Deaf, giving us their invitation to the table?

When we receive an invitation to a church-related table, be it a wedding, a church potluck or Lord’s Table, we are all in the presence of Christ – who is our host.  We who are made in God’s image are all made welcome by one another through Our Creator. Just as my teenaged self’s visit at the Church of the Exceptional exposed my discomfort to engage people with Down’s, the invitation to break bread with Deaf people seemed to expose a discomfort to engage our Deaf neighbor. 

I wonder if God was using the man who poked my side, to help me to see who he is, a child of God.  Could we be so busy looking for God that we miss the image of God in the person who is inviting us to see God in all God’s diversity? Dear Lord, give me the humility of a Tahitian bride at her wedding dinner; an undivided pause to see those who poke for my attention; and grace to eat with those who are strangers to me.

Grace and peace!
head shot of Tom Hudspeth
Rev. Tom Hudspeth, D. Min.
Pastor of Deaf Ministries and Care
Walnut Hill Church, a ministry of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church

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