Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Where do you want to go to eat?  This question in my home typically elicits one of three answers.  If it’s not my children’s favorite fast food joint or a place serving breakfast all day, it’s almost always their favorite buffet – known affectionately in our home as the hog trough.  Why?  Because buffets are full of choices – unending choices, sure to please the pickiest eater.  Of course, the enticing, all-you-can-eat dessert station, complete with cotton candy, might have something to do with their palate’s restaurant of choice.

Our lives are often a lot like that buffet.  Every week includes a series of choices – some that fill us well and others that feel good for a moment, but leave us empty, like the cotton candy in the dessert line.  But in any case, we make the choice – from the places we shop, to the sports we play, to the videos we stream on the device we choose to carry into the restaurant we choose to patron, to the church activities in which we engage.  Life’s options often feel like a line at the local buffet.  In fact, for many of us, the Christian life has become a series of trips to the buffet line.

We choose whether to participate in Sunday worship, whether to engage in community with others, or whether to show mercy to someone in need.  But what’s on offer to those who believe in Jesus is not a trip around the buffet table of the Christian life, but instead an invitation to the table of the King.  For the next three weeks, I want to explore what it means to move from the buffet line to the King’s table, focusing specifically on the savory food of the Christian life that we often relegate to list of options: worship, community, and in this blog – Mercy.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:1-2).

This invitation comes from the lips of the Lord, the King over all.  This invitation is not given to the wealthy, the powerful or the self-sufficient.  It’s not given to the outwardly religious, Bible memorization champion, or spiritual elite.  Jesus’ invitation to come and eat and come and drink is given to those who cannot afford it, those who cannot earn it, those who do not deserve it.  In other words, Jesus’ invitation is written in mercy, paid for by the bread of his broken body and the wine of his shed blood and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit who enables us to savor the delights that can only be enjoyed at the table of the King.  Those who taste that meal for themselves cannot help but become those whose lives reflect the mercy of their King.

According to Jesus in Matthew 25, mercy toward those too to poor to afford it, too weak to earn it, and too sinful to deserve it is evidence of a life transformed by the mercy experienced at the table of the King.  He says of the day of judgment:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Matt. 25:34-40).

Jesus so identifies with those to whom he has shown mercy that when we show mercy to those in need, it’s as if we’re feeding, welcoming, clothing, and visiting Jesus.  In fact, he goes on to say that those whose lives do not reflect His heart of mercy, display evidence that they themselves have never experienced the mercy of Jesus. “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matt. 25:40).

Showing mercy to the poor, the weak, the undeserving is not just an option of the buffet table of the Christian life, but instead is the evidence that we who are poor, weak and undeserving have savored the mercy of Jesus freely given at the King’s table.  As those who have tasted the feast, we cannot help but invite others to do the same.

This Sunday, Calvary’s deacons are inviting each of us to participate in showing mercy for the poor, weak and undeserving by giving to the deacon’s mercy fund.  This enables us as a congregation to show a small reflection of the mercy shown to us, as we seek to provide for the needs of members of our congregation, as well as those in the community around us.  I encourage each person to prayerfully consider not only how you might give this week, but how the Lord might be inviting you to step away from the buffet line of the Christian life and savor the mercy on offer at the table of the King.