“Too many of you are competing to sit at a table that Jesus would have flipped over.”

Some random meme

Recently, that meme popped up on my Facebook feed, and I had to pause for a minute to reflect on it. It wasn’t funny enough to chuckle at and maybe share; it wasn’t stupid enough to shake my head at and just scroll on by; and it certainly wasn’t obscure enough to scratch my head at and simply move on.

Instead, it actually made me stop and think about this imagined table at which some of us supposedly want to sit.

The references we have to Jesus turning over tables is in Matthew 21:12-13, in Mark 11:15-18, in Luke 19:45-46, and in John 2:13-17. Both those event speak to Jesus’ attempt to quit making religion a money making endeavor; making money at the expense of those who sought God, by placing ridiculous requirements upon the visiting people and the sacrifices they brought to the temple. Sacrifices the people were making, I might add, to place themselves into a right relationship with God. And if those sacrifices were deemed unacceptable, then they were turned away and told to buy something else, so they could bring a better sacrifice.

It was a ploy of ever expanding requirements. Requirements that made money, by way of a circular pattern of greed and self-interest between the priests and the merchants and money lenders.

And Jesus wanted to make sure that everyone understood that this scheme of self-interest and greed was not what God intended. God intended for all people to come to him freely, without requirements; and certainly not behind a paywall. But this act, some scholars believe, is what upset the leadership the most, and what ultimately led to his arrest and crucifixion. More so because it simultaneously attacked both the religious and economic power structures.

Unless we run some form of televised mega church, most of us don’t want to be at a table that sells religious baubles under the guise of donations and pseudo-righteousness. Nor do we want to retain our power by forcing people to jump through more and more hoops

But tables that feed into the political and economic power structure of any institution clearly do exist. And those sitting at it – and more importantly, those desiring to get a seat at the table – are not so ready to give up what those seats represent. These seats hold the power to shape the institution, to define the future power structures, and to ensure a continuity of one’s own way of thinking.

It’s no wonder that people like to hold on to those seats. And like to make it difficult for others to get a seat at the table, in a ploy of ever expanding requirements.

But for both the holder and the seeker of those seats, it comes down to a simple question. Is the motivation to sit at the table one driven by the desire for control, for power? Or is the motivation driven by an understanding of one’s own gifts and talents, and putting those to use? If it is the latter, it should be simple to determine that the time for new talents and new gifts might be needed, and to step away from the table, opening up a seat.

After all, real power comes in giving it away.

A fearful thought – giving away power – if our motivation is not as pure as we would like.

And if our motivation is not so pure, then it is quite true that the table we are competing to sit at is, in fact, one that Jesus would flip over.

About Michael

Mike was called to be the Vicar of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Wickenburg, AZ, and started this call on February 1, 2024. Before taking a call as clergy, Mike worked in IT for almost 25 years, variously working as a back- and front-end web developer, database developer and manager, and as a business analyst. If he's not engaged in the work of the church, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride, or training for an upcoming BikeMS ride. Mike holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classical History from Seattle Pacific University, and a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He attended Sewanee School of Theology for a year of Anglican Studies in the Fall of 2022, and graduated in May of 2023. Mike was ordained as a Transitional Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona on January 20th, 2024, and will be ordained to the priesthood on July 27, 2024.

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