I returned home last night from Germany. I was there to see and study the sites of the reformation and the life of Martin Luther. It was an amazing trip, and over the next couple of months, I’m looking forward to sharing some of the stories with you. (And I’m very excited to bring a Trinity group over for the Festival from October 2-8, 2017, during the actual 500th anniversary!)
One of our fellow travelers, my friend Jacob Smith, made an analogy that I really like that I’ve adapted a bit. There is no better way for someone to get to know me than to come and sit at my kitchen table. If they want to really get to know me, they should come and sit at my Mother’s kitchen table and talk. And if they really, really want to get to know me, they should sit at my Grandmother’s kitchen table. That’s where you get the real story.
This past week, I feel like I’ve sat at Luther’s kitchen table.
I began studying Luther and the reformation in 7th grade confirmation, when I had to memorize the small catechism. Then as a student in college, followed by my time at Luther Seminary. And since then, I’ve continued to turn back to the work and words of Luther and the reformers, I thought I had a grasp on the events and the meanings.
But now I’ve been there, and my understanding has grown exponentially. To walk the streets Luther walked, to stand in the Castle Church, his favorite place to preach, or at the baptismal font where he was baptized. To stand and touch the actual altar where he first presided over the sacrament of communion at the Augustinian Monastery. Just being in these spaces gives me a whole different understanding of what happened almost 500 years ago there.
I feel like I was invited in to experience Luther’s life.
This is, of course, an ongoing theme for Christians. We believe in invitation and hospitality. It is a mark of discipleship. Jesus invites us to the table to receive the Holy meal of bread and wine. Jesus invites us to drop what we’re doing and to follow where he leads. Jesus invites us to share in his life, death and resurrection. And so we gather around Christ’s altar and we sit at the table with Christ. Jesus Christ’s very life is an invitation.
And there are two things for us to remember: First, Jesus’ invitation is always there. It is an ongoing promise of grace and nothing we do can take that away. We always have the opportunity to follow. And second, we have a responsibility then to become the one who invites, and to welcome others into our church, our homes and our lives. We can invite others into relationship because we know that when we do, we’re inviting them into relationship with the God who is present whenever two or three (or more) are gathered.
We know that it’s when we’re invited to someone’s table…that’s when we really get to know them. That’s what I experienced this past week as I walked in the footsteps of Luther. That is what we all experience when we hear Christ’s invitation to gather at his table.
We hear the invitation Christ’s table, and we follow.