January 19, 2012

Is Your Table Big Enough? If not, add a leaf…



If not, add a leaf…

     Are you seeking persons to whom you can demonstrate God’s love?

     STOP! You don’t have to seek. In fact, if you are seeking you might just miss the persons that God intends you to give love to.

     Unless you are a hermit living in a cave, isolated from communication with any other human being, a multitude of opportunities to express God’s love crosses your path each day. You don’t have to seek them…they are ever present: the grumpy waitress, the mother maneuvering two young children and multiple shopping bags, the bored face in the doctor’s waiting room, the person in a wheel chair who is unable to reach the item on the shelf, the isolated and the lonely, the overworked and overstressed…


     Recently, I was in Cleveland Heights “window” shopping at an upscale mall. I wandered into a store to be greeted by a clerk asking if I needed help.

     “No,” I said. “I’m just passing through.”

     Then I hesitated.

     “You know, there is one thing I’m looking for. I don’t know it you have it, but I’ve looked everywhere for it, and just cannot find it.”

     “Well, perhaps I can help,” she said. “What is it?”

     I paused before answering: “Sanity.”

     Suddenly her store-clerk face lit up and she burst out laughing.

     “You did that very well,” she commented.

     Then she told me about the dour-faced customers she usually waits on and said I was a breath of fresh air. I offered her a hug which she graciously accepted.


     On January 15, 2012, I was privileged to hear a Martin Luther King, Jr. presentation given by a retired United Methodist Church bishop, Violet Fisher. The message, delivered at the First United Methodist Church of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, was based on Micah 6:8 and Luke 14:15-24, the story of the wedding banquet:

  • Micah 6:8  The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands; “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”
  • Luke 14:8 When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the best place. Someone more important may have been invited.
  • Luke 14:12  Jesus said to the man who had invited him, when you give a dinner or a banquet don’t invite your friends and family and relatives and rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return, and you will be paid back. When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. They cannot pay you back. But God will bless you and reward you when his people rise from death.

(Scripture from the Contemporary English Bible)


     Bishop Fisher began her message saying I want to talk about the table: when you set your table who do you invite? Who is a part of the loved community? 

     Is your table big enough—big enough to invite your neighbor, big enough to include a seat for your neighbor? If not, put another leaf in…


     Bishop Fisher said she grew up in Delaware, the second child in a family with five children. When her older brother left for college, it was her turn to sit at the adult table (in her tradition, the oldest child sat at the adult table).

     About this time her parents decided to purchase a brand new dining room table. As the oldest child, she accompanied them to a store in Dover, Delaware. The salesman showed her mother tables made of varying woods. Her mother wasn’t impressed. When her mother found the table she liked, one just big enough for her family, her biggest concern was whether it had an extra leaf, because she wanted the space for the unexpected, uninvited, guest.

     At one dinner the doorbell rang and Bishop Fisher answered door. Later she asked her parents Why does she (this woman) always have to come to dinner?

     Her father replied I want you to know this table will always be big enough for those who come…

     Was the example set by Bishop Fisher’s parents an example of spreading God’s love? I believe it was.


     Jesus instructed us to love our neighbor.

     But who is my neighbor?

     The answer to this question brings me to my personal philosophy: whoever crosses my path is my neighbor.


     After listening to Bishop Fisher’s message I might add: and wherever I am is my table.



     Whoever and wherever includes the store clerk in the upscale mall, the person sitting next to me at the subway station in Philadelphia, the woman I share table with in a Chicago eatery, the waitress at a Buffalo restaurant, a cab driver in Bangor (Maine)…as well as the person living in the house next door to mine in Laurel Mountain Borough, Pennsylvania. Whoever and wherever includes the homeless woman who knocked on our door, seeking a meal and a night’s lodging; the domestic violence victim needing a safe place to stay for a few days; the three sisters needing a place to escape from their parent’s violence.

     Was my interaction with the store clerk an example of spreading God’s love? I believe it was. Did the clerk see it this way? I don’t know. What I do know is that in my journey through this life she crossed my path, sharing it momentarily, and I acknowledged her personhood, her value as a child of God.


     Bishop Fisher completed her message with the following story:

     As a brother walked out of the flagship church a man asked him if the message was good. The brother answered: The preacher preached and didn’t tell us to do anything so the message wasn’t great…

     Today, she said, we had a good sermon, but it didn’t tell us to do anything.

     So I am telling you: Put another leaf in the table in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


     Stop seeking persons to whom you can demonstrate God’s love. Instead, try paying attention to those persons who cross your path.

NOTE: Bishop Fisher was speaking of the barriers of racism, but at one point alluded to other barriers such as  the elderly, which she stated was not the message of the day, but for another day. My writing speaks of the broader sense of barriers—racism, elderly, the physically handicapped, the mentally handicapped, etc.


PHOTOGRAPHS of the January 12TH Martin Luther King event can be viewed at this link:


One way I share God’s love with a neighbor is to encourage them to smile. Between now and March 1 my husband Monte and I are practicing ways to make people smile, and sharing the results. Below are two posts on smiling:

Warning: Do Not “Smile Someone” Today!

Smiles Wanted!

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