Table Manners

The bell rings and the campers all rush to line up single file on the sidewalk. The campers wait for the director to make announcements, say a prayer, and open the door to the dining hall. We had all been invited to our next meal, and we were ready! On occasion, the camp director would quote Matthew 20:6 after saying his prayer and before opening the door: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” This was the signal that the order of access to the dining hall was being reversed with no exceptions—not even for me, the granddaughter of Harvey Swenson, the camp director.

Every time this reversal was decreed, the same reactions occurred. Those who had been last in line marched forward with expressions of triumph while those who had secured the coveted first spots were forced to wait.

I think of this scenario whenever I read Jesus’ parable recorded in Luke 14:8-11. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus had been invited to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee. While there, He noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table for themselves. It reminds me of those campers rushing to secure the best spot in line. Those who arrived first stood at the head of the line. I never saw a camper leave space for others ahead of her. I certainly never allowed anyone else to “cut” in line if they arrived after me!

What does Jesus say about all this? “Do not take the place of honor . . . take the lowest place . . . for those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:8-11).

As we continue to explore our theme of Belong and think about the tables we have been or will be invited to, let’s listen to those words of Jesus. Stay humble. Recognize that there is room for all who have been invited; every guest will get a seat at the table. Listen to the voice of the host, and submit to the seating chart when one exists. Then, when all are seated, celebrate together the grace of being invited and the blessing of collaboration and conversation.

The same was true at camp. On those occasions when the line was reversed, we all still enjoyed our meal. No one was denied access, and we all learned a lesson about humility.

Jen Vogel

Jen served as national director for Alliance Women from 2015-2023; she serves in a variety of ministry capacities, including on the President's Cabinet for The Alliance. She enjoys reading, travel, and completing the New York Times crossword puzzle daily. Jen and her husband, Doug, attend Dover Avenue Alliance Church in Orange City, Iowa.

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