Most of us will find ourselves today around a table, surrounded by those we love, those we care about, and in some cases, those we tolerate. Most of us will find ourselves arguing with someone over something, and laughing the next minute over something else entirely. Most of us will wonder, at some point, what we're doing with these people and in the very next breath, be exceedingly thankful for them.
As we should be. The persons we will encounter today are a part of our story. They are the cast of characters that flesh out our narratives. Without them, we would not be who we are.
As I think about my table today, I think also about Christ's table. He gathered in the Upper Room with His own cast of characters, the men and, perhaps, women who were helping to tell His story. Each of them had their own quirks, their own contributions, and their own circumstances, but there's something special about that table nonetheless.
There was, of course, Simon Peter, who often spoke without thinking first. He said things without realizing the full weight of his words and often found himself backtracking, often found himself trying to make amends. You may encounter someone like this today. You may even find that in some moments, you are someone like this. It's okay. There's plenty of room around the table.
There were the brothers, James and John (not the only set of brothers in Jesus' motley crew, but the two that we most often see interacting like blood brothers). They were always trying to demonstrate their awesomeness, always asserting their greatness. They were bragging about themselves, jockeying for the highest honor. You may encounter someone like this today. You may even find that in some moments, you are someone like this. It's okay. There's plenty of room around the table.
There was Simon the Zealot. A zealot is someone who latches firmly and fully onto his belief, and I can imagine that this Simon was easily excitable and always ready for debate. There was Andrew, who I have always considered the king of seemingly useless information. He's the one who, upon finding a little boy's lunchbox among the thousands gathered, declared that they did, in fact, have some measure of food. He noticed everything, and made sure to point it out, even if it didn't seem to matter. There was Thaddeus, who for all we don't know about him, must have been a quiet kind of guy. There was Judas, a man with an ego and a betrayer, always out only for himself. You may encounter persons like these today. You may even find that in some moments, you are a person like these. It's okay. There's plenty of room around the table.
Because the truth is without these men, the story of Christ would not be the same. Without Simon Peter, we wouldn't know the God of second chances. Without James and John, we wouldn't see the fellowship of true brotherhood. Without Simon the Zealot, we wouldn't know what it means to give our whole selves fully to Him. Without Andrew, we wouldn't know how big a miracle really is. Without Thaddeus, we wouldn't understand the powerful place of quiet among us. Without Judas, we wouldn't understand forgiveness and grace. Without the way these characters come together, we could never know the man of Christ.
And the same is true of our tables. Without those with whom we will gather together today, our stories would not be the same. Without them, there is so much that we would never know. So much that we could never know. We could never know the meaning of family without our families, the treasure of friends without our friends. We could not know the meaning of generosity and giving unless we break bread with those who are near. We could not know the meaning of thanks without realizing that without the contributions of all these characters - for better or for worse - we are not who we are. These are the people who help us tell our stories. And there's plenty of room around the table.
Be mindful of that today as you gather - mindful of how these persons, for all that they are, are our persons and we, for all that we are, are theirs. Remember that around the table, stories are shared, yes, but they are also told. Remember that today, you are writing another scene in your story, all the while being a character in countless others. Remember...and give thanks.