Day 12: An Open Table

Today’s reading: Numbers 1-9, Psalm 18

For all you accountants out there, you should have enjoyed checking the math in today’s reading. For the rest of you, sorry you had to suffer through it all.

In the Book of Numbers, we once again see great attention to details. Every aspect of how this narrative is constructed has purpose and meaning. Clear job assignments are a way of ensuring that members of the different clans and tribes fulfill their responsibilities to the larger society.  The record of offerings for the altar shows that all the tribes are equally committed in their dedication to God.

Then, a break in the numbers. It’s time to celebrate Passover–to remember the day when one year earlier they had been delivered from Egypt; and a dilemma arises. Some of the members risk being excluded from the celebration because they are ritually unclean. Now, remember from our previous readings that the laws have been very clear about keeping those who are unclean separated from the community. Yet, on this occasion we hear a surprising word of grace–everyone is welcome to participate! Embedded in the story of Israel’s beginning is the witness that, when it comes to remembering God’s mighty acts of salvation, no one is to be excluded.

One of my favorite moments as a pastor is when, after lifting up the sacraments of bread and wine, reminders of Jesus’ saving work, I have the opportunity to invite: “Here at Harvest, and in the United Methodist Church, the table is open. . .” Everyone is welcome to participate. No one is to be excluded. Thanks be to God.

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