Equality, Diversity, Inclusion
God’s Table: An Invitation for all
Words from Revd Sonia Hicks, the President of the Methodist Church
It is at God’s table that we begin to grasp what it means to live as Kingdom people and so it seemed appropriate to the Vice-President and to myself that the image of people gathered at God’s table should form part of the presidential theme for this year.
In the Epistle to the Galatians, it is written: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” [Gal. 3: 28] How would we re-phrase this for 2021 in the Methodist Church? For me, it would involve sharing space with people especially those who are marginalised in our society. It does not mean that we will fail to have any standards to uphold. There are standards that we will always be called to maintain as people called Methodists:
Firstly, it would mean adhering to the standard of love in all our interactions. What does love look like or feel like in any particular situation we face? How do I show love to the person who looks different to me and holds views at odds with my own? We will fail in our God-given mission to be salt and light unless we reflect love in all that we do and say. Let us hold on to the standard of love.
Secondly, we are called to uphold the standard of hospitality. Let us not be like the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Let us not communicate words of condemnation when we can speak words of welcome. God has shown us what hospitality looks like in and through Jesus Christ. It is the ability to enlarge one’s vision and allow the Canaanite woman her place at God’s table of mercy. Let us hold on to the standard of hospitality.
Thirdly, we are to uphold the standard of proclamation. We are called to proclaim God’s invitation, an invitation that has been issued to the whole world, a world that God called into being and declared to be ‘good’. But God’s invitation to sit at God’s table cannot be heard in this diverse world unless we, you and I, proclaim it day in and day out; in season and out of season, in what we say and in what we do. So, let us hold to the standard of proclamation.
In a world where people are excluded because of their ethnic background, their sexual orientation, their gender or simply because, like me, they were brought up on a Council estate, I believe that we are called to show God’s love for all people. It is a calling that Christian people have always struggled with, but we can and should be better at making God’s love a reality in the British Methodist Church, overcoming the systemic discrimination that exists.
If the other disciples had known beforehand that Peter would deny Jesus three times, and then go on to share table-fellowship with Cornelius, I wonder if they would have been willing to share the Last Supper with him? If the other disciples had known beforehand that Thomas would have doubts about the resurrection, would they have thought of ejecting him too?
I think it is just as well that it is God who invites us to the table and that none of us are given the responsibility of assessing who should be invited and who is welcomed. Mercifully, it is God alone who invites us to come because it is God’s table.
Let us welcome the opportunity to sit at God’s table and as we do so, let us maintain the standard of love, let us uphold the standard of hospitality and let us embrace the standard of proclamation so that the glory of the Triune God may blaze forth in these lands.