Mary Kate Morse faculty talk
Title: “Table-Keeping with Christ”
Author: Mary Kate Morse
Text: Luke 19: 1-10
Date: August 21, 2006
Theme: Table-keeping guards against exclusion and misunderstanding. Christ was a table-keeper, so should we be.
• It’s tough being a woman standing before people to bring the word of God. Women have extra things we end up thinking about, because we get asked about them. Last time that I stood in front of a distinguished august group to speak, I made a joke out of being there in open toed shoes with red toenails.
• But afterwards I was asked repeatedly not about my feet, but how I had the nerve to wear pants. Never occurred to me that I should only wear a dress or skirt. Some wondered if I did it on purpose to make a statement. Others had morphed my black dress slacks into jeans and thought I was quite the rebel. I wore pants because at the end of my message I wanted to demonstrate something and didn’t want to do it in a skirt.
• People have told me after messages, that they liked my outfit, that they thought I looked pale, or wondered who my hairdresser was. I doubt if men get asked those questions.
• Nevertheless, here I am this morning before my peers dressed with what came out of the suitcase.
• We are a University that is seeking to be place where diversity matters, and yet I think that the most diverse groups on the planet are males and females, and we rarely enter into conversations about how that impacts us and our working environments.
• I am an academic in a field that is primarily male and a pastor with evangelical leaders/pastors who are primarily male. I’ve been called a witch. I’ve had people pray that my children would be protected from my sin and evil. I’ve been glared at during weddings or at the beginning of a class because of the offense of being female and standing in front of them serving God out of my gifts.
• The discrimination can be overt but also subtle. Recently, 4 of the seminary faculty were invited to the opening service of a seminary grad’s church plant. A little ways into the service he stopped to introduce his guests. He began with me, “This is MaryKate she teaches spiritual formation,” Then he said “Next is Dr. Delamarter, he is the Old Testament professor and knows everything about the bible. Then we have Dr. Shelton, who knows everything about everything. And last is Carole Spencer who teaches church history. You might find this hard to believe but she is a pastor at this church, but don’t worry she is not the senior pastor.”
• The nice thing about this is that the two male faculty sucked in air when this happened. The men I work with are amazing. What was hard for me wasn’t the demoting I got, but that we had taught the student for three years, three years! And his paradigm had neither shifted, nor did he even realize what he had just done. And I know that he had been taught better.
• So why hadn’t he changed…at least enough to be respectful? Because one’s cultural, personal frames about how life works are deeply engrained, and they are not easily changed. People often don’t even know that they have them. Frames are mental models which we use to interpret what happens to us in life. Mental frames define a situation and guide actions.
• This student’s mental frame was that women are not pastors and not usually seen as reliable authorities. So he needed to explain to his congregation how to manage this different thing and then they would know how to relate to us.
• Mental frames are necessary and important, but they can also trap us. Jesus was in the business of challenging people’s mental frames about God, finances, relationships, families, and especially about outsiders.
• Jesus did that through his teaching and through his actions. One of those actions was with whom he would eat.
• Hospitality was a key mental frame for the 1st Century Hebrew. Hospitality was a code of reciprocity and allowed for the determination of strangers as friends or enemies.
• The ritual for hospitality was very specific. An invitation was usually initiated by the male head of a household. He would invite him twice. The head of the household then washed the stranger’s feet to symbolize that he was a guest now and the host would feed and protect him.
• The stranger would refuse the 1st invitation and accept the 2nd. He would stay only for the agreed upon time, and would bless the host when he left. At the end of that time the stranger would be presented to the village as a friend or foe.
• Jesus, however, practiced a radical hospitality. The table became a place for inclusion, not investigation. And Jesus broke most of the hospitality conventions.
• I want to use the story of Zaccheus, and talk with you briefly about Jesus’ table-keeping and suggest his model as a spiritual discipline for us.
• You know the story. It is found in Luke 19: 1-9.
• Verse 1-2: As chief tax collector, he was excluded from the Jewish community. He collaborated with the Romans. As a rich one, he had to be abusing his position to fill his personal coffers.
• Verse 3: Not only was he outsider because of his profession, but he was physically unimpressive. So much so that couldn’t see over the normal heads of persons.
• Verse 4: Zaccheus was willing to look stupid, be undignified. He didn’t want to miss out on one of the greatest things that had happened in a long, long time.
• Verse 5: Jesus invited himself to stay at his house. He took the host role and entered the house of an outsider. It would be as if you were sitting at the meeting on Friday morning and David Brandt came up and said that he was going to your house for dinner. Pretty unnerving and exciting at the same time.
• Verse 6: This was major league… for a holy man, a prophet and a healer to come to your house.
• Verse 7: This behavior of eating with sinners got Jesus in trouble over and over again. He hung out with the sinners. The outsiders. The ones mainstream could not understand or relate to. There were no mental frames except sinfulness for Jesus’ behavior.
• Mainstreamers have the status and power in a cultural group. Mainstreamers think that outcasts get there because of their own sinfulness, choices, or position in life. The status quo is not challenged, believing that it is God’s frame.
• Verse 8: Zaccheus begins his generosity before he even gets to his house. Being included did something profound in him. He repented.
• Verse 9: Jesus announces to the crowd that he is one o