Clergy Corner: God’s table always has room

Photo courtesy of Brian Foxworth
Pastor Brian Foxworth, Spirit of Joy Community Church.

■ Brian Foxworth / Contributed

Sorry…no tables are available at this time.
Valentine’s Day is coming and if you are planning to eat out with someone you love and don’t plan ahead, you may hear those words. Rivaled only by Mother’s Day, this is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. I imagine that sales of flowers, chocolates and greeting cards spike in honor of sharing love with someone else. Some scoff at the “holiday” that is Valentine’s Day while others embrace it fully and go all out. Though not a formally observed and practiced church holiday, how can we be scrooges about a day that is dedicated to the greatest commandment Christ gave us?
When asked by Peter what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded in Matthew 22:37-40, saying to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What is perhaps the most important part of this dialogue is the final line. Jesus is essentially saying the entire history of law and the prophetic tradition are rooted in or “hang on” this guiding principle of love. Love is the “that” which defines our very relationship with God and with one another.
From that one might infer that Valentine’s Day really is a “religious holiday” in so far as every day presents to us the opportunity to share God’s love with another person. The major difference is that you don’t have to stand in line at See’s Candies to express that love (though that candy really is delicious). Furthermore, you will never hear from God that there is no room available at the table as you might on Valentine’s. Each Sunday at our church we celebrate Communion and everyone is invited to the table so that they might acknowledge the forgiveness of God in their lives and be nourished spiritually to go out and share God’s love with the world.
One important aspect of having an “open table” is acknowledging that we neither control the Lord’s table, nor do we control who is invited to the table. Secondly, the inclusivity of the table is meant to be an expression of the expansive nature of God’s love for every being on this earth. God is handing out “See’s Candies” to all the world, the same way we do with our spouses, parents, children or friends.
In this spirit I might suggest an alternative form of giving this coming Valentine’s Day. Along with or in the place of lavish gifts and evenings out, offer up a gift to one of our many organizations here in the San Jacinto Valley that seeks to remind people they are loved. Valley Restart, The Bread Basket, The Community Pantry and any number of groups work each day to share love through meeting physical and spiritual needs of individuals who may not have received an act of kindness for some time. You might even replace those physical gifts with the promise to mow your neighbor’s lawn, spend more time actively listening to the needs of your partner or making time to be a friend to someone who is lonely.
In so doing you are broadening the meaning and purpose of Valentine’s Day beyond those in your immediate circle. After all, most days it is easy to love your spouse, children and friends. But to seek to love a stranger or someone who may be very different then you takes character and courage, both of which come from God. Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
One way to honor and show love to God this Valentine’s Day might be to seek to live life every day embracing humility, kindness and a yearning for justice in this world. Happy Valentine’s Day and may you know all the days of your life that you truly are loved!

Brian Foxworth has been a hospice chaplain in the San Jacinto Valley for nearly 10 years and pastor of Spirit of Joy Community Church for the past six. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and philosophy at California Lutheran University. He then went on to study at Loma Linda University, receiving master’s degrees in bioethics and clinical ministry. Brian holds a Master’s of Divinity degree from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley. When not running after his two little ones, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, tinkering with RC cars, reading, music and spending time with his family and friends.

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