I had a dream last night that a group of my college and high school friends gathered for a meal at a restaurant only to be surprised by two more college friends that we hadn’t seen in years. It was the kind of fun and fellowship and catching up that made us lose track of time because we were so excited to see each other. When I woke up, I have to admit I was a little disappointed because life and beliefs and differences of opinion get in the way of this fun, lingering gatherings around the table.
As a female pastor, I have a aligned myself with a certain group of baptists. A group of baptists that has welcomed and affirmed by call to ministry, but also a group that I don’t always agree with;a group that many of my baptists friends (you know those other baptists) still don’t even know exist. And I can understand why. Even as a seminary student who was certain that she was being called to preach, it still took me years to get to know people, and I can’t say it was always easy. I understand that there is hurt around the tables at our gatherings. I’ve been there, too, but I can’t help but wonder what would change in our baptist world if we were willing to sit down together a little more often.
I do that quite often because so much of my family is still a part of the baptists that raised me to love God, but it’s different when you encounter people who don’t know you and who you don’t know. It’s scary to put yourself out there. It’s easier, much easier, to stay among friends, among like-minded people. But if we believe that the gospel is about love, then we can’t extend that love only to people we agree with theologically. If we believe in open table and welcoming and affirming congregations, then we can’t allow only certain baptists into our congregations.
We need to be riskier. We need to step across No Man’s Land and try our hand at peace and reconciliation if we say that’s important to us. We need to stop surrounding ourselves with people who agree with us and challenge ourselves to sit down at the table with anyone and everyone who’s hungry.