The dining room table is set. It’s loaded with your family’s favorite food. The candles are lit. The finest china and crystal and silver is laid out. It’s a big family dinner with all of your aunts and uncles and cousins.
But you don’t get to sit at the big fancy table. You don’t get to eat off the fine china. Because you’re at the kids’ table. Do you remember the kids’ table? There you were, sitting awkwardly with the cousins you only saw twice a year. Eating off paper plates and drinking out of plastic cups. On a fold-up, wobbly card table. The kids’ table.
I remember sitting at the kids’ table, with the family I hardly ever saw. And I hated it. I remember looking over at the grown-ups table. It always looked like they were having so much fun. The laughter, the joking – it all looked so intriguing. I was so curious, that I was just dying, dying to sit at the grown-ups table and see what it was all about.
Do you remember how you went up to your mom or your dad or an uncle and asked, “what were you talking about at the grown-ups table?” What was all the laughing about? And do you remember what they said to you? My mom said, “Oh, we were just talking about grown-up stuff. You’re just not old enough yet.”
You’re just not old enough yet. Or as Jesus puts it, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” The disciples that Jesus is talking to are like little kids on the verge of becoming grown-ups. But they’re just not old enough yet, they’re just not mature enough yet to bear the words that Jesus has for them.
The beautiful thing, the truly beautiful thing about God, is God knows that we cannot bear everything yet. As a Church, as Christians, there are still things that we have to learn. We need to get older, to mature. Like a child, the Church grows and matures, so that it can bear the new things from Jesus.
There was a time when our Church of England forebears were only allowed to conduct services in Latin. Can you imagine that? A bunch of English-speakers trying to understand Latin? But we were taught to bear new things, and the Church of England went from sitting at the kids’ table, to sitting with the grown-ups. They started praying in their own language.
There was a time when white Episcopalians required that black Episcopalians sit in the back of their churches. This was a way of ensuring that the white Episcopalians got communion first, and wouldn’t have to drink out of the cup after the black Episcopalians. But the Church grew up, we went from the kids’ table and its racism and fear, and sat with the grown-ups, where we respect the dignity of every human being.
There was a time when the Church was sitting at the kids’ table, when women could not serve on the Vestry, women could not read in church, women could not serve communion, women could not be priests. But the Church grew up, and we sat down with the grown-ups, and celebrated the full inclusion of women in our ministry.
There is a common misconception that the Church at the beginning was its purest and best. I disagree. I think the Church is more like a fine wine that gets better with age. There were some things the disciples could not bear. But with the Spirit’s help, they matured. And there are some things we cannot bear, but we trust that the Holy Spirit will help our successors bear them.
The Church, in all its fragile history, has gathered up the courage to do what God was calling it do. Prayer in our native language, equality among races, inclusion of women. This is nothing less than the Holy Spirit, leading us into God’s future. Jesus had many things to say, but the disciples could not bear them yet. And Jesus still has many things to do in the Church, but we cannot bear them yet. All in a manner of time. Maybe the Spirit is telling us, “it’s all grown-up stuff.”
But eventually, one day, the Holy Spirit will call us away from the kids, and ask us to sit with the adults. Do you remember what happened when you sat the grown-ups table for the first time? Do you remember how dreadfully boring it was? Do you remember how all they talked about was politics, and money, and boring adult stuff? And do you remember that at the grown-ups table you had to use your manners and eat your vegetables? And then you looked over your shoulder, at the kids’ table, and your kid brother and cousins were having a great time. They’re putting their elbows on the table. They’re playing with their mashed potatoes. And they’re surely not using their napkins.
So then comes the most important decision of your life. You can bear to hear the things at the grown-ups table, or you can return to the immaturity of the kids’ table. You can choose to sit with the grown-ups, and explore your relationship with God. Or you can go back to the kids’ table, showing up to church once a month and feeling like that’s enough. You can choose to sit with the grown-ups, and see what it means to write your first check of the month to the church. Or you can go back to the kids’ table, and give only what’s leftover.
You can do that one thing, that one thing, that you have always known that God is calling you to do. I don’t know what it is, but you do. That one thing that God put in your head a long time ago, that you’ve always put off. Perhaps you weren’t old enough then, maybe you weren’t ready for adult stuff. But there comes a time, there always comes a time, when the Holy Spirit invites us to sit with with the grown-ups.
My prayer for you is that you have the courage to sit with the grown-ups. I know, I know how fun it is and how easy it is to sit with the kids. When you laugh and squirt milk out your nose, nobody cares. When you skip the vegetables and go straight for dessert, it’s not a big deal. But God is calling us to full maturity. The Holy Spirit is demanding that we bear new things, new words and new teachings that we couldn’t take before.
My prayer for you, is that you try out that one thing that God is calling you do. It’s probably rattling around in your head right now as I say it. A mission trip. A new job. A new type of prayer. A new ministry. Whatever. If God is calling you to it, then try it out. Go for it. Stand up from the kids’ table, and head over to the grown-ups. And don’t look back. Because, believe me, even though it’s fun to squirt milk out your nose and play with your mashed potatoes, that’s just kids stuff. That’s eating off paper plates and drinking out of plastic cups.
But God has prepared a table for you. It’s laid with the finest china and candles. God has put out the best silver. It’s set with all of your favorite foods. And the three most important people in your life are sitting there: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And those three have many things to say to you, hard words, difficult words, grown-up words. But these are words that you can bear.