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Conference Bible Study: We Come to the Table Together, Connected in Christ

Posted: June 15 2023 at 02:09 PM
Author: Victoria Rebeck

In his Bible study on the great banquet in Luke 14, Dr. Rolf Nolasco reminded Northern Illinois Annual Conference members on June 7 that Jesus’s banquet includes everyone—and gives those of lower social status places of honor at the table.

Dr Nolasco, Rueben P. Job Professor of Spiritual Formation and Pastoral Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Ill., proposed that if Jesus is God in human flesh, Jesus identifies with the most disdained in society. This includes those who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The interaction of the tangible and the spiritual was a central understanding in this two-part study. Spiritual development prepares us to live in the manner of Christ.


“The parable of the great banquet highlights the theme of honor (or God’s display of overflowing generosity toward those considered by the world as unworthy and undeserving) and shame (of God’s indictment of those overtaken by worldly preoccupations and chained in their perceived and enacted power and privilege),” Dr. Nolasco said.

In the parable, the invitation to the banquet was declined by the “haves,” who came up with weak excuses not to attend. Next, the host invited the “have-nots”—those without influence and power, those pushed to the margins, those ostracized and undeserving of honor by the world’s standards (v. 21). The poor who were never invited to parties, the blind who did not go out to examine the field, the lame who could not test oxen, and the maimed who did not get married (all excuses of those who turned down the invitation) became the guests of honor.

“The message is clear,” Dr. Nolasco said: “attendance at the banquet is solely based on the response to the invitation, not on who receives it.”

It is Jesus who extends the invitation to the undeserving and bestows honor on them for their acceptance, he explained.

Dr. Nolasco remined the conference that those marginalized by church and society on the basis of skin pigmentation, accents, ability, sexuality, class, citizenship, subversive theologies, and evolving spiritualties always have their names on the invitation list for God’s banqueting table. “A table was reserved for us long before we realized our true sacred worth and long after the self-proclaimed keepers of God’s kingdom realize their grave mistake,” he said.

He added that acceptance of the invitation involves three movements and intentions: first, going inward with the intention to nurture a life of interiority; second, going outward with the intention to further God’s work of inclusion; and third, going upward with the intention to live the demands of discipleship.

It’s not respectability that earns us a place at the table. It’s a willingness to follow the way of Christ and to promote the kin-dom of God. “Like everyone else, we too are in need of God’s forgiveness, which God has lavishly offered to us long before we have come to our senses,” Dr. Nolasco said, referring to Romans 5:7-8.

“God has come to us with unconditional expression of compassionate love and forgiveness and is renewing our very being daily so as to bear the fruit of love (1 Cor 13:1–3) that embraces all,” he added.

Building on the theme “come to the table” Dr. Nolasco offered conference members with a provocative idea: If Jesus became one of the poor and left out, would this not include his identifying with the LGBTQ+ community?


Dr. Rolf Nolasco

Dr. Nolasco pointed to Philippians 2:6–8. In verse seven, the passage says, “by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness,” which shows Christ’s overflowing generosity and deep compassion for all of humanity. He became poor so that we can become rich (2 Cor. 8:9) and took the form of a slave so that we can be freed from the bondage of oppression and death (Rom 8:2).

It might follow that Jesus also means to embrace and lift up the queer community.

“But what does it mean to imagine Jesus Christ as queer in the first place?” Dr. Nolasco asked. “We need not look further than the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels who ‘lived and loved out loud’ in radical ways.

“The Jesus we encounter in the Gospel narratives is one who was unapologetically out and about with ordinary folk, dined with the so-called sinners and tax collectors, and stood beside a woman caught in adultery.”

Dr. Nolasco added this: “Jesus’s focus on destabilizing and disrupting power structures and the relations that keep them entrenched is at the heart of what it means to be queer—the very foundation that will keep us grounded and anchored. We must allow this out-Jesus to queer and query other versions of Jesus that have come down to us to see if they align with or distort the divine liberation that God has for us.”

This returns us back to Christ’s table, Dr Nolasco said.

“The Christian life is marked, among other things, by a communal gathering around the table, where Christ is both host-priest and sacrifice,” he said.

“The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ now symbolized in the eucharistic elements of bread and cup (Rom 5:8) captures this prevenient grace, the coming to creation by someone outside of creation, made available to all, without conditions or hidden violent agenda,” he explained.

We serve others not out of a sense of duty but out of deep commitment to God, he says, who calls us to pursue unity and love. It with a self-emptying love in which we honor Christ .

“The focus remains outward to others and upward to God, and the motive power lies in the fact that we are ‘united or connected in Christ,’” Dr. Nolasco concluded.

Watch Part 1 of the Bible Study      Watch Part 2 of the Bible Study


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