Tables Instead of Platforms

April 4, 2022

“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”  – Matthew 25:40 

Flannery O’Connor writes a story about Mrs. Turpin, a woman who prides herself on behaving acceptably and presenting herself the right way. As she and her husband sit in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, she has conversations that highlight the way she judges others. She waits for what seems an eternal length of time to be called back by the doctor, but before that can happen, she has a violent encounter with a girl in the waiting room—a girl who calls Mrs. Turpin “a warthog from hell.” 

The confrontation leaves her shaken; after all, she has always given to people and helped them. How could something bad happen to her when she wasn’t “trash” like so many other people? Mrs. Turpin’s encounter in the waiting room turned her worldview upside down. She screams, as if up into heaven. What more could God have wanted from her than to be good, and respectable, and decent? 

In that moment, she has a vision of people going up into heaven. She is horrified to see that all the “trashy” people are going in first. They are singing offkey. They aren’t dressed well. But they are going into heaven all the same. At the back of the line are the people like her, the ones who looked good in public and sang on key. As they entered into heaven, their faces were “shocked and altered” as “even their virtues were being burned away.” 

It may sound trite to say, but this short story titled “Revelation” was a revelation to me when I first read it. Even though I could not identify with the arrogance and stuffiness of Mrs. Turpin, I related to her hopes that being a decent human being counted for points when all was said and done. I had busied myself creating a platform of good deeds, of hard work, of character references who could say to God on the final day, “I know she has her rough edges, but I think she’s done enough good to outweigh the bad.” I hoped that I could lean into doing things myself, but all that did was make me feel overwhelmed by busyness and the burden of feeling like I had to prove my worth to God. 

“Instead of platforms, God calls us to build tables. God commissions us to become a community.”

Instead of platforms (whether our list of all the good we’ve done, or our online presence), God calls us to build tables. God commissions us to become a community. God’s way isn’t a “do it myself and prove my right to be here” kind of way. Instead, Jesus tells a story about a banquet where people are brought in from the streets and from the places people lived who were most excluded. He called disciples from all walks of life to learn what it meant to live as though the kingdom of God was near.  

For Lent, as I continue the work of giving up busyness, I am asking God to help me turn the platforms I’ve constructed into tables where all can gather. I am turning over my laundry list of good deeds and accomplishments, because these aren’t what count. What matters most is not how good I am, but how good God is. God loved me before I could do anything to earn it, and God calls me to love others not because of their platforms but because they, too, belong at God’s table.  

Prayer: Lord, I have spent much of my life trying to prove to myself and others that I was good enough to be loved. Help me to receive the love that you give to me without any merit of my own. Send me out to be a vessel of that same love to others so that we may all feast at your banquet table. Amen. 

About the Author
  • April Fiet is a mom of two school-age kids and a co-pastor alongside her husband, Jeff, at the First Presbyterian Church of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

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  1. A very good reminder of putting first things first. Thank you. I hope to rest in Gods presence, rather than busy myself with my own doings.

  2. A very good reminder of putting first things first. Thank you. I hope to rest in Gods presence, rather than busy myself with my own doings.