In Germany, there’s a really fun cultural distinctive called Stammtisch. This is a table in a restaurant, biergarten, etc., where the regulars have a guaranteed place to sit, converse with each other and enjoy some food and beverage. This is a really great custom and enjoyable to observe and occasionally join when invited.
The talk around the table can span from global politics to the local gemeinschaft (community), from the latest Fußball scores to garden enhancements and heaps more. Because the stammtisch is reserved for the regular folk who frequent the establishment, the conversations can also be more intimate and connected.
When I consider the idea of stammtisch, it makes me think about what it could look like to enjoy Jesus in this custom. Indeed, when I think about Jesus sitting down to a meal and the possible conversations that could be had with Him around the table, I’m uber-keen to join that experience!
Looking into the Gospels, I see that Jesus had several occasions for such table talks, and there were some interesting actions that happened in these experiences. For starters, Jesus turned the tables, so to speak, in his dinner conversation with Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7 pertaining to the sinner woman who showed up uninvited but was the central spectacle. Instead of being repelled or disgusted with the sinner woman as Simon was, Jesus applauded her outrageous outpouring of love for Him. The ultimate summation of Jesus’ perspective can be seen in His words in Luke 7:47, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
In the second “table talk” with Jesus, His actions and words are very shocking and abrupt. In Matthew 21:12-13, we read, “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.” In these verses, we see that Jesus flipped the tables, upending the customary religious protocols and parameters. To that end, perhaps there are some religious mindsets or routines that we follow, and maybe Jesus would like to flip or upend the religious stuff to help us be more relational with Him.
In Jesus’ final Stammtisch, we read about His dinner conversation with His closest followers, His disciples, in John 14-17. Jesus’ disciples joined the fellowship with Jesus, hearing Him say things that were very difficult to absorb. I would love to have been a fly on the wall or a mouse in the house to hear and watch this conversation! In this table talk, Jesus tells His disciples stuff that they didn’t understand, didn’t want to hear, things that seemed contrary to His miraculous power and opposed to their hopes for His political ascendency.
When I think about how this relates to us, let’s pause to consider the possibility that we close our ears to things that Jesus might say to us when we disagree, don’t want to hear such words, when His agenda is not aligning with our desires, or if we don’t understand what He’s trying to tell us. Some of His words that He might tell us in a Stammtisch include:
- Turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)
- Bless those who berate or persecute you (Luke 6:28)
- Go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41)
- Be generous (Luke 6:30)
- Forgive profusely (Matthew 18:21-22)
- Love yourself as your neighbor (Mark 12:31)
These are things that might rattle our perspectives and values, but when we join a Stammtisch with Jesus, we can be certain that He wants to help us. Let’s also be open to the idea that Jesus might want to flip some of our thoughts specifically related to religion, helping us to be more relational with Him. And finally, maybe Jesus wants to turn the table and let us see people through His love lens rather than merely their actions.
Let’s receive Jesus’ invitation to enjoy His Stammtisch and revel in the rich conversations that can happen around the table with Him!