The challenge of answering the call to "go"


PEORIA -- Bishop Janice Riggle Huie remembers fondly the family kitchen table.

The table which Huie said today would range from "retro antique to junk," was the center of her family's activity. The table with a formica table, chrome legs and vinyl seat covers was where the worldviews were expanded as guests came and went.

"The table is the most social piece of furniture," she said. "It is ready to welcome anyone."

Huie said the table was where whoever showed up they were fed. "My mother would put out another plate, fry an extra piece of bacon or add a little water to the soup," she explained. "But it was also a place of life moments -- I told my parents I was going to go to seminary the following fall."

Identifying with the gospel writer Luke, Huie wove a tapestry around the table image at Friday's Ordination service.  Using the third table story of Luke 14, Huie told the story of one who gave a banquet and invited people to come.

"The overarching theme of Luke's gospel is that at the table of Jesus, the table is open to all," Huie said. "And when people sent their regrets, the message changed from 'Come' to 'Go.'"

Noting that every parable has several layers of meaning, Huie noted that the Luke 14 table story might be a glimpse in the Reign of God with a full stretch of hospitality. Or, it might be a picture of the church at its finest. "We have an unfilled table in virtually every United Methodist Church," Huie said. "Too many times, we say 'come' and when they don't come, we say, 'oh well, they won't Come' and leave it at that. But that is when we are to Go."

Or the third possibility is that the parable might be a picture of heaven. "We might be surprised who might end up in heaven" and paraphrasing a woman's response, "not everyone I love will be there, but I will love everyone that is there."

"Radical hospitality says 'Come,' but risk-taking mission sends us out to the world with Go," Huie said. "With our empty pews, we are the church John Wesley set out to reform. Most of us are in positions of privilege and power. We want people to come but we want people to come to our church on our terms."

Huie said the reason the Church finds it difficult to Go is not an intellectual unwillingness or a lack of knowledge. "Rather, it's fear. Fear prevents us from being in risk-taking mission and service and from welcoming all to God's table.  No matter what, there's always something over which to be fearful. But for those willing to have the courage to Go, there's a banquet."

The two-hour service included the ordination of John Sondermann Hackmann as an elder in full connection and the ordination of Gifty Wilma Smith and Kimberly Ann Stuby as deacons in full connection. The service also commissioned Nicholas Daniel Gleason as a provisional member.

Bishops Huie and Gregory V. Palmer also baptized Zachary Thomas Anthony, son of Rev. Andrew and Sherry Anthony, and were co-celebrants of the Lord's Supper.