Over the past few days Sheffield has been hosting the Total Church Conference. It was a fantastic four days of interaction, discussion, Bible teaching, praying and singing. There were people from Plymouth, London, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Texas, San Diego, Seattle, Marseille, Holland, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Tasmania (I hope I didn’t miss anyone out!). It was brilliant to see people from various backgrounds (anglicans, brethren, presbyterian, free church…) all coming together because of a shared passion to see missional churches planted throughout the world.

One of the highlights for me were Tim Chester’s talks on Jesus’ table ministry. Eating is a big passion of mine and the Crowded House. But Jesus really takes it to a new level! He does it so much that he gets accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.

But that’s not the radical part. What is purely scandolous is the people he eats and drinks with. Luke 7 particuarly struck me. Here Jesus astounds the people by his attitude to the complete outcasts of society. With the ‘sinful woman’ what is incredible is that the way she acts towards him is almost as if he is a client! What does Jesus do? Does he push her gently away saying ‘thanks, but I think you’ve misunderstood things…’. That’s what I would do! What would others think if I just let her carry on doing what she’s doing?

But not Jesus. He lets her carry right on. Simon thinks to himself ‘if he was a prophet he’d know who she is.’ Of course Jesus knows exactly who she is. And he also knows exactly who Simon is. The irony is that Jesus is more disgusted with what he sees in Simon than he does with the woman.

But that’s the nature of Jesus’ kingdom. It’s not a kingdom of works, outside respectability. It’s a kingdom of the heart – that’s what’s really important, because everything comes from the heart. Despite her outward appearance the sinful woman’s heart is in the right place because she welcomes Jesus where Simon does not.

But we not only see what our attitude should be to Jesus, but also what our attitude should be to the marginalised, the outcasts of society. How welcoming are we really? How ready are we to look scandolous as we associate with the outcasts of society? How ready are we to be accused of being ‘gluttons and drunkards’ because of the way we party with the marginalised? It’s what Jesus did…

It struck me this morning that not only did Jesus associate with the outcasts in his life, but he became one in his death…