The halls at school are a study of opposites.

They are either filled with people walking, running, talking, bumping along — a sea of humanity with differing currents.

Or they are eerily empty and quiet.

Notice how your life reflects this same dichotomy of hustle and hush.

And notice where you encounter God in both.

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One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely.

When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable. “When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor. Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host. The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give your seat to this other person.’ Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place. Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”

Luke 14:1, 7-11

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Is there anything worse than walking into a lunchroom, scanning it desperately for your friends, hoping they’ve saved a place for you at the table? Or getting to a table of acquaintances and seeing that there is, in fact, no open seat for you? Or finding out at the beginning of the school year that your friends were all assigned a different lunch period, leaving you stranded?

Jesus’ parable suggests lunchroom anxiety is older than the Bible.

A friend talked to me recently about the “spiritual practice of neighboring” and gave the example of always leaving an empty seat at the table. Whether it’s a table at an event, in the lunchroom, or in your home, leaving an empty seat communicates all are welcome — even surprise guests and strangers!

How can you practice this empty-seat-way of being a neighbor and a friend in your daily life?

Lauren Holder

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God of welcome, help me to create space at the table and in my life for friends old and new. May people see in me your hospitality and grace. Amen.

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Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

Dan Schutte in “Here I am Lord” (1995)

Lauren Holder

The Rev. Canon Lauren Holder is an Episcopal priest at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia. She loves exploring the world with her husband through the eyes of their small children, and sharing good food with good friends.

Be Still My Soul

Rodrigo Rodriguez

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