Relax and clear your head. Listen for the voice of God. What is God saying to you today?
Luke 14:15-24 (NRSV)
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
First century people only ate with people like themselves (according to gender, class, race/ethnicity, even occupation) which meant that their table practices demonstrated everyone’s “place” in the world. Jesus refused to play by their rules. He joyfully “ate with tax collectors and sinners.” In our text from Luke, Jesus had been invited to eat with religious leaders whom he chastised for their exclusivity and called to greater grace, openness, and generosity. (See 14:12-14.) Then he told them a parable about a banquet host whose invitees refused to come. Their excuses were absurd (no one buys a field and then goes to see it), which suggests their intent was to shame the host for inviting “the wrong people” to his banquet. Rather than shamefacedly altering his guest list, the host invited more of the “wrong people” to fill the spots vacated by those who wouldn’t come.
The kingdom of God, Jesus said, is thus: gracious, welcoming, inclusive. His parable, therefore, directs us to ask ourselves, whom do we most resemble? The gracious and welcoming host, or the invitees who excluded others and shamed those who didn’t adhere to their “rules”?
Though many of us learned long ago to sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,” we’ve found over the years that singing the song is easier than living it. The truth is our rules that exclude make us comfortable, while including differences does the opposite. But such rules also create envy, suspicion, and fear of “the other.” They do not help us love our neighbor or share God’s peace. Give us, then, O God, the wisdom and courage to see how the momentary comfort of our “rules” keeps us from realizing the joy of your kingdom—where people come from north, south, east, and west to sit at your table together. Enable us to resemble more closely the host in Jesus’ parable rather than the invitees, to live the song and not just sing it. In the name of Christ, who indeed loves all the children of the world. Amen.
Go with God.