For the past month, the faith community that I am apart of has been dwelling in Jesus’s parable of the Great Banquet recorded in Luke 14. As I have lived with, read, talked about, meditated on this passage over the past month; these are my thoughts.
Too often I find myself with the wrong group Jesus is addressing his parable to the Pharisees, the religious class, the privileged of society. These are the ones who are originally invited to the banquet but when the time comes make excuses of why they can not attend. These are the ones who are eventually left out in the cold because they refuse to accept the invitation. These are the ones who don’t like to accept “sinners’ in their midst. And as I’ve dwelled in this parable all month I have to admit that there have been times I find myself in that group. There have been times when I’ve turned my nose up at “sinners” and thought, “I’m glad that’s not me.” It’s painful to admit, but those of us raised in church have to admit it becomes easy to gain an elitist attitude and think “we are the privileged, we know the truth, and everyone else needs stuff from us.” This attitude is sinful, and as I confess my sin and our sin I vow to change. The church must not act this way. As Christians we must not act this way. This is not the way of Jesus.
I must admit, I am the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. The group that I most identify with in the parable are the outcasts. No one likes to be labeled as poor, crippled, blind, and lame. No one likes to be labeled as the undesirables, the ones pushed to the margins, the unimportant. And yet that is what we are. We are sinners condemned to die. Our sin has left us dead. And once we as Christians understand how unimportant we are and how lucky we are to be invited to the banquet, it becomes easy to love and accept all people who come to the table. We must embrace our status as redeemed sinners and never forget either of those traits. We are sinners, but thank God we are redeemed.
We need a servant. Someone has to be the servant. Someone has to take on the task of inviting others to the banquet. As a church we can’t wait for non-Christians to come to us, because they never will. We must love them and serve them and invite them to come. But by invite them I don’t mean invite them to church. Instead I mean live life with them, develop friendships, eat dinner together, show them through example what a Kingdom life looks like. And when they begin to wonder, share the hope you have in Christ with them. It’s not exactly evangelism. Instead it’s living Kingdom life. And to me, it seems much more effective.
We need a renewed emphasis on the Supper. The one practice of the church that will help to break down walls and lead to greater hospitality is the Lord’s Supper. The Supper is a table of hospitality. At the Supper we eat the body and blood of Christ and find renewal and life. At the Supper, we are joined with Christians in the past and future as we celebrate life together. In the Supper we are reminded of the good news; that Jesus died, that our sins are forgiven, that we are living Kingdom life. And in the Supper walls and barriers are broken down. At the Supper there is no Jew, Greek, Slave, Free, Male, Female, but all are one. And once we really discover unity at the table then we have to live that unity out in every other aspect of our lives. At the table we witness to the world that the things we use to divide us are torn down. At the table we witness to Kingdom life. We need to be reminded of this on a weekly basis. The Lord’s Supper is a practice of the church that needs greater emphasis not less because it has the power to change us; slowly, over time, by the power of the Spirit. And it is a renewed emphasis on the Lord’s Supper that will help us live into the world imagined in the parable of the Great Banquet.