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A man once gave a great banquet and invited many, but when the feast was ready those who had been invited made excuses. So, the master of the house told his servant, go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled, blind and lame…go out to the highways and the outskirts and compel people to come in that my house may be filled. (Paraphrase of parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14)

The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

Perhaps if we repeat the phrase enough it will sound differently; or perhaps the shock will wear off.

The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

It’s scandalous. A fancy dinner has been set up, and the spread is breath-taking: the finest china, the most expensive wine, mouth-watering appetizers, and a dessert table full of rich and delicious treats. Yet, the guest list is not filled with dignitaries and CEOs, wealthy landlords and heroes of foreign wars. Instead, the guest list is the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

In every segment of society we know this doesn’t make sense. Everyone knows you don’t invite the homeless person to the State Dinner with the President. They would be out-of-place: stinky, smelly, and dirty. At the very least give them fresh clothes and some warm water to take a shower. Make them respectable, so they won’t stand out.

Luke, however, doesn’t clean up the mess. Luke leaves the parable as a scandal. The servant is sent to the outskirts of town to compel the lonely and forgotten to come in so that the banquet will be full. The rich and the privileged are left on the outside while the outcasts and the broken are invited in. The banquet is scandalous.

In reality, the whole parable is scandalous.

Luke tells us that Jesus has been dinning at the home of a Pharisee. This leads to a healing on the Sabbath and some confrontations with other guests. Eventually someone in the crowd shouts out, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” And we say, Amen! We can almost hear the rest of the dinner guests chiming in, well said. Who wouldn’t agree with this statement? Anyone who is at the Messianic Banquet is blessed to be there. Except, for some reason Jesus doesn’t agree. There’s something about who these Pharisees want to eat dinner with, and the places of honor they assume, that makes Jesus question their motives.

In response, Jesus shares a parable about a wealthy land owner who prepares a banquet for all of his rich friends, but when the time for the banquet comes, they all make excuses of why they can’t attend. The master of the house is furious, and instead determines to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. It is the outcasts who come to the banquet instead of the privileged.

The parable is clearly spoken against the Pharisees. They are the privileged; the ones in power. Their spot is secure. They’ve earned the invitation and are preparing to eat bread in the Kingdom. Yet Jesus denounces them. They’ve missed the invitation because they’ve concerned themselves with the wrong things. They think they have church right, but they in fact have it wrong. They’ll be glad to welcome sinners to the table, as long as the sinners repent and get their lives right with God. Sinners need to prove their worth. In essence, earn their keep. Sinners can come in as long as they become clean first.

I wonder, is that me? Is that the role I play in the story. Am I part of the privileged class that thinks I’m doing church right? I come from a position of power. I’m a white man in the United States. That alone gives me power and privilege. I am in a leadership position at church; more power and privilege. Am I the Pharisee enjoying my safe position while ignoring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame around me? Am I failing to go after the hurting and dying, those that most wouldn’t accept in church? Am I stuck in my way of thinking, focused on lesser things?

I hope not.

But if I’m not lumped in with the Pharisees then I’m taking my place at the banquet with the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. In fact, I am the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. I’m the one that struggles with sin. I’m the one in need of confession. I’m the broken, that if anyone really knew my secrets sins would be ashamed of. I, of all people, am least worthy. Perhaps my internal wondering if there is a place at the banquet for the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame is more than just a wondering, but is a deep concern, because if there’s no place for those on the outside who are excluded than there’s no place for me. Their sin is no worse than mine. My sin is no greater than theirs. We are the poor, crippled, blind, and lame who are invited to a great banquet we don’t deserve.

It’s scandalous. The whole banquet is scandalous. That’s the power of God’s love and grace. I’m just thankful there’s a place for me.