Luke 14: 1, 7-14
(shabby and barefoot dressed during the monologue from the back of the sanctuary)
I'm on my way to a banquet. I think it's at the end of this street.
I have never been to a banquet – I hear that there is a lot to eat. I can not imagine that. My friend told me I was invited, but I can not believe it. I am poor – I am not invited to banquets. They are for the rich. I mean, look at me – I do not have nice clothes – I do not even have sandals.
Look – there are a few others. Oh, they are so well dressed. You have to be rich. Oh, I do not know. Do you think it is a mistake that I have been invited? Maybe I just sit here and see what happens (sit next to the stairs to chorus).
Look, there are some people coming here. Look how they run right past me – like I'm not even here. It has always been like that, you know – we poor people just do not matter. Oh, I'm really hungry and it smells so good there.
What? Are you talking to me? Am I invited Are you sure? Oh thank you. (getting up, going up stairs, looking awestruck, pausing, slowly lowering your head)
Have you ever been excluded from a banquet or other event? How did it feel? Let's face it – it does not feel good to be left out. It hurts. Many stories and movies we grow up in are about being excluded and left out. Cinderella comes to mind – we certainly remember the common stepmother and step-sisters Anastasia and Drizella. They made it so clear that Cinderella simply did not belong and could not possibly go to the ball. (with bad stepsister voice) "Oh, Cinderella, how could you go to the ball – you do not have a dress and besides, you do not know how to behave."
Think of these films – "West Side Story". Tony, the all-American boy, falls in love with Maria, a Puerto Rican immigrant. Neither would be accepted or even welcome in the other's family or culture. What about the movie "Philadelphia" with Tom Hanks as an aspiring lawyer who gets fired when his company finds out he's gay and has AIDS? He was suddenly shut out. Then there's "Remember the Titans" about the first African-American high school football coach in a southern city that has been threatened and harassed and definitely not made to feel welcome.
Today's text is about who is welcome at the banquet. In the Mediterranean area of the first century, both Jewish and Greco-Roman society marginalized the poor and disabled. For them, food was security, power and prestige. There was not much of a middle class. Either you had land, food and power or you did not and you worked for the people who did it. Oh, you could have a little piece of land, but the taxes would make you eat alive. Many people rented a property, and it was not uncommon to borrow money just to buy seeds for planting. If you did not have land, you were most likely day laborers, hoping for any work and food you could get. If you could not pay your debts, your family could be sold into slavery. If you were disabled and could not work at all, all you had to do was beg. Those with land and food did not want to have anything to do with those they thought were among themselves – the rabble, the impure. In addition to this economic hierarchy, there was the honor / shame system. Nothing was as important as the honor of your family.
Step into Jesus, who challenged the entire system at every turn. Why was he invited to this Sabbath banquet by a Pharisee? Jesus had the reputation of being with the poor and the unclean. However, he gained notoriety and popularity. Was he a celebrity invited to important social events? Verse 1 says he was "watched". Why was he watched? (Wait for answers.) Have you ever heard the phrase, "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer?" What does Jesus do when he comes to the banquet? Look at verses 2-6. Yes, he heals a man with dropsy. Well, I ask you, in a society where the poor and impure were certainly NOT invited to a banquet, why was this man there? I think it looks like a solution to catching Jesus and getting him into trouble.
Well, given the situation one might think that Jesus would lie down, behave, fly under the radar, right? But no, after watching the guests look for good and prestigious seats, he gives them lectures and tells them, "If you are invited to a banquet, do not pretend to sit in a place of honor. that is more distinguished than you, and your host will ask you to move, and you will fall into disfavor: no, sit in the lowest place, and have your host tell you to move to a better place "I'll bet you had a few feathers ruffled, who was this backwater guy from Nazareth who told the uppity-ups what to do?
But Jesus was not finished yet. Then he turns his attention to the host: "If you're having a party, do not invite your friends, relatives and wealthy neighbors, knowing they'll have to invite you to their next party – no – invite the poor, the crippled , the lame and the blind, who could never repay you, and then you will be blessed. "Jesus is fully subduing the social hierarchy and following the sin of pride, teaching the guests and host about humility Justice is a measure of the health of a society – to look after the poor and the outcasts an indication of how well a society is doing.The Alcoholics Anonymous say this about humility – Humility does not mean to think less about oneself Again, humility does not mean thinking less about oneself, it thinks less of you, what does Jesus say in verse 11? "For all who call themselves increase, be humiliated, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. "And the last will be the first.
In God's eyes, we are all equally in need. There is no hierarchy. Whether Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, you or me – we stand before God as sinners in need of salvation. The message of Jesus is that God invites and welcomes each of us to the banquet. Mind you, we do not deserve to be invited, but God invites us and calls us. Once called by God and redeemed by God's saving grace, the message is clear. We also have to do that and invite and welcome others. We, too, must be ready to involve the outsider as we have done.
Jesus encouraged the disciples not only to eat strangers. He encouraged her to sit down and eat with the stranger. It reminded me of the Beerman Foundation's annual Thanksgiving Dinner, which takes place every year at the Convention Center. Was one of you ever having dinner? It is wonderful. Our family volunteered for dinner for ten years and it's a nice reminder for all of us. I particularly remember the first year. Outside it was pretty cold and snowy. Nearly 6,000 people poured through the doors into the festive dining room. The set tables and the wonderful aroma of turkey and dressing welcomed everyone. You could see who was homeless. Their beards were frozen, their noses were red, they were ragged. In the street, they might have been ignored and passed by. But not at the Beerman dinner; Here they were warmly welcomed and fed. I was a helper and showed people the food lines. These people, who many would consider outcasts, shook my hand and returned my greeting with "Happy Thanksgiving to you so too." They were so social and pleasant; They blessed me. On this day we were all the same. At the table sat a homeless man and at the next table two women dressed to the brim with mink stole. The Beerman dinner is not just for the poor. It is for everyone who wants to come. Everyone is invited.
How inviting are we? We acknowledge that we do not deserve to be invited to God's table, and we acknowledge that we are eternally grateful that God invites us to the banquet. But what are we going to do about it? Is it enough to donate homeless or food items to the pantry once a year? Are we really inviting people to the banquet if we keep our distance from the poor or the homeless? Jesus ate with the outcasts; do we do? He spent time with thieves and liars and the least. Do we do?
It is difficult for us to understand that we can exclude people. We like to think that we are enlightened and open; But who could we exclude if they showed up at our church door? A homeless man? A gay person? A Hispanic that was hard to understand? The local prostitute? A mentally ill person? A white supremacist? A young couple covered with tattoos? When I think about it, I wonder if we all have a reason to be excluded. My husband David could be expelled because his brother was an alcoholic. I could be excluded because I have a mentally disabled sister.
Do we live as inviting people?
Are we talking inviting words?
Do we have inviting settings?
Are we leading a life that invites people to Christ, especially those who are the least of them?
Are we inviting them as God has invited us to receive what we have received?
I pray we have the courage to live as inviting people.
Come to the banquet. Invite others. Amen.
Nan Erbaugh is the pastor of Lower Miami CoB in Dayton, OH, an integrated and open faith community dedicated to peace and justice
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