He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
(Luke 14:12-14 ESV)
The broader context of this passage is found in the parable of the banquet that Jesus tells in Luke 14:16-24. In it the invited guests one after another decline to come to the feast once it has been prepared. These presumably represent the religious leaders of Jesus' day; men who thought they had an "in" with God because they had followed all the rules and correctly parsed out the Scriptures. The man throwing the banquet instructs his servants, "Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled." This is Jesus letting us know that the gospel will go out to all the earth, and not just to the chosen of Israel.
These two stories provide a great warning to any of us who feel we are entitled, because we're Christians, to wear our faith like an old sweater. We have our habits and our patterns, and that's what we're comfortable with. Right?
I hate to say "let's do lunch" and then just forget about it. As many of you know, I love to cook. One of my great joys in life is getting to the end of the day, stopping at the grocery store, and creating some new recipe Jama and I, or our invited guests can enjoy. Here's a sample menu I'm toying with:
Mandarin Orange Walnut Salad, Ginger Dressing (California Chardonay)
Petite Filet, Cognac Reduction (French Bordeaux)
Spicy Red-Skin Potatoes accompanied by Green Beans with Slivered Almonds
Individual Creme Brulee (Hennessey)
I'm also thinking this would be a nice occasion to use the white linen table cloth and napkins, my parents' wedding china, and Jama's parents' silver. A dinner party of this sort really begins with hors d'oeuvres around 6 pm. Dinner is served at 7:30, and conversation continues until around 11.
This is dining. It needs to be done slowly and thoughtfully. It needs people gathered around who will bring their lives to a table where words like "share" and "engage" and "discuss" are used and where learning and soul-restoration can occur.
Like I said, I'm just toying with that menu. I know some folks don't like beef, so I have great recipes we could go with that include fish or vegetarian options. And I know that some of you are thinking what I outlined is kind of pretentious. The same can be accomplished no matter what the menu or the setting. But I'm putting this menu out there because I want to invite one or more of you reading this to come and share this dinner or one like it with Jama and me one night soon. We will provide everything for the meal. It won't cost you a cent. The only caveat is that you need to invite a neighbor or more preferrably, a homeless person or someone in great need to join you. It isn't that we wouldn't welcome just you to come. Heaven knows we don't dine together often enough. I'm just thinking of this in particular response to Luke 14:12-14. If you accept the invitation, we've got some neighbors we've been meaning to invite in as well.
I hear your objections: It would be awkward. What would we talk about? Why waste the money on one fancy dinner when you could take that same amount and probably feed a needy family for a week? Such a spread would merely accentuate the poor person's lack and your abundance. Perhaps. But what if a dinner party like that taught me to really see someone for the first time? What if a relationship were developed and I realized that this person really is my responsibility?
Jesus invites you and me to just such a fancy dinner party every week when we come to his table. We are, each of us, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. And he sets out the finest linens, the best wines, choice breads, and invites us to dine, with him as host and in the company of others he wants us to know intimately.
So few of us take him up on the invitation at all these days. Many of us have told Jesus we'll come once a month. After all, we wouldn't want to lessen the meaning of such an invitation by doing it too often. And when we come; if we come at all, very few of us linger there at the table for more than a moment. Hardly any of us raise our eyes to really engage, or share, or discuss with the others who have come to the table. We've been taught this is a private moment rather than a community gathering.
And the same objections come as at my proposed dinner party. It would be awkward if I linger at the table. What would these people think? Won't this accentuate the differences between us? What if there's someone at the table who is really in need -- what then? I'm not feeling needy this week. If I stay at the table, won't I make them feel their need to a greater extent?
In telling the parable of the banquet Jesus is inviting us to spend a few hours in deep communion with him and with the other guests. It isn't something we can squeeze in between appointments. Our kids' sports matches will have to wait for another day. The yard can be mowed later on. The extravagance of the meal itself and the unreasonable cost of it, demands that we stay, and linger, and dine.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.