During Lent, the GPS will lead us to read the entire gospel of Luke. To reach that goal, some daily readings are longer than usual. Mondays will highlight the “meal” passage from the previous Sunday’s sermon. Tuesdays through Saturdays will cover the rest of the gospel. Have an extra cup of coffee, or maybe use your lunch break—make the time to read the whole gospel with us.
1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. 2 A man suffering from an abnormal swelling of the body was there. 3 Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Does the Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they said nothing. Jesus took hold of the sick man, cured him, and then let him go. 5 He said to them, “Suppose your child or ox fell into a ditch on the Sabbath day. Wouldn’t you immediately pull it out?” 6 But they had no response.
7 When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable. 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor. Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host. 9 The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give your seat to this other person.’ Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place. 10 Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
12 Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14 And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”
15 When one of the dinner guests heard Jesus’ remarks, he said to Jesus, “Happy are those who will feast in God’s kingdom.”
16 Jesus replied, “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people. 17 When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, ‘Come! The dinner is now ready.’ 18 One by one, they all began to make excuses. The first one told him, ‘I bought a farm and must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’ 22 The servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.’ 23 The master said to the servant, ‘Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
Jesus surely didn’t shock the watching Pharisees by again ignoring their Sabbath healing rules. But he gave them a different shock. They loved to imagine God’s great end-time feast (verse 15). That picture of a divine feast came from Isaiah 25:6-10. Isaiah said this banquet would be for “all peoples,” “all nations,” “the whole earth”—but the religious leaders wanted it to be just for their own group of Israelites. Yet in Jesus' story, the chosen said “no,” and God called street people instead!
Lord Jesus, of course I want to be a guest at your great end-time feast. Give me a heart that will rejoice in being there even if some of the other guests might at first surprise me. Amen.
* Manning, Brennan. The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (p. 51). 1990/2000/2005: The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The particular section of Luke we read today was something I insisted on using while we planned our wedding. Yes, you read that right! Nothing like a college religion major using Scripture in important wedding planning decisions!
As unconventional as it was, I insisted that this passage from Luke inform one thing in particular at our wedding--the party favors. You should've seen my now husband Ryan and I pitching this idea to our parents for the first time. I remember their awkward nods, forced smiles, and carefully phrased words: "whatever you want, hon...after all, it's your day!" What we pitched seemed simple enough to us: "The gospel story is always reminding us to be aware of those on the margins, and to seek a place of humility over a place of honor. In light of that, we've decided we won't be giving away any favors at our reception. Instead, we will ask for a favor. Each guest will get a brown paper bag. We'll ask them to take it home after the reception, fill it with groceries, and then drop it off at a local food bank. And don't worry, mom and dad, if people are confused, we'll just attach this story along with its meaning, and it will be totally fine. Oh, and also, could you help us put all those bags together for the reception?"
If this sounds crazy, it's because it was! I even remember folding said bags in thirds and securing the fold with an old school wax seal with the first letter of our soon-to-be shared last name. It became a whole thing. Some people totally got it, and even reported back on how they filled their bags and dropped them off as a way to honor our new union, and "invite in" the poor to our banquet meal. Some people gave us the same polite responses and awkward nods that we received when we first pitched the idea to our parents. But as for our parents, the more they understood what spoke so strongly to us in this Scripture, the bigger the cheerleaders they were for it.
There are likely still people who are confused at our odd choice. But, for us, it helped us creatively put into practice Luke's gospel message that we read today. "...when you host a lunch or dinner, don't invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. And you will be blessed because they can't repay you." (Luke 14:12-14) In what ways are you creatively making space at your table for those who can't repay you?
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