Luke 14:15-24 (ESV)
15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[a] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you,[b] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Picture it for a moment. The owner of Cooper’s Hawk, one of the more upscale restaurants in Springfield, decides to host a dinner for the “who’s who” of the town – you know, those townies whose glossy pictures always show up in Springfield’s Own. Invitations are sent. The finest meal is prepared. The best wine is poured. And then . . . no one shows up! The mayor has a meeting to attend. The surgeon gets tied up at the golf course. The businessman has a deal to close. The restaurant’s owner is irate!
So, what does the owner of Cooper’s Hawk do? They send out their waiters and waitresses to St. John’s Breadline and Washington Street Mission and Helping Hands Homeless Shelter and the Salvation Army and they invite the poor and the hungry and the mentally ill and the forgotten ones to come instead! And they do! And, what a dinner party it is! Never before has Cooper’s Hawk been filled with such joy and celebration and sheer gratitude!
Sound ridiculous?! Absolutely . . . until one reads Jesus’ parable in today’s reading from Luke! This, after all, is Jesus’ story! It’s the story of God’s kingdom! When those who are invited into the kingdom come up with one excuse after another for why they can’t come, Jesus goes out and invites the poor and the crippled and the blind and the lame. Jesus goes out and invites precisely those folks whom most of us would prefer would not show up in our churches on Sunday morning, not to mention the table next to us at Cooper’s Hawk!
The kingdom of God turns our human expectations upside-down. The kingdom of God challenges our notion of who’s in and who’s out. God’s invitation into the kingdom is graciously extended to all. It’s just that sometimes those who choose to accept the invitation aren’t who we would expect. It’s just that sometimes the excuses we make for not showing up open up a space at the table for those who truly “get” the meaning of God’s grace.
Lord Jesus, when I think I’m too busy to come to your party, turn my heart back to you so that I don’t miss out on the celebration of grace that you so freely offer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by Pastor Greg Busboom Lead Pastor firstname.lastname@example.org