Invited Yet Unwelcome

2014 Sep Oct - The Experience
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Our country has been arguing about gay marriage for some time now. At the time of this writing 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. Yet polls indicate a split down the middle on the issue.

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Our country has been arguing about gay marriage for some time now. At the time of this writing 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. Yet polls indicate a split down the middle on the issue. So here is the question: If you got invited to the wedding and reception of a gay couple, would you go? Would you feel comfortable sitting at the wedding reception table for the celebratory meal?
It is probably the most unsettling feeling to eat in the presence of people you are uncomfortable around, or people that you do not like. Mealtimes are probably the times we are the most relaxed and at ease. It is hard to be at ease when you are in the presence of people you do not respect or like.
In ancient Hebrew culture mealtimes were even more special and intimate. As a matter of fact, Jews held hospitality as a very sacred virtue. The Jewish Shema states, “The Lord our God . . . is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). They understood that to mean that the ultimate goal for society was to become one in community and relationship. Thus, when entertaining guests, it was absolutely essential to ensure that their needs were met, especially during mealtime. On one occasion Jesus chided Simon, the Pharisee, for not providing water for foot washing to Him and the other dinner guests (Luke 7:44).

 

However, despite their values of hospitality, there were certain people that Jews would never entertain, much less invite into their homes for a meal.

The Jews believed that if a perso2014 The Experience homelessn was sick or suffered some misfortune, it was evidence of God’s disapproval and judgment. They believed that those who were paralyzed, blind, or leprous were cursed by God because of their sins. Furthermore, there were certain groups with whom the Jews would not even socialize. They were chosen by God to represent His will and character in the world. Yet they misunderstood His favor to mean favoritism. But Jesus’ ministry would change all of that.
In this parable Jesus tells the story of a man who prepares a “great banquet” for some special guests. However, when he extends the invitation, they excused themselves. One had just recently bought a piece of land, and probably wanted to go and survey the property. Another had just bought some new oxen to help him plow his fields, and he wanted to go and try them out. Still another had just been married, and maybe wanted to go directly to his honeymoon.
When the host learned that they had rejected his hospitality, he decided in an angry huff that he would extend his invitation to anyone who would come. He ordered his servant to go out into the city streets and alleyways “and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21, NIV).1 Anyone he can find is now welcome. The servant did as he was told, and before the owner’s anger could subside, the hall was furnished with grateful guests. But with space for more guests still, the owner ordered his servant to expand the invite to the countryside and county roads.
The story ends abruptly with a fairly dark saying of the obviously still upset owner:  “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (verse 24, NIV).
Ironically, Jesus told this story while at a banquet of a prominent religious leader. He was surrounded by the very important and powerful, the very group that believes that poor people, sick people, and foreigners are all cursed by God. They could not possibly be invited into the intimate proximity of the chosen ones. They are cursed, and that is why they were not invited to this particular banquet with all the “important” people.
But Jesus’ story reverses that notion. In His story it
is those who are poor, lame, or blind that receive the favor of the master. And it is the privileged ones who are shut out. The owner determines to make sure that the hall is full, so that even if they change their mind they won’t be allowed in. They had their chance and they rejected it, and now their seat has been taken. Now the favored ones are cursed, and the cursed ones are favored.
Could it be that this parable still vividly describes churches today? Are we angry at the dinner table because we do not like being around them? If so, maybe we are the ones who the owner promises will not be allowed to enter the great banquet.
You can take your pick of outcasts and undesirables, and ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable breaking bread with them? We may have started this discussion in the context of members of the LGBT community, and that is a reality-based example, but there may be so much more. What about a drug dealer, a drug addict, a Wall Street CEO, a crooked politician, a prostitute, or an undocumented immigrant? Would they be welcome guests at your table? Maybe you are the one who feels like an outcast.
If you feel as though church is not for you because you do not fit in, or because the people there are cold and snobbish, then the words of Jesus are especially for you. He wants you to know that God’s kingdom is established on the foundation of grace, love, and acceptance. He proclaimed that His “house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7, ESV).2 He welcomes you to His house.
I hope you’re hungry, because the table is set and the food is ready.

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Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

christopher c. thompson has written three books on spiritual growth, and blogs regularly at www.thegrowthnetwork.org. He is also a doctoral candidate at United Theological Seminary.

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If you were to take a personal inventory of some of your best days, you would realize that there were some truly joyous days that you have experienced. Maybe it is a golden moment from your childhood, or the moment you met the one you were to be with the rest of your life, or even some academic or occupational accomplishment that you longed for. Whatever it may be, we find in Scripture a very sobering lesson from the one called Jesus Christ.

Day 1 - Read Luke 14:1

Luke 14:1

It may sound simple, and maybe even trivial, but have you ever tried to literally list the blessing and fortune you are currently experiencing in your life? How much “good” is really around you at this present time? I challenge you to take an inventory of what you are blessed with, or fortunate to have at this particular time. Write it out. If you’re comfortable enough, share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 2 - Read Luke 14:12 - 14

Luke 14:12 – 14

The words of Jesus are a practical challenge. How natural is it to want to do nice things for those who have been nice to us? How much easier is it to show kindness to those who we know will have our back if we ever needed them? It seems that Jesus is downplaying the merit of showing kindness to those who are close to you, or have ability and means to return it. Look over your list of blessings and things that you see as fortunate, and see who they benefit. Is it you? Is it family or friends? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 3 - Read John 15:13

John 15:13

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13 (KJV). The extent of love a person can exhibit is dying for a friend. But Jesus didn’t die for only those He called friend—He died for the whole world. I want you to make another list. This list will take serious introspection and honesty. Make a list of people it would be hard to die for. Who is it that rubs you the wrong way? Is there anyone whose presence causes negative feelings to arise in you? Write the names out, and I ask you to pray for them. Read Matthew 5:43-45.

Day 4 - Read Luke 14:15 - 17

Luke 14:15 – 17

With this mind-set I invite you to read the lyrics to the hymn “Jesus Saves.”
We have heard a joyful sound,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Spread the gladness all around;
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the steeps and cross the waves,
Onward, ’tis our Lord’s command,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Waft it on the rolling tide,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Tell to sinners, far and wide,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Sing, ye islands of the sea.
Echo back, ye ocean caves,
Earth shall keep her jubilee,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Sing above the battle’s strife,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
By His death and endless life,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Sing it softly through the gloom,
When the heart for mercy craves,
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Give the winds a mighty voice,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Let the nations now rejoice,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Shout salvation full and free,
Highest hills and deepest caves,
This our song of victory,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.
Isn’t it interesting who the songwriter says Jesus saves, and who we should tell that Jesus saves?

Day 5 - Read Luke 14:18 - 20

Luke 14:18 – 20

We find in this passage that the ones invited
are all fortunate. There’s nothing that indicates that these are “bad” people who are being invited. In fact, it seems they are all well-to-do members of their society. One has managed their money well and acquired real estate to further their net worth. Another has purchased some necessary upgrades to be more efficient in doing his or her work, and wants to make sure all is in working order. The last has just started the crown jewel of human relationships, and married the love of their life. All of these are blessings, correct? Why then does the Bible call them excuses? What do you think? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.

Day 6 - Read Luke 14:21-24

Luke 14:21-24

The next order of the master is radical. He commands his servants to go and get anyone. When the banquet still isn’t full, he then says, in his own way, “Really! Go get absolutely anyone who will come.” The portion that seems harsh is verse 24, where he says, “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (NIV).* This is in reference to those in the previous verses. What does this say about God? What does this say about the kingdom of heaven and those who make it?

Day 7 - Wrap Up

It’s been said that you should not exalt the gift over the giver, the blessing over the blesser. So many of us see ourselves as good, fortunate, and blessed people, but we fall short of the people that make it into the banquet with the Master. We do only for those who are good to us. We take very little thought for those who have no help. Instead of seeing the things in our lives as an opportunity to enrich the life of those less fortunate, we conclude it is nothing more than our own fortune and enrichment. I hope that this study has led you to realize that some of us are too fortunate, and that will be the reason we excuse ourselves from the A List of the banquet of heaven.

 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship chruch in Buckhead, Georgia.

 

 

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