A guest would not normally presume to tell the host who should be on the invitation list, but Jesus is not your typical guest. He uses his status as a guest to advocate for those who would never be invited to such a fine banquet. The poor would be excluded because they could not reciprocate with an invitation to a banquet they would host. In Jesus’ day, people who were lame or blind were excluded from events in the Temple and generally left out of social events. But the Son of God came to include those typically ignored and left out by the community, turning social conventions upside down.
One of my daughter’s elementary school teachers had a firm rule: If a child in the class wanted to pass out birthday party invitations, there had to be an invitation for every child in the class. The same rule applied for the annual February tradition of passing out Valentines. I suppose the teacher had seen her share of devastated children, crying when no invitations or Valentine cards were deposited on their desks. Being left out hurts to the core. Being included heals.
One summer I witnessed the healing power of inclusion at the summer camp I helped run. For the weekly Thursday night dance, one of the summer-staff counselors learned enough sign language to invite a camper who was deaf to dance with him. The girl was stunned but readily agreed. She couldn’t hear the music, but she could feel the vibrations of the excited campers and staff and happily joined in the dancing. Her mother later told us that dance was the highlight of the girl’s summer.
Exclusion wounds. Inclusion mends.
God of inclusion, teach us how to issue your invitations to everyone to be part of your community. Amen.
Jeremiah had the unenviable task of speaking truth to power. While others were proclaiming how good things were, he was called and compelled to insist things were not all that great. The people kept ignoring Yahweh’s persistent invitations to abandon their pseudo-gods and focus on Yahweh. The theme of God’s hospitality continues in our texts from Hebrews as the author reminds readers that when we extend a genuine welcome to strangers, we may actually be hosting the Lord God. Luke picks up the hospitality thread by proposing a radical new way of deciding whom to include. He extends God’s compassion for all humanity by suggesting that we start our invitation lists with those who would not typically be included. God’s central message to humans through the centuries, through the scriptures, and most certainly through Christ, is consistent: You, personally, are invited to be God’s precious guest on the journey through life.
Read Jeremiah 2:4-9. When have you needed to tell authority figures that something was wrong? Where did you find your courage to deliver the message?
Read Psalm 81. What treasured traditions do you have in your family or with your friends?
Read Hebrews 13:15-16. Where do you observe people going out of their way to show compassion to others? Where have you received unsolicited kindness?
Read Luke 14:12-14. When have you extended hospitality to someone who couldn’t pay you back?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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