Monday, November 14, 2016

You are Invited... God's Big Hearted Banquet of Grace (Luke 14:15-24). On The Cross Road: Jesus Journey To Jerusalem in Luke's Gospel (ch 10-19) and what it has to say to us as followers of Jesus.

‘You are invited’

I’m not sure I’ll ever receive an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham palace. Has anyone here received an invitation from the queen? I don’t know about you but if I did  I’d worry about what I should wear… I’d wonder if I needed a new pair of Jeans and whether my almost threadbare Op shop shirt would do just one more time… and if I could get away with wearing comfy shoes and my Homer Simpson tie? And I’m sure wiser heads would prevail, Kris would make sure we had the appropriate clothes, and Beth would make sure it had just that touch of class and flare. We’d get passports and book plane tickets and work out how to pay for it later. AS I’m sure all of you would. It’s not going to happen. I’m not that special or important in the scheme of things.

I’m sure that if it ever came I’d accept it and even though I’d be nervous as anything that at the last minute I wouldn’t come up with an excuse not to go.  You don’t snub the queen like that. I’m sorry I just bought a house… in Auckland…remember it’s a just a story… and I need to go and check it out. I’ve just got a flash new car and I want to take it for a spin… I’ve got some family commitments… there is a BBQ at uncle Bob’s, there is an ALL Black’s test match on the tele that day, so I’m sorry I just won’t be able to come.

You are invited…

Jesus tells a parable about an important host who throws a great banquet. And it’s an amazing story because the important invited guests snub the host, just as the feast is ready for them they all cry off and make excuses. So the host sends his servants to gather in all the poor and lame and crippled or as my friend Malcom Gordon puts it ‘the left overs and the left outs’. But even after that there is still room for more so he sends his servant off to the highways and hedgerows  to gather people in… strangers, foreigners folk from all over. They are invited to come and sit and have table fellowship with him.

You’ve been invited… to walk with Jesus on the Cross road

We are working through Jesus journey to Jerusalem in Luke’s gospel , a journey that takes up the central half of Luke’s Gospel narrative, it’s a section of the gospel that focuses on Jesus teaching.  It’s a journey we will be on till Easter as it is a journey that leads Jesus and us to the cross. Today passage is a wonderful parable that Jesus tells about the big hearted love of God… that we are invited to God’s banquet of grace.

Jesus is invited…

As we saw last week Jesus had been invited to a Sabbath meal at a prominent Pharisees house. On the way he had healed a man suffering from Dropsy, which made his abdomen swell up. It was another example of Jesus care and compassion for the poor and marginalised… the Pharisee and his guests had stood by silently. Jesus noticed that when they got to the table that they played a social status game of musical chairs… seeking the best position at the table. So he told them a parable which focused on God lifting the humble and those who exalt themselves will find themselves humbled. He then spoke to the host and encouraged him not to simply invite people who would enhance his social standing and be able to repay him, but to invite the poor, the blind and the lame, Jesus finishes with a beatitude saying that we should look for God’s reward and blessing, not other peoples. 

Like much of Jesus teaching in Luke the passage we have today is sparked by an anonymous interruption… one of the dinner guests calls out his own beatitude… “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast of the Kingdom of God’. The religious people of Jesus day expected that the messiah’s reign would start with a great banquet and that all the religious leaders would definitely be there.

Jesus parable challenges that way of thinking… A very important person says Jesus hosts a banquet. We know the person is important because of the words used. It’s a great banquet with many guests. To understand the parable you have to realise the social context. Those who are invited are there because of who they are they are the important the in-crowd the religious and social elite. Being invited was a two part process. An invitation would be sent out which you would RSVP to, so the host knew how many animals to kill for food and how much wine to purchase. You may remember the possible social embarrassment for the host of the wedding in canna in John 3 when the wine ran out, that prompted Jesus to perform the miracle of turning water into wine.  Then when the meal was ready a  servant would come and summons you for the meal. It’s at this late date that people give excuse and do not come to the banquet. The excuses given are supposed to be trivial, they do have some basis in Jewish law as in the book of Deuteronomy they can be seen to be reasons for people to be excused from Military service, but that just adds to the irony here. They are definitely a snub to the host, refusing t e identified with him. AS we will see later in the story of Zacchaeus social status does not necessarily mean people will want to associate with you.

There is a deeper meaning to this. This parable acts as the closing section to a long series of Jesus conflict encounters with the Pharisees and religious leaders. From the beatitude that sparked it we know it was concerning the religious leaders belief that they would be guests when the messiah came. But Jesus here likens them to these invited guests, they are God’s people, they have been invited, the invitation to be ready for this great banquet for the coming of the messiah had been issued through Moses and the prophets and now when that messiah was in their midst, they refuse to come, they write him off or stand aloof. There excuses sound like tey are caught up the things of this world, land, wealth and family rather than genuinely looking and waiting for the Kingdom of God.

Stepping back into the story, Jesus says the host tells his servant to go and call all the left outs and the left overs, the poor, the lame the blind to come and sit at his table. It’s as if in this parable Jesus now turns to those of us were not invited to this Sabbath meal, that the kingdom of God, is for us. That God’s kingdom is for those who know their need for God’s grace and know they cannot repay him. But that is not enough the house is not full even after they have come. So the host tells his servant to go outside the town, to the highway and byways. T he travellers and strangers and aliens: Not only are the poor and outcast of Israel invited but here Jesus alludes to the fact that those outside, the gentiles, the other will be invited as well.  God’s grace and God’s invitation to come to the table to come to him for nourishment and life is not limited to the religious elite, but for all people. It is not based on the status of the guest, being the right person, but on the goodness of the host.

You are invited, In Christ’s life death and resurrection you are invited to come and to know Jesus to find sustenance for life in relationship to our gracious host Jesus. It’s abanquet of God’s big hearted grace.

The story ends on a note of judgement, a challenge to those listening to Jesus and to us. The religious leaders would not partake in the banquet, they would get to sit down for a good feed in the kingdom of God, because they did not recognise Jesus as the God’s agent, as  the who God has sent. It wasn’t that they were no longer invited but other things got in the way, other things were more important.

I want to finish by giving you three different invitations.

Firstly ‘you are invited’

God’s great banquet of grace is for you. No matter who you are or where you’ve been… it is a generous wonderful offer to come and to know and be feed and nourished by Jesus Christ. To come and to live in the kingdom of God.  Will you come?

secondly ‘You are invited’.

There is an alternative reading to this parable. Because the host in Jesus story actually lives out the social advise that Jesus had given to the host of the party he was at. Not to simply invite those who could repay him, those like him, those like us, or people that will reciprocate our hospitality, but rather to invite the poor, the lame and the blind, in fact as we mentioned before he goes beyond that to put no limits on who is invited, even  those outside the confines of our culture, our religion strangers on the road… So it’s an invitation to us to be people who will live out of a Kingdom of God vision and offer hospitality and compassion and welcome and acceptance to the left outs and the left overs. To live in a way that tips our existing social order on its head. It challenges us about having in-crowds in church; it invites us to explore a biblical understanding of caring for those who do not have, how we treat and immigrants and refugees.  We have been invited to God’s big hearted banquet of grace so we live that out in how we treat other people.

Thirdly “you are invited”

There is an invitation here as people who serve the host to go and do the inviting: To call people to this banquet of the richest of fare in Jesus Christ.  Jesus parable give a very realistic picture of what that will mean, the servant simply has to invite some and they will come, it seems as if they are waiting and wanting to come, those further away on the highways and hedgerows it says that the servant had to convince them to come. It is not always easy, for those who lived in the hosts town they would have known of his generosity and goodness those on the road wouldn’t have a clue they maybe suspicious, they maybe aware that they are outsiders, and unaware of this banquet of God’s grace… and yes there are those who will simply say no, give excuse, be caught up in  their own stuff, wealth, status and even family ties that they will use as an excuse.  But God’s big hearted grace is still inviting them to come… You are part of that grace, you are part of that invitation.

So you are invited… so Come all who are thirsty, parched and left dry and desolate, come to the living water Come even if you don’t have any money come and buy and eat without cost. Come and receive the richest of what life has to offer in God’s big hearted banquet of Grace.

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