He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. (Luke 14:12-13 NRSV)
I hear it all the time. The people who say it mean well. There is no malice behind their words. In fact, more often than not, they are simply trying to be optimistic, positive, or hopeful. I don’t want to take that away. My “Negative Ned” tendencies run deep, but not quite to the point of stealing away other people hope.
But I always cringe when I hear someone say, “I like to think I would do that.” I get it. Everyone wants to view themselves in a positive light. We always expect the best out of ourselves. Heck, I even do it on the golf course: “I think I can carry that water” or “if I just hit a perfect punch shot with my 6 iron through those two giant oak trees, I’ll be on in 2.” Positive thinking right?
When Jesus says challenging things like “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” into our home, at our table, to share the food we eat, invariably someone will chime in during the middle of the surrounding conversation, “I think I would do that.”
I mean, of course, we would. Who wouldn’t share Grandma’s famous lasagna with the meth addict? Who wouldn’t dive into sundaes across the table from the man who smokes 3 packs a day? Who wouldn’t share tapas with the alcoholic who just hasn’t hit rock bottom yet?
I guess what I’m asking is, who wouldn’t invite the social outcast to participate in one of the most intimate moments of our daily lives?
I think we tend to fool ourselves quite a bit when it comes to things like this. We characterize simple charity, such as donating cans to a local food drive or giving money to help fund kids of a far away country, as our mission work. We replace the profound radicalness of Jesus’ call to Table fellowship with something else, if only to pacify our profound need to feel like we’re helping other people, but not getting our hands dirty.
Now if this sounds hard, that’s because it is. Jesus apparently expects a lot of us Christians. He expects us to invite everyone to the Table, to make room for all by humbly taking the lowest seat, to accept them as they are. Fred Craddock tells us, “The clear sign of acceptance, of recognizing others as one’s equals, of cementing fellowship, is breaking bread together” [Craddock, Luke (Louisville, John Knox Press) 178.] Maybe Christ is calling on us to do for others the very thing he does for each one of us: accept us.
In the Kingdom of God, all are invited to the Table where Jesus is our host. No matter who we are, we are invited. Not passively welcomed, but invited. Jesus calls us to do the same. He knows it is hard for us, but he calls us to do it anyway.
May it be so this day.