Who's Invited to Your Banquet?

Luke 14:1, 7-14 September 2, 2007

I was at the reception banquet of a wedding seated with the bridal couple's parents. The father of the groom was a hearty eater. He kept going back to the buffet table for more fried chicken. It wasn't a "help yourself" buffet; there was a person there to serve you. As he got up to go back yet again his wife said, "That's the 5th time you're going back for more fried chicken." Then she leaned in to whisper to him so the bride's parents wouldn't hear, "We're not paying for this you know. You're making a pig out of yourself. What will people think? Aren't you embarrassed?" "Not at all," her husband said. "I keep telling them I'm getting it for you."

Sometimes there are hearty eaters at banquets and buffets.

I have one other vignette to share. Both apply to what I want to say in my sermon, entitled, "Who's Invited to Your Banquet?"

During World War II an American soldier stationed in London went to a restaurant there. He wasn't fond of the food. The meat was over-cooked, the greens were waterlogged, and the reheated potatoes lukewarm. He called for his bill, leaving a barely-touched plate on the table. The waiter, who probably in his 60's or 70's, was shocked. "Wasting food like that!" he said. "Don't you know that food will win the war?" "Maybe," the American said. "But who's gonna get the enemy to eat here?"

Though some may not think so, today's sermon is a positive one because awareness is the first step in a positive attitude and outlook, and the first step in taking positive action.

Who's invited to your banquet? The banquet I'm referring to is THIS banquet, our weekly gatherings in Jesus' name. This is the feast; this is a banquet week after week. Jesus poses an interesting scenario for us in the Gospel lesson today. If we take him to be serious, it's probably a difficult teaching to follow. The first part is interesting because generally we like to have 'seats of honor.' We like to be recognized to sit at the head table or next to the host or hostess. Apparently in those days guests got to CHOOSE where they sat. Today at banquets it's all pre-planned and you sit where your name tag is, or at whatever table to which you have been assigned.

However, what Jesus says still applies. It depends upon how you FEEL about where you've been seated. Are you are disappointed that you got seated with some folks that you'd definitely rather not have been seated with, or whether you're disappointed that you weren't recognized to be seated at a table with more honored guests? You know there isn't any way that anything is going to change, and you're not going to be called up to any place of honor to sit with someone special, as Jesus suggests in the parable. So, where you're seated, that's where you're stuck, and what's in your mind about where you're seated counts just as much.

But the second part of what he says, that's the example we'd find difficult to follow. He says, "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."

Before I continue, it's important to recognize that Jesus has NOT said that you shouldn't invite friends or family or neighbors. He speaks to the REASON you are inviting them. If you are inviting them with no intention that they will then invite YOU to dinner, then it's fine to invite them. It's WHY you invite them, what's in your mind about inviting them, that matters.

Jesus continues, "But when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of those in a right relationship with God."

We are to invite people that won't feel obligated to us to invite us in return. Jesus is not saying that we are selfish or prejudiced people if we invite friends and family and neighbors and don't invite the poor, the lame, the blind. It's why we DO invite or DON'T invite that makes the difference.

If we invite someone because they are well connected and it will impress others, or invite someone with the intent that they will then invite us to some function of theirs that we'd like to get invited to, that's what Jesus is talking about. And if we don't invite someone because we don't think they'd 'fit in' with the others invited, that's what Jesus is getting at, too.

It's our intention, our motivation that matters. But there's one more catch with regard to inviting or not inviting the poor, the lame, the blind and so on. Just the fact that one might feel any sense of relief that Jesus is not saying we have to invite them, is ALSO what Jesus is taking about. "Oh, thank goodness I don't REALLY have to invite them to my banquet." It's our attitude about the poor, the lame, the blind or any person with a handicap that matters.

Or what about someone you see as your 'enemy'? Do you invite them? You may not define them in those terms, but that would be someone you see as in competition with you or someone who is gathering more friends to them than you are, or someone who wants to be in control of matters as much as you do. Or what about folks who ARE the poor folks in town? Are you ignoring them? What about folks who live in certain areas in town? Are you ignoring them? It's our intention, our motivation that matters in who we do or don't invite.

Who do you want at your banquet? Remember, THIS gathering is the feast, the banquet celebrating the victory of our Lord. If you had an older parent that had a handicap that made it necessary for them to be in a wheelchair, and your home wasn't handicap accessible, you would do something IMMEDIATELY to remedy that situation. Or if your son or daughter were in a car accident and had to be in a wheelchair, and he/she couldn't come home from the hospital or rehab center until your home was handicap accessible, you'd be on top of it right away. You'd want that done like yesterday!

And yet, in 2007, almost 20 years after the Americans with disabilities Act was passed (1990) Trinity is STILL not handicap accessible. What does that say about who we want at our banquet? And we have been working on getting handicap bathrooms for two years, and the major hold ups seem to be "what it will cost? and what we can afford? and how necessary it is?" What we can afford?! A half million dollars in endowments and we don't care enough about inviting those with handicaps to our banquet to do something about it NOW and stop procrastinating?!

If Jesus were physically here today, he would most certainly make a parable out of this.

And what about the banquet? Do you realize that every time we gather for communion and we sing "This is the Feast" we are referring to the banquet that Christ has prepared for us? "Give us a foretaste of the feast to come," we sing. The foretaste is in our present banquet of Holy Communion.

Even worse than being discriminating in whom we invite to the banquet, is that Christ has prepared the banquet for us and we don't invite any one. I know you can identify with that. What if you gave a banquet and went to great lengths to prepare it and make it beautiful and you gave someone else the job of inviting folks and they didn't invite any one. How would you feel? How do you think Jesus feels that some of you, week after week, never invite anyone to the banquet he has prepared? If you're one of those who never invites anyone to the banquet feast, one has to wonder just how excited you, yourself, are about being invited to the banquet.

We, together, and also individually hold this banquet in honor of Jesus. And just what sort of honor is it that we don't invite anyone to come to the banquet, come to the feast? How selfish is it to just hold a banquet for ourselves? We're like the groom's father at the wedding banquet. Time after time we come back to the banquet table, selfishly stuffing ourselves on the blessings and bounty that Christ prepared for everyone.

How disrespectful of Jesus, who loves us so much-and NOT just us, because he died for EVERYONE-how disrespectful of Jesus that we (and remember, YOU is part of we), hold a banquet in his honor and not invite any one?

Who's invited to your banquet?


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