so this last sunday i preached on luke 14:1-14, where jesus is invited to a party. i was particularly interested in verses 12-14 where Jesus says that when we throw parties we shouldn't just invite friends, relatives and rich neighbors. 'instead,' he says, 'invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.'
i have preached most every week that i've been here in clinton, which is 14 months now. but no sermon i have preached has resulted in so much discussion and feedback as this. i'm not exactly sure why it struck such a chord, but it did, and i've been doing some reflecting on this.
the basic thrust of my sermon wasn't exactly a revolutionary point; it is a fairly constant theme in Jesus' message: include the outsider. i began my sermon by trying to get the congregation to imagine with me what it might look like if Jesus was a dinner guest at our own home. i was hoping to help people understand that, in this story in luke, Jesus is showing a blatant disregard for social norms and polite expectations. he doesn't do well with good behavior. instead, jesus criticizes the guests for competing for honor, and then turns his attention on the host, calling into question the guest list. i wanted people to see that Jesus could sometimes make things awkward. part of my reason for doing this is that, despite my complete comfort with being comfortable, i absolutely believe that most of our churches and most of our christians in america are TOO COMFORTABLE. and i'm not speaking strictly financially, because there are many financially uncomfortable churches and christians in america.
when i read a story like this one in luke, i can't help but wonder about how comfortable i am. where are the 'crippled and lame, the poor and blind' at my table? what would jesus say if he came to my house for dinner? i don't think it would be something that would give me warm fuzzies. i don't think jesus would say, "hey thanks for a great meal. the stuffed mushrooms were particularly delightful. next time we'll all come to my house and watch 'america's got talent.'" i just don't think that is what he would say.
i'm not sure what he would say, but i think it would have to do with who is not included in my life. who am i excluding? who am i not loving? who am i ignoring? these are interesting questions in a world that is increasingly global, where our neighbors are not just our suburbanites in the cul de sac, but people all around the world.
and so i keep wrestling. who needs to be sitting at our table? what would Jesus say in my home? i need to surrender my allegiance to comfort and daily deal with the potentially awkward: i am wildly rich in many ways compared to the rest of the world. how will i live with that?
one thing i can say is that you should be careful before you include jesus on the guest list to your next shindig; he probably won't say what you'd like him to say.
consider yourselves warned.