Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
(sorry, no audio/video recording this week)
Luke 14:12-14New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
12 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. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
1 Corinthians 11:20-29English Standard Version (ESV)
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat.21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
What I would like each of you to do is to imagine for a moment that you have the opportunity of a lifetime. Close your eyes. Imagine you are at a large table. Imagine you can have any food you want and that you can invite anyone in the world to join you for the meal. Famous, infamous, influential, powerful, musical, funny, brilliant and insightful, activist, politician, leader, poet, author, personal hero… whoever. Dream big. You can open your eyes now. Write the names down on your sermon outline insert. You can draw a little table and stick figures, if you want. Have fun with it.
Now, recently in Australia, a food company asked this question to people. I’ll warn you in advance. They’re Australian, so they speak Australian. It’s a lot like English, but not. .. So you may have trouble understanding them. And I’m sorry that the subtitles aren’t visible from where most of you are sitting. And you may not recognize all the names they say because they live in another place. But watch and see what feels familiar to you…
(watch the clip or click here before you continue reading)
Now, if you’re a parent, you may have just smiled or maybe your mind was blown. But all of you, I hope, just realized there are people who given the choice of absolutely anyone to eat with, would choose to eat… with you. Sometimes, that means your kids or family members. Sometimes, it’s the people right there around you related by faith or proximity in your life.
Who are the people with whom Jesus was most concerned with reaching out to and commanded us to love and spend time with? The widows and widowers, the orphans, the sick and in prison, the oppressed, the friendless… the lonely. The people who would feel the love of Christ in the simple invitation to join us for a meal.
How many of you have ever been lonely? How many have you have ever been invited to join others for a gathering? For a meal? Or longed to be? How did that feel?
Let me ask you… what meals are important to you? When does the menu and guest list matter? What meals do we plan for for months? We have one coming up… Thanksgiving… Christmas… maybe Easter and others. My own mother already called me this week to ask me my plans for Thanksgiving. Gotta nail that down!
For Jesus and his Jewish community, that meal of thanks was the Passover meal. It was a tradition, a gathering, a wonderful potluck for families and friends. In fact, the meal we celebrated last week with our Korean friends was much more like the Passover FEAST and the early celebrations of Communion in the early Church than what we did symbolically here at this table.
How we celebrate and share Communion… but just as importantly, how we celebrate and share our meals is critical to our witness to the Lord of love we know and serve. If we take seriously our call as believers to be known by our love, then Paul’s call to the church in Corinth to examine themselves and the meal is a call to US. It is a call for us to look around our table and see who is missing, to pull up more chairs, and to invite the lonely, the forgotten, the needy.
Some need to be there because they need to be fed. Some need to be there because they need to be loved, to be included, to not be alone, to be welcomed. If we treasure our holiday meals for the chance to gather with family and friends, then who should we first think to invite to our table? Who better than people who have lost family and friends? They will feel it most keenly at these moments. They need us. They need to be loved. They need an invitation. And we need more chairs at the table.
When we make the guest list for our meal, do we first think of those who will be alone or feel alone? When we sit down to a church lunch, do we try to find our best friends or do you try to find visitors? Do we look for a member who needs us and our family to invite them to join us? Do we turn to our Korean brothers and sisters and ask them to join us as we enjoy the food they so lovingly share? In our places of work and school, do we look around the cafeteria or break room or office and see who needs to be invited and brought into the group?
Social media is full of stories these days about popular kids or groups of people inviting disabled kids and those with socialization difficulties to be the hero of a sporting event, or to join them for meals, to make it cool… exactly the people Jesus calls us to invite to our meals. And shouldn’t we be inspired by that… to do exactly that.
Some of the best friends I made in my life in high school in college were people I invited to eat with me. I did this because I was taught to do this. Not in words. My mother would start months ahead of time making her list and pulling up chairs… who needed an invite to the meal? Someone was alone or far from family… someone had recently lost a parent or a spouse or was a newly empty-nester. Someone was working and couldn’t travel to be with anyone. Whoever would be lonely… whoever would feel loved being a part of our family for that meal… it was so ingrained that my mother never had to tell me to do it. She never said, “Brian, look around. Think hard. Who needs to be invited?” My mother just did it. Over and over. And I learned.
Church meals, Communion, and worship feed us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But Jesus challenges us, demands we invite those who need to be there the most. Paul repeats this challenge to examine ourselves and our table and our meal for who is there and how we are celebrating. He tells us our celebration and our meals are empty if our table is empty of those who need the invitation most.
Our kids yearn to eat with us. But that doesn’t go away with age. We all need to be invited. Christ understood that invitations to meals were holy because meals were holy moments. It’s no coincidence he called himself the bread of life. It’s no coincidence his first miracle was at a wedding feast or that his largest ministry miracle was feeding people loaves and fishes… or that his final moments with the people he loved were over a feast, and that he gave us a meal to remember him by. To share God’s love and hope for people who most need it, we are called to share our holy moments… to share our meals…
I challenged people in the Bible study this week, and I’m going to challenge you. Invite someone to church next week and the next time we share a church meal. It can be someone you’ve invited many times or never before. If they say no, or they do not come… don’t stop there. Don’t badger them. But invite them over for dinner or out to dinner. Invite them to your holy moment of a meal. Write this down, if you have to next to your picture of your table. Draw the circle wider. Pull up some chairs. And as you begin to make your holiday plans, look for those who need to be invited. If you need help with who to ask, ask a pastor or a Stephen Minister. They know who needs an invitation.
Love is an invitation. The Gospel is an invitation. Your meals can be your moment to invite. Therefore, as you go, invite people to your your holy moments, invite them to your meals… And all God’s people said… Amen.