When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14.15-24
A Word Of Hope
I’m going to be honest here. I am not a fan of parables…none of them. I know that they are intended to teach us some moral truth. I’m good with the learning; it’s Jesus’ pedagogy that I don’t like. I despise role playing. I didn’t play dress-up as a child. l loathed mock teaching to my classmates when I was in school. And I always resist Jesus trying to pull me into his little “teachable moments” called parables…well, most of the time.
It was different when I read this parable this time. Without hesitation, I walked right onto the set, ready to explore which role I would play.
Let’s start with the host…He planned a feast for all of his like-minded friends. Since he had prepared the requisite amount of food for those that had responded positively to his RSVP, he knew who to expect. But, when he sent his servant out to tell these folks that the meal was ready to be served, they all suddenly had excuses as to why they couldn’t attend the banquet. What was the host feeling as he heard this news? Betrayal? Disappointment? Frustration? I have felt disappointed and betrayed at one time or another by someone that I called a friend, but at this point in my life, I have learned how to manage my feelings around such occurrences. I can accept that human beings are always going to have the capacity to disappoint. That’s the nature of the beast. I’ve learned a lot about being let down by others already. So, I didn’t feel myself in the role of the host.
Maybe I was to play one of the guests who chose not to show up, one who is the source of disappointment. This may be the part for which I am most qualified. I have a lot of experience disappointing others, but not because I don’t show up to the party; rather, because I do show up and do something gauche like use my dessert fork for my salad. I am loyal to a fault, so not showing up at the last minute would not even cross my mind. Whew! I guess I will not be starring as an ungracious guest!
That leaves as the only characters in the story those who are poor, crippled, blind, or lame. OK. But, I’m not feeling the lesson for me in this. Yes, I am poor and crippled and lame and blind in some real and some metaphorical ways, but I honestly don’t feel unwelcome or unworthy to sit at the table. As much as I had thought and prayed about what Jesus was trying to teach me with this parable, its purpose in this moment still eluded me. I revisited it several days in my prayer time trying to figure out what the intended takeaway was for me.
It finally hit me.
There was a character in the story that I overlooked.
I am to be the servant. I am the one who does what I am instructed to do by Jesus, to be the one who goes out among all the people, those invited and those not, and lets them know that a feast has been prepared for them. I am to make sure that they know that they are all welcome at the table. I am to be a servant of Christ. I am to be a disciple.
And I don’t like role-playing, so there is no room for pretending here!
Who are you in this parable today?
O great teacher, I give you thanks for your patience, for finding the way to teach me what I most need to learn in this moment. Remind me to never close my mind to your wisdom. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare