Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13:1-8;15-16; Luke 14:1,7-14
Many of you know that every Thanksgiving the good people of St. Anthony’s Parish in Renton host a meal for the community. You don’t have to make reservations. Just show up.
Some community meals at Thanksgiving are specifically for homeless people. It’s a good thing. But the Thanksgiving meal at St. Anthony’s really is for everyone. There is no special seating. Old or young, rich or poor—all are welcome. As the writer of Hebrews teaches in today’s second reading, Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Thanksgiving at St. Anthony’s is a taste of the kingdom of God.
It’s also a taste of what Jesus speaks of in today’s reading from Luke.
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.
Jesus said these words to his host, of all things. Think about that! He’d been invited to the house of a Pharisee, someone who had money, prestige & power. The word “Pharisee” comes from a word that means “to separate.” And that’s what Pharisees did. They believed that obeying the rules made them pure in God’s sight. In order to remain pure, they separated themselves from people who might contaminate them: people who were sick, poor, morally suspect, non-Jewish—because such people, they believed, were under God’s judgment.
But here’s Jesus, a guest in this man’s house, dictating who should be on the invitation list–and it’s all the “wrong” people!
Where do you think we are in the story? One message to 21st century Christians is clear: Jesus asks us, Are there ways in which we might be separating ourselves from people? And because Lutherans believe not in our own goodness but in the love & forgiveness of God, we are free to say, Yes, of course we do that! We judge others, we ignore, we exclude, we discriminate. We confess all that–and we want to do less of that! Lord, show us how!
Martin Luther’s definition of evangelism was this: one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. His dying words were, We are beggars, that’s for sure. The point is, he saw himself—and all humanity— as beggars, dependent not on our goodness or hard work but on God’s amazing grace. The Pharisees would’ve found that too hard to swallow. How about you? We don’t like to think of ourselves as “beggars,” either!
But we gather Sunday after Sunday to remember this simple fact: We remember that we are invited, not because we’re on someone’s guest list or because we’ve earned the right to be at the banquet. We are welcomed into God’s house & God’s table & God’s kingdom by God’s grace…alone.
Which means: we practice the example of Jesus himself & extend that invitation to fellow “beggars,” as our second lesson reads: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels unaware. We do this on Sunday morning.
We practice the example of Jesus himself by extending the invitation to those beyond these walls who don’t know God’s grace & are still trying to earn their invitation, or believe they can’t earn it & have given up. We remember especially those whom society has ignored or despised.
We practice the example of Jesus by inviting those in our society without power or prestige. He named the poor, the sick, the lame, the blind. We welcome the people of Alcoholics Anonymous to use our space, Spanish-speaking people to use our worship space, homeless men to use our fellowship hall. And we practice the example of Jesus by looking for other opportunities that God sets before us.
Unlike some of our sister churches, we don’t have a Thanksgiving meal for the community in November. On the other hand, we offer something just as good: a Thanksgiving meal every week in our practice of communion. We come to the table, regardless of who we are: whether we feel close to God or not, whether rich or poor, old or young, gay or straight, strong or weak, male or female—whatever color, whatever belief. The banquet Host has issued the invitation. And all are welcome. Thanks be to God!