Then [Jesus] turned to his host. "When you put on a luncheon or a banquet," he said, "don't invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you."
Luke 14: 12-14
(New Living Translation)
Ah, Fall. Changing leaves and cooler days and lots of football. I love football, especially college games. Football season can only mean one thing - eating with friends. Get-togethers and tailgating parties are top on my list of fun things to do. I remember that in my old neighborhood, many years ago, we would have block parties. We would all bring something to eat, go outside on the street and set up a feast that would feed everyone on the block. And what delicious food. Potlucks are the best because you get to try new dishes and broaden your own repertoire of food by getting new recipes.
We tend to stick to our own friends and neighbors when we get together for parties. I'm sure the folks in Jesus' day did the same thing. After all, times haven't changed that much. It is still dangerous to invite people you don't know into your home. So what must Jesus have been thinking when he said, "Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind?"
Then, as now, some people would have parties and only invite influential people, those who have something that they need - influence, power, money, position. As I said, things haven't changed that much since Jesus' day. Then, religious leaders had a tendency to invite to dinners only those people who could give them money or influence. You've heard the old saying, "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
But Jesus said that we are to invite others especially if they can't do something for us, because it is only then that we are being truly generous from the heart.
This Sunday evening at 6 p.m., we will be observing a unique kind of service at Covington First UMC: The Communion of the Empty Hands, a service of Holy Communion where we remember and pray for those who are persecuted or in prison for their faith, and those who are homeless and hungry. We will remember those who don't have, rather than those who do.
God has generously invited all to the table - all who don't deserve to be invited, which includes you and me. Who will you invite to the feast?
Jan McCoy is associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Covington. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.