Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
When you throw a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends or your relatives or your rich neighbors, just in case they might invite you in return and you can be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Invite folks who will not pay you back and you will find yourself smack-dab in the middle of God’s blessing.
Jesus’ image of hospitality is a difficult one for many people to accept. Inviting folks- strangers- to a dinner party seems very odd. Intentionally seeking out people who will probably not be able to contribute anything to the meal or pay you back, seems self-defeating. Maybe we can come to terms with it if we accept it as mere charity. If we can think of this meal invitation as a one-and-done type of affair it becomes easier to accept. But Jesus doesn’t let us off of the hook so easily. For him, this meal is about relationship. Jesus tells this story about the dinner invitation to contrast the idea of someone throwing a dinner party so she or he can rub shoulders with some high falootin’ people. The person who throws the party is hoping something good comes out of this dinner. This isn’t charity, but this is an investment. Maybe if you invite certain people it will land you a high paying job or more popular friends or more invitations to the best social events. You throw this kind of dinner with these kinds of people because you do not want this to be the last time you see them. You want to be buddy-buddy with the big wigs.
Jesus flips the whole “common sense” idea on its head in just a couple of sentences. He teaches us that how God works and how God desires to see us work, is that we throw dinner parties for the folks who don’t usually get invited to the parties because they don’t have anything “valuable” to offer the host. God desires that dinner parties be thrown with the intention of getting into the inner circle and rubbing shoulders with those who are at the margins, who are lost, and who are forsaken. God particularly wants the poor and forgotten to be a part of God’s banquet.
Throw a dinner party for the folks who can’t pay you back. Be in relationship with them.
There is a refugee camp built on the grounds of an old psychiatric hospital at the base of Mount Olympus in Greece. This camp is home to 1,300 Yazidi women and men. The Yazidi are a religious minority from Iraq who were being targeted by ISIL, but some escaped the genocide and ended up at this refugee camp in Greece. Money is scarce in the camps, so a handful of enterprising individuals started their own business. One man, Ahmad, started his own shop selling mostly vegetables and cigarettes. The cigarettes are the most popular item and they sell at 2 euros and 50 cents per pack.
Twice per week Ahmad takes a bus into town to purchase the cigarettes he will resell at his shop. When you factor in his cost for bus fare, each pack costs him 2 euros and 35 cents. That means Ahmad only makes about 15 cents profit per pack of cigarettes he sells. That is almost nothing. Continue reading