This coming weekend, on Saturday, we will once again be hosting a worship service and providing a meal at the Urban Mission in Steubenville. This is a yearly tradition for us at Zion, and a wonderful opportunity for us to live out our faith in service to others.
It's striking how many times in the Bible, gathering together to eat dinner or a feast is used as a symbol for the beloved community and sometimes heaven itself. One of my favorites is the parable Jesus tells in Luke 14:15-24.
In the parable, a banquet table is set for those who are influential and have status in the community. The table is set and the invitations are sent to those with whom the host wanted to share. One by one they send their regrets stating a number of reasons why they are unable to join the guest list. “I’m just married” says one. “I have just bought a new house”, responds another.
The table has been set, but no one shows up. Ultimately, the invitation is sent out to the “whosevers”, the “outsiders” – those who often get forgotten, forced-out and excluded from the tables of power and plenty.
In our world today many feel forgotten, forced-out or excluded from the tables of power and plenty. Either “they” don’t fit, or their viewpoints are not welcomed. Race, gender, gender-identity, status, class, physical ability, and sexual orientation are often used to exclude and leave such folks off the invitation list.
In the parable, Jesus help us understand that the table of invitation is set for all. The story speaks to the values of Jesus and to the value of Zion United Church of Christ when we proclaim our extravagant welcome of all people.
It is a welcome that must be lived out today perhaps more than ever in a world where we witness the results of close-mindedness, discrimination and exclusion. The lesson that Jesus teaches the early followers was one that moved them beyond their understanding of “who is in.”
The invitation for us today is to continue to move beyond our own individual prejudices and understandings of “who is in and who is out” and allow the Holy Spirit to speak as we put into practice the radical welcome of the United Church of Christ here at Zion, and in our communities.
With the Greatest of Hope!