In Luke 14 we find Jesus at the home of a prominent Pharisee. It was the Sabbath and one of the people in the house had an illness. Jesus healed the man in front of them all.
After that Jesus taught on not taking the seat of honor because someone greater may come in and you will have to give up your seat, bringing shame on yourself in their day and time.
Then Jesus gave instruction on who to invite to your house for dinner – not those who can repay you but those who cannot: ”
the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”
Last, Jesus gave a teaching about a man who had a great banquet prepared but none of his initial guests could make it. They all had excuses. So instead he decided to have his servants go out and find people with these instructions,
“Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” (Lk 14:23).
All of this from a man who was born into the world as a king but only had shepherds show up for his birth.
When you think of shepherds, don’t think of Willow Tree figurines. Think of outcasts. Think of the unclean. The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 25b) put shepherds on the naughty list.
Jesus was accustomed to inviting the right people and his right people won’t always be our right people but we need to work harder and harder to align our list with his.
God wants everyone at his table. God wants everyone in his kingdom (2 Peter 3:9). People have all kinds of conceptions of God – many of an unloving God who allows so much evil and hurt in the world. Or a God who is so holy that there is no possible way they can belong with Him. The truth of the matter is this – God wants you. You have a place where, no matter what you have done, God still wants you…God still loves you. You belong.
God doesn’t allow us to do whatever we want. There are house rules. But God wants all of his kids to come home regardless of what they have done and God is willing to sort through some messy stuff to make this happen. Think *Jesus on the cross* kind of messy.
We can picture God as a king high up on his throne. That is valid. We can also think of God as the loving father waiting to see his son walk back home. The problem is that we, like that son in Luke, aren’t really sure God will have us back but I can assure you that no matter what you have done – you still belong with your Abba!
If you still belong with your Abba, it means you also still belong in church. We churchy people have a hard time with that. We don’t like being uncomfortable on Sunday. Maybe if we got more uncomfortable the other days of the week by engaging with those we have the hardest time accepting, we might find it easier to do on Sunday.
We can’t both say God loves all and wants all to be with him but we don’t want the same thing in the church. We have to conform to Him and that means our guest list will be far more inclusive than we could have imagined.