a sermon on Luke 14:7-14
In 2005 a couple called off their wedding twelve days before the ceremony.
It was obviously a difficult situation, potentially embarrassing, and certainly disappointing.
Yet the bride’s parents had paid for the reception hall and all the food. Rather than let it go to waste, that family connected with a homeless shelter sponsored by the church where the ceremony was supposed to happen.
In the end, the bride and her parents decided to host a party for the employees, volunteers, and forty residents from the homeless shelter. People pitched in to help folks get their hair done and dress up. And for one evening, everybody could relax, dance, and feel normal.
In today’s gospel lesson Jesus says, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” It got me thinking about how that family turned a moment of disappointment and pain into one of grace.
Now this happened once, it’s not the sort of thing you do every day. It makes more sense to spend your days volunteering in the shelter, helping persons in need get healthcare, job training, and stable housing.
Because that party won’t help those folks escape homelessness, any more than Jesus’ driving out the moneychangers ended the sacrificial system once and for all.
That’s really not the point, though.
Jesus gives lots of advice for how to live your life day to day. But he also engaged in these dramatic, over the top events. I like to think of them Kingdom Moments. They are strategic acts of resistance to the powers and principalities of this world.
The outcome of these Kingdom Moments isn’t intended to change the world around us, it’s intended to change us. These unusual occurrences, like throwing a party for the homeless, remind us that the kingdom of God looks different from the world we live in.
You know how magpies collect shiny objects? I think that’s we’re supposed to do with these kingdom moments. When we hear a story or witness an occasion of grace in the midst of this world, we should take it home and treasure it. Because we may need that Kingdom Moment in the future when we start letting our lives be shaped by competition and vanity, we can draw them out and remind ourselves of God’s truth.
When we start to believe the lies, like the voices that tell us we earned our place in this world. God’s truth reminds us of the advantages most of us have had. God’s truth is that everyone deserves a good meal and a safe place to sleep.
When we start to think we’ll be happy if we can only have that house/car/trip/phone/fill in the blank. God’s truth shows us that in knowing God we can find deep satisfaction and actually come to appreciate the things we already have.
When we start to worry that we won’t have enough, so we close ourselves off from our neighbors. God’s truth reminds us, powerfully in the letter to the Hebrews, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I’m not sure we’re all gifted in carrying out these dramatic scenes. But I think that’s ok. Because remember, our job is to be transformed. These Kingdom moments remind us that the powers and principalities of this world are not ultimate and final. They remind us that we are not first and foremost Americans or Texans or Austinites, but citizens with the saints in heaven.
And finally, they show us that all we have is a gift from God. So I exhort you as I exhort myself ‘Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’