Reading: Luke 14.15-24
One of the dinner guests said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’
Today’s reading presents us with the notion of another meal in the context of another parable. Yesterday Jesus challenged us to reflect upon how we approach the role of host, today he is asking us to consider how we approach the role of guest.
Many years ago (or so it seems now) invitations were sent and received, usually in the post. The recipients of those invitations, in those seemingly distant times, would feel duty-bound to respond without delay. Those who had been invited would understand the inconvenience and uncertainty created by a delayed response. Those who had been invited knew that their early response would help their future host to plan and to entertain without unnecessary tension, uncertainty and possible embarrassment.
Today, things are different. Today, invitations come with a ‘best before’ date. It is now the norm for invitations to say: RSVP by … What does that ‘expiry date’ say, I wonder? Is it saying: I would like you to come to my party but, if you don’t reply in time, there is someone else I can ask? Is it saying: Come if you want, but you can only come if you are prepared to play by my rules? Is it saying: I don’t trust you to be polite enough to respond to my invitation in sufficient time for me to show off my skills as a host?
All of this modern way with invitations does not apply to God’s invitation to us, of course. The person laying on the ‘great dinner’ in Jesus’ parable represents God. We know that a great banquet awaits us in heaven, if we choose to make the effort to accept God’s invitation. In Jesus’ parable so many made excuses for not accepting that invitation. The invitees had busy lives. They had business to conduct, work to complete, people to visit and fawn over. Basically, those invited by God could not be bothered to RSVP in a timely and responsible way. Jesus wonders if we are the same as those invitees?
When Jesus came to earth he brought God’s invitation, in the first instance, to his Chose People, the Jews. Many treated that invitation with contempt, but … they were not to be the only ones invited to God’s heavenly banquet. The invitation is for all of us.
So, are we ready to spend the days to come preparing to take our seats in God’s nearer presence? Or, can’t we be bothered to set aside our worldly preoccupations and show how honoured we feel to be on his guest list?