Luke 14: 1, 7-14
Intro: play Cool and the Gang song, Celebration
So this is fiesta week, and Chester has been in fiesta mode. Gracias a Rosalie Martinez who’s on the fiesta planning committee, Trasie and I scored some VIP tickets to some big time events—Fiestacita and Zozobra. Fiestacita-- the prelude to fiesta at museo cultural--was cool, We got to rub shoulders with many important people—the mayor and other politicians, the reigning reina de fiesta, the queen of fiesta.
And Zozobra began with a pre-party at a house within walking distance of Ft. Marcy. It was a different crowd from those at Fiestacita, a little more eclectic and hippie, including the self described sobrero man. And from that house we marched to Zozobra to join the bigger event.
20,000 people, including Milee, Scarlette Rose and Cheyanne, Gerald, Harold and the Garcia kids, and I’m sure many others of you. What a site, including young kids precious faces displaying confusion, fear, and excitement as the marionette went up in flames…ahhh. Viva la fiesta OOUUHHH.
And the fiestas didn’t stop there. Last night a few of us gathered for a going away party for Marissa Ytuarte at Sander and Christel’s house. Today is the parade, it just keeps going and going! And lest anyone question why this preacher is hanging out so much all over town at fiestas…I’m simply following the example of Jesus right? (How pious).
Contrary to what many may think, Jesus hung out all the time. He would even turn water into wine on occasion. In the book of Luke Jesus is always at a party—dinner parties, picnics where he provided all the food; he eats with tax collectors and sinners, he eats with the more respectable people in town, like in this morning’s story. But, you probably noticed that Jesus wasn’t on his best behavior at this party; he got a little cranky. I don’t think his mother would have approved of his manners.
The scenario is easy enough to envision. First Century Palestine, on a Sabbath afternoon—
the synagogue meeting has just let out, and people are hungry after that long sermon. As was customary, the Religious leader was having folks over to his house for a meal—perhaps not as big a deal as fiestacita, and not even close to a zozobra gathering, but probably more significant than just a few folks eating at the Village Inn after church. A select few were invited, mostly friends, family, and a few of the more well to do members--insiders, people who were well acquainted with one another.
And there’s Jesus, he’d received an invitation, and he’s not one to turn down this kind of opportunity.
So I wonder if Jesus had already had a few appetizers? He’d probably had a few drinks cause he gets a little disruptive--he turns to the host, the religious leader, and goes off. He didn’t say, “thanks for having me over here, this is a great time;” No, he says, “you invited all the wrong people to this party. These people are easy to get along with, you think they’ll make you look good, and you hope their going to return the favor and have you over to their place. I know what you’re up to. They’ll scratch your back if you scratch theirs.
But you know what, you know who you should have invited? You should have invited the outcasts, the marginalized, the people that maybe aren’t quite so accepted in town. You should have invited the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.
What is Jesus trying to do? I bet his disciples were like: here we go again, we’re going to get thrown out of the party. Thanks Jesus. What vision is Jesus trying to promote? Generosity? Mercy? Inclusion of people who are usually excluded? He’s not polite, but certainly direct—and whether or not the religious leader took Jesus’ words to heart or thought to himself, “how rude”—Jesus is attempting to turn this religious leader’s world upside down and inside out.
I guess Jesus wasn’t really about the whole “friends with benefits” concept. About trying to look better by hanging out with the “respectable” people in town. Instead compensation was to take place in some kind of future setting. Instead, there’s a sharp focus on bringing about God’s reign—an eschatological banquet in which the radical concept of “neighbor” becomes common practice, where distinctions of class, race, ideology, and any other factor that would lead to oppression, discrimination, and marginalization of anyone of God’s children is transformed into a world where there is room at the table for everyone… everything is ready, all are invited as integral parts of the gathering, including the blind, the crippled, lepers, deaf, poor, the illegal immigrants, the homeless, the rebellious youth, the isolated seniors; including those whom we may fear most.
So when you hear stories like this, who do you identify with? Probably most of the time we like to think we’re going to identify and be like Jesus—WWJD. Have any of you done something similar to what Jesus did at this party? Could you have seen me at Fiestacita standing up on a table and shouting, “Hey, these aren’t the people you should have invited, Walk down to St. Elizabeth’s and give out invitations there!” Rosalie would have killed me.
But really where I find myself most often is either as a guest at parties or a host: a guest who maybe is easy to hang out with most of the time, respectable and well behaved cause my momma brought me up to be that way, and I may even return the favor. And when I host a get together, it’s usually with a crowd similar to the one the religious leader had over, friends, family, maybe a few very well to do. Yes, I am a religious leader, and yes I find myself terribly reluctant to really seek out those who are oppressed and marginalized and truly attempt to incorporate them into my world; by inviting them over to dinner or otherwise. To be honest this is an awkward position Jesus puts us would be followers in.
But, the thing I find fascinating about this story is that it was a story intended for early Christian communities to hear, and then become a model for what the early Christian community would look like. They lived in a world where the important people who were supposed to be invited to the gatherings—the healthy, the perfect people, the rich, the powerful and the clean—but this common practice was to be inverted in the early church. Instead, those who should be invited are those who are those living with AIDS, those who are looked down upon, the poor, the weak.
And this story is not about helping people out.
It’s not done with a downlooking attitude of the healthy reaching out to the sick,
the normal people to those who are different, those who have toward those who don’t have much; the strong toward the weak; the happy people toward those who suffering. This passage is about integration! Integration of people who need each other not only to live out this commandment of Jesus about who should be invited to the party, but also so that we can be made whole. We have all heard and it makes sense to agree that none of us can be well until all of us are well. As long as any suffer and are rejected, we all experience brokenness. 1
And the key to being part of this vision Jesus has is that we live as community of integrated individuals, regardless of how society my define us as individual; a community where we pray for one another; bear one another’s burdens; share our joy and laughter with each other; celebrate good times together.
But, how do we do it? How do we invite the outcasts and marginalized to the party. Where do we even begin? Some of the more marginalized people in Santa Fe come by my office almost every day. I can had out a few bucks or a gas card, or say a few kind words, but often I think to myself how much easier, how much more feasible it would be to really give care to this person if they were an integrated part of this community of faith. I have seen first hand how this community responds to those in need who are part of the community with wonderful concern and sincere care that paves the way to healing and wholeness. What a blessing it could be if we could begin to integrate some of those folks who come to the door. But, how do we do it?
I think Jesus is right, I think it starts with a party together. At a party, there is time to hang out and take the time to get to know each other. At a meal you sit down at a table that levels the playing field, and you share common food, you share life stories, you see one another eye to eye.
So I mentioned to you that yesterday, Sander and Christel hosted a going away party for Marissa, and Gabe and James were invited. But none of the youth showed up; which is okay. Just cause you plan it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen. So Rachel, Christel, Sander, Trasie and me were sitting around with tons of food prepared; and this scripture was fresh in my mind, I said hey let’s go out and invite whoever we see on the street to come over.
But, we decided, “ahh, oh well, we’ll just eat what we’ve got and have leftovers for later.” Cool idea, but putting it into practice takes a little more get up and go.
But, I’ve thought of a time when I can actually try to carry this out. I’m going to reflect a little more over this scripture, and try to identify who here in Santa Fe might fit the description of the people Jesus says should be invited to the party, who are the people at the margins? And then I’m going to seek out a few of the people I’ve thought of and invite them to an upcoming party we’re having here at the church.
The Spanish supper on the 22nd of this month is going to be awesome. Mouthwatering fantastic fellowship. I was thinking about it, the Spanish supper is a fundraiser for the deacons, so the deacons can have some dinero that they can then turn around and give to those who are in need—those who are probably some of today’s marginalized and fringe people. So, here’s my chance. I’m going to buy a couple of extra tickets and invite some of those marginalized folks, and bring them to the party and see what happens. Maybe some of you will want to do the same. It might be awkward to have a bunch of “strangers” at the supper,
but if nothing else, we can sit around a table, share delicious food, talk about life, begin a relationship; and experience integration of togetherness.
We can catch a vision of the kingdom of God, and the glorious banquet feast.
The meal is prepared and ready, invitations are sent out, to everyone—to those who are poor, crippled, blind, and lame.' To those who are lost, confused—invitations are sent even to us to everyone because there is plenty of room at the table. Come in and sit and be part of the feast that the Lord has prepared. There’s party going on right here, a celebration to last throughout the year. Everyone around the world come on.
1 René Krüger, “La inclusión de las personas excluidas La propuesta contracultural de Lucas 14:12-14,: Cuadernos de Theologia, Vol. XXIII, 2005, p 67-88.