He (Jesus) said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14 (NRSV)
During my thirty-eight years of ministry I have attended hundreds of wedding banquets. The simplest was a small gather in a backyard with grilled hamburgers and watermelon. The fanciest, without a doubt, was my son’s wedding reception at a country club in Denver. The usual invites to a wedding banquet are friends, relatives and neighbors. Those are the people we would like to share happy occasions with. But Jesus in the above parable suggests that maybe we should invite a totally different group of people to our banquet. I am aware of a few churches that take Jesus advice seriously but most simply brush it off as being unreasonable. I believe, in this parable, Jesus is giving us a view of heaven. He ends the parable by reminded people of the resurrection of the righteous. I must admit that my view of heaven has traditionally been more like my son’s wedding banquet; a fancy setting with horsdoeuvres served by waiters and a delicious three course meal. But Jesus suggests that I might be in for a surprise. That heaven might be more like “The Banquet” in Sioux Falls. I have served at The Banquet many times. The poor, people in wheelchairs and those with white canes show up for a meal. I have enjoyed pouring coffee and interacting with the guest. But to think that these are the ones Jesus will invite to his great banquet is hard to get my mind around. I would rather be surrounded by my family and friends. Of course heaven will not be an either or but rather both and. Both our family and friends as well as the poor and needy will be at the great banquet. In this parable Jesus is calling on us as a church to make God’s kingdom here on earth more inclusive. Every time we celebrate Holy Communion we get a glimpse of the heavenly banquet. Jesus wants us to invite to the Lord’s Table not just our neighbors, relatives and friends but also the poor and needy. Holy Communion should be more of a reflection of what heaven really will be like.