The Parable of the Great Banquet
15 When one of those at the
table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat
at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
16 Jesus replied: “A certain
man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet
he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything
is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began
to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and
see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just
bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I
just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and
reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and
ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town
and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said,
‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his
servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so
that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
13 When Jesus heard what had
happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this,
the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a
large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the
disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already
getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves
16 Jesus replied, “They
do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five
loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to
me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the
five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke
the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave
them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up
twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate
was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Homily “ALL means
By calling ourselves
progressive, we mean that we are Christians who understand the sharing of bread
and wine in Jesus’ name to be a realization of the vision of God’s feast for
On the slip of paper –
Please list the 11 people you would invite to your last meal
Living or Dead – (and not in this room)
Eleven people who you would want to spend the last hours of
your life with at a meal.
Add the name of the person you would NEVER invite — you can just put initials if you fear
someone seeing your response.
Now, hold onto that paper and look at it again later –
As Disciples of Christ… our identity statement says:
We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for
wholeness in a fragmented world.
As part of the one body of Christ,
we welcome all to the Lord’s Table
as God has welcomed us.
Each week when I offer a communion meditation and invitation
– it is not I who is inviting, I am merely passing along the message that we
are ALL invited by God.
It is up to us to answer – we have a choice to accept or
But ALL are invited.
“The place where God calls you is the place
where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
The Orthodox Christian
Church, like Her Lord, is not an imaginary and invisible abstraction.
The tradition of any church
is concrete and visible, expressed throughout history by real people in a
tangible continuum of faith and practice (whether for 2,000 years or two
Like the Holy Trinity, the
Church is a community, a real communion expressed and embodied by a shared
faith and way of life.
The maintenance of real
communion necessitates borders and boundaries, both doctrinal and disciplinary.
If a church is to be
faithful to its own tradition, the door will be opened to some things and
closed to others.
But it is
how we understand CLOSED and OPEN –
of CLOSED communion –
believed by that tradition to ACTUALLY be OPEN to ALL –
but the ALL actually means
those who formally embrace the traditions beliefs and unite themselves to it.
OPEN to those who conform…
CLOSED to those who do not…
A door that is always open
is not a door any more.
Certainly true of the
Some idea that limiting
entrance enhances the significance –
A pastor once shared this story…
He told of going to his
mother’s hair dresser for a hair cut.
After talking to her he thought she had some interest in
knowing more about God.
He told his mother
that he thought she wanted
to know about God.
“No way! She is on her fifth husband and is living in sin.”
John said: “Mom the next time you get your hair
done at the beauty
salon ask her if she is
interested in spiritual
The next time she went to have her hair done she prayed
in her heart as she was taking
a seat in the beauty shop
“God you know I
don’t want to talk to her about her faith because she’s not the kind of person
I want to associate with. If you
want me to talk to her then have her ask me first.”
The first thing the beauty operator said when she approached
“I understand you and your husband have a Bible study. Do you mind if I come sometime?”
She said that her mother was Jewish and her father a Roman
Her mother made her go to the synagogue on Saturday and when she
came home her dad made her take the rosary and make confession of her sin.
She grew up confused and turned to alcohol for comfort and she
could drink with the best of them.
To get help she went to AA meetings but could not think of her
“higher power” as God so she called her “higher power” Ralph.
At one of the AA meetings a guy came in half drunk. He stood up
and said; “My name is Ralph and I’m an alcoholic.”
The hair dresser said at that point in her life she wanted to
know the true God.
She and her husband started attending the bible study of John’s
The Pharisees could not
understand why the common people, outcasts of society followed Jesus who
claimed to be a Rabbi and Teacher. The kind of people Jesus ate with and
fellowshipped with would not be tolerated in their homes.
Jesus did not go along
with the Jewish customs of His day.
He invited all to His
Table. There is room for all at God’s Table.
When feeding the 5000,
Jesus did hot single out who could or could not share in the meal.
This was in direct
contrast to the Pharisees who believed that only certain people are welcome
at God’s Table.
That is how most traditions viewed communion until recently –
Only children of members of a tradition would be baptized –
Only those who were members could partake in the meal –
Everyone was welcome… as long as they had joined the family…
In my childhood tradition, we celebrated Communion only 4 times
Prior to serving – the minister made it clear that this table
was for members of our church ONLY… baptized into the faith, and members of our
Last fall the Chaplain Residents were participating in a
Celebration Mass, and before the Eucharist, each was told NOT to participate in
the bread and wine unless they were Catholic.
Not only were they not invited… they were individually excluded…
Does this fulfill our understanding of God’s mission for t he
Tony Campolo Throws a Party for a Prostitute
In his book The Kingdom of God Is a Party, Tony Campolo
relates an experience he had late one night in Hawaii.
side street I found a little place that was still open. I went in, took
a seat on one of the stools at the counter, and waited to be served.
This was one of those sleazy places that deserves the name, “greasy
spoon.” I did not even touch the menu. I was afraid that if I opened
the thing something gruesome would crawl out. But it was the only place I could
guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?”
I said I
wanted a cup of coffee and a donut.
poured a cup of coffee, wiped his grimy hand on his smudged apron, and then he
grabbed a donut off the shelf behind him. I’m a realist. I know that in the
back room of that restaurant, donuts are probably dropped on the floor and
kicked around. But when everything is out front where I could see it, I really
would have appreciated it if he had used a pair of tongs and placed the donut
on some wax paper.
sat there munching on my donut and sipping my coffee at 3:30 in the
morning, the door of the diner suddenly swung open and, to my discomfort, in marched
eight or nine provocative and boisterous prostitutes.
a small place, and they sat on either side of me.
Their talk was loud and crude. I felt completely out of
place and was just about to make my getaway when I overheard the woman beside
me say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39.”
“friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from
me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing
on,” said the woman sitting next to me. “Why do you have to be so
mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was
just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean,
why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my
whole life. Why should I have one now?”
heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I
called over the fat guy behind the counter, and I asked him, “Do they come
in here every night?”
“Yeah!” he answered.
one right next to me, does she come here every night?”
“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why d’ya wanta know?”
I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday,” I told him. “What do
you say you and I do something about that? What do you think about us throwing a birthday party for her—right here— tomorrow night?”
smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks, and he answered with measured delight,
“That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!”
to his wife, who did the cooking in the back room, he shouted, “Hey! Come out here!
This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday.
guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right
wife came out of the back room all bright and smiley. She said, “That’s
wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is really nice and kind,
and nobody does anything nice and kind for her.”
I told them, “if it’s okay with you, I’ll get back here tomorrow morning
about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll even get a birthday cake!”
way,” said Harry (that was his name). “The birthday cake’s my thing.
I’ll make the cake.”
At 2:30 the next morning, I was back at the diner. I had picked up some crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!”
I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that
diner looking good.
woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because
by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place.
on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend.
everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they
came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”
have I seen a person so flabbergasted
so shaken. Her mouth fell
open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady
As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter, we
all sang “Happy Birthday”‘ to her.
As we came to the end of our singing with “happy birthday,
dear Agnes, happy birthday to you,” her eyes moistened. Then, when the
birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just
gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the
candles! If you don’t blow out the candles, I’m gonna hafta blow out the
And, after an endless few
seconds, he did.
Then he handed her a knife and told her,
“Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes, we all want some cake.”
down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly
“Look, Harry, is it all right with you if
I mean is it okay if I
want to ask you is
is it O.K. if I keep the cake a little while?
I mean, is it all right if we don’t eat it right away?”
shrugged and answered,
It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake.
home, if you want to.”
I?” she asked. Then, looking at me, she said, “I live just down the
street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, okay? I’ll be right back. Honest!”
off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail,
walked slowly toward the door.
all just stood there motionless, she left.
the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what
else to do, I broke the silence by saying,
do you say we pray?”
back on it now, it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a
prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in
then it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for
her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be
good to her.
finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his
voice, he said,
“Hey! You never told me you were a
preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?”
of those moments when just the right words came, I answered,
“I belong to a church that throws
birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.”
waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t.
There’s no church like that.
there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”
we all? Wouldn’t we all like to join a church that throws birthday parties for
whores at 3:30 in the morning?
that’s the kind of church that Jesus came to create!
Jesus changed the game –
He did not fall in line –
and follow the status quo —
He came to remind us of
God’s vision for the world… unity – love — equality — harmony — peace —
At his table – he had 12
disciples to share the meal….. but none of them qualified to be called
1 betrayed him
1 denied him three times
The rest ran away and
But he invited them to dine
with him any way. They were welcome in spite of how much or how little faith
They didn’t meet the
standards – but were welcome anyway…
We can’t claim to be worthy
to sit at this table… but we are invited and welcome.
Scholars like Borg and
Crossan consider the stories of Jesus’ open tables to be the most powerful and
influential examples of God’s love for ALL people.
Jesus dined with Zacchaeus
– a tax collector
He dined with Levi –
another tax collector and invited him to
come and follow him.
Jesus dined with Simon – of
elite social status, when a woman of lowly status crashed the dinner and
anointed his feet. He welcomed her, when his host wanted her removed.
Feeding the 5000 was not
his responsibility – these were people from ALL backgrounds – women and
childrens who had no status
His tables had no seat of
honor…no hierarchy – and no limit. All were invited and all were welcome.
not just celebrating the last meal when we come to the table – we are
celebrating ALL the meals…
because Jesus as Borg says,
“One of Jesus’ most characteristic activities was an OPEN and INCLUSIVE table.”
John Dominic Crossan writes
that Jesus’ open table fellowship is a core teaching component and symbol of
It is a view of absolute
equality of people that denies the validity of any discrimination between them.
When we come to the table,
we are living out an expression of God’s love –
In sharing the bread and
cup unconditionally – as God’s love is shared unconditionally –
And for ALL —