All Means ALL

Luke 14:15-24  (NIV)

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 my banquet.’”

Matthew 14:13-21  (NIV)

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 some food.”

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.

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Homily     “ALL means ALL”

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 all peoples.

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.

Then

Add the name of the person you would NEVER invite  — you can just put initials if you fear someone seeing your response.

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Now, hold onto that paper and look at it again later –

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As Disciples of Christ… our identity statement says:

DOC IDENTITY

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 decline —

But ALL are invited.

Frederick Buechner

 “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

CLOSED COMMUNION

conclusion

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 years).

Like the Holy Trinity, the Church is a community, a real communion expressed and embodied by a shared faith and way of life.

ORTHODOX

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 –

practice of CLOSED communion –

is 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 Orthodox Church.

Some idea that limiting entrance enhances the significance –

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Illustration:

A pastor once shared this story…

He said:

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.   

                 His mother responded:                         

“No way! She is on her fifth   husband and is living in sin.”              

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John said: “Mom the next                      time you get your hair done                    at the beauty salon ask her                   if she is interested in                     spiritual things?

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 chair.  

        “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 was,

“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 Catholic.

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 parents.

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ILLUSTRATIONS

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 a year…

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 particular church.

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 world…

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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.

Up a 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 find.

The fat guy behind the counter came over and asked me, “What d’ya want?”

I said I wanted a cup of coffee and a donut.

He 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.

As I 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.

It was 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.”

Her “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 ‘Happy Birthday’?”

“Come 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?”

When I 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.

“The 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?”

“Because 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?”

A cute smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks, and he answered with measured delight, “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great idea!”

Calling 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.

This guy wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her—right here—tomorrow night!”

His 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.”

“Look,” 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!”

“No 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.

The 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.

It was wall-to-wall prostitutes…and me!

At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open, and in came Agnes and her friend.

I had everybody ready (after all, I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, “Happy birthday!”

Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted…so stunned…so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her.

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 openly cried.

Harry 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 candles.”

 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.”

Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said,

 “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if I…I mean is it okay if I kind of…

what 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?”

Harry shrugged and answered,

“Sure! It’s O.K. If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake.

Take it home, if you want to.”

“Can 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!”

She got off the stool, picked up the cake, and carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door.

As we all just stood there motionless, she left.

When the door closed, there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying,

“What do you say we pray?”

Looking 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 the morning.

But 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.

When I 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?”

In one 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.”

Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that.

If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all like to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning?

Well, 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 faithful…

1 betrayed him

1 denied him three times

The rest ran away and abandoned him

But he invited them to dine with him any way. They were welcome in spite of how much or how little faith they had.

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.

WE are 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 his life.

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  —