Its great to get an invitation to a party. But I always wonder who else will be there. Who will have been invited? You don’t always like to mention it to others in case they haven’t been!
Sometimes you can reel off quite predictably who will be there, and sometime there are some surprises – people who you wonder why they are there. How do they know the host? What have they done to be in that circle. And you know that at most parties there are some people there because they had to be invited – it’s the “right” thing to do.
The account of the meal that Jesus was invited to, gives us God’s insight on who is the in – or out – crowd – and it’s quite surprising. Jesus and the Pharisees are still caught up in the argument about what can or can’t be done on the Sabbath, and Jesus moves it on to humility and hospitality.
There are two lessons: don’t think of yourself as better than you are; and think about who you invite to your house – do it for the right reasons.
As Proverbs puts it, “When you stand before the king, don’t try to impress him.” When we stand before God, he doesn’t see our outward show, but our inner hearts. The way to please God, is not to put on our best clothes, or be seen with the right people – but to do the right thing.
Hebrews reminds us that this means being concerned for each other, welcoming strangers, not forgetting those who are suffering.
Jesus command is to bring to your hospitality, not those who will invite you back, but those who can’t. The poor, the crippled the lame. Those who have no resources. Those who would be invited by no one else.
That is what God asks of us. For in inviting them, we are inviting God in. Remember, when Abram offered hospitality to strangers, they turned out to be messengers from God. When we welcome people in God’s name, we are entertaining angels. We are not asked to prefer one over another, but to look for, and rejoice in the good in others.
We need to see the possibilities – not welcoming people because of what they can give – but welcoming them because they are. Welcoming, accepting, allowing them, not just to the edges, but into all that God has given us and more.
All are welcome by God. Not just those that think they have a right to be there, but those who need encouragement, who need a special invitation from us. Those who the world might look down on, but in God’s eyes are special and more than welcome.
Whether we understand God’s love for us, or feel unworthy, poor and lame before him, he wants us with him. None of us is worthy to be in God’s presence, we are all people who have got things wrong – but he welcomes us all, graciously including us as his guests.
There is a balance of self-esteem and self-worth. Not pushing ourselves to the front, but realising that we have value. God wants to honour us. Today he invites us to feast with him. And he asks us to invite others to feast with him too.