Last Friday I joined four other guys from church and headed over to Stockton, MN to help muck out houses. We worked alongside of home owners, their families, and a Mennonite group from Wisconsin ripping out soaked drywall, filling buckets and wheelbarrows with mud and sewage, pulling out ruined carpet, insulation, and furniture. There still much work to be done.
Please keep our neighbors dealing with the ravages of these floods in prayer. If you want to help call ahead and make sure that somebody there knows your coming.
There's a rich unfolding of Jesus' plan for the kingdom of God in Luke 14:1-14. The unfolding work of God comes as Jesus gathers with others in the Pharisee's house to eat on the Sabbath.
He sees the guests come and he sees that someone else has come besides the desired guests. In Luke 14:2 the someone else in the story is a man with ὑδρωπικὸς translated by the NIV and NRSV as dropsy. The man lived with edema, with painful swelling in his body because his lymph system didn't work right. Luke says that Jesus looked at his host and the honorable guests asking them if it is right to θεραπευ̂σαι literally to offer therapy, to cure or treat this man on the Sabbath.
The host and guests gave no answer. Jesus healed the man sending him on his way.
The lectionary has left the story of the hurting man out of the reading for Sunday. Instead we focus in on Jesus' observations of the people and his vision for hospitality; but in this context we can see even better how important care for the hurting is in Jesus vision.
Jesus' parable about the wedding guests who took the higher seat, when it was not theirs to take, was bold. He spoke directly to the people in the room and called for humility. His vision of the kingdom was coming clear. The one who assumes the place of highest honor will be brought down so that the humble will be lifted up. He wasn't ambiguous or vague.
Leaving no room to doubt, Jesus gave the particulars of his vision away as he spoke to everyone there about who to invite to a banquet.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)
As Jesus moved towards Jerusalem he got bolder. He challenged a legalistic religion with a spirit of mercy. He challenged his hosts to invite those who couldn't pay him back. The same challenge exists for us. He challenges us to look around not for ways to gain advantage; but for ways to help others who are disadvantaged. The reading ends; but Luke's story leads to another parable about a great banquet.
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luke 14:15 (NIV).Jesus next parable of the great banquet invites us to see the generosity of God that is ready and poured out. The invitation to the banquet was rejected by the first guests on the list. They refused their invitations and in the parable the host sends out his servants looking not for the ones who rejected his generosity but for everyone, hurting or not, who hadn't been invited at all.
Jesus is calling for hospitality. We aren't called just to run to the poor with food; we're to welcome them in and receive them as guests; Jesus' vision is of a world turned upside down and where those who never expected the place of honor are given the highest honor.