Jesus told parables, like the one in Luke 14:1,7-14, to help people understand what he saw happening as the kingdom of God arrived. The parable isn't just about how we eat at fancy meals or even who we eat with. This parable is really about how God regards all of us and how God in turn wants us to honor the people around us.
Unfortunately the lectionary leaves out part of the story. Luke starts out telling us that Jesus was going to a meal on the sabbath. The missing part is that Jesus came in and met a man with dropsy, probably today we'd call it edema. Jesus asked the pharisees if it was legal for him to heal on the sabbath. The pharisees were silent. And Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way. Jesus wouldn't accept their silence. So he asked pointedly,
“If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this. Luke 14:5-6 NRSVI think that Jesus invitation to dinner was a set up. The meal was to be held in the home of a leader of the pharisees. They wanted to watch him closely waiting for him trip over one law so that they could discredit him.
The house was filling and Jesus watched as everyone took their places for the banquet. Then started to tell a story about honor and place. Honor and recognition matter to you and to me and it surely mattered to the pharissees. But humility and hospitality matter to God.
Jesus came in flesh and blood to fulfill the law and the prophets. He came bringing the glory of God with him. He came not to serve people or to be judged by people. He came revealing the Kingdom of God in his words and in his actions by healing the broken, forgiving wrongdoers, and finally dying to save the whole world. In his rising from death Jesus opened the way for the world to come join him in a feast that has no end.
We can't make ourselves ready for such a feast. We need an invitation; but we have done nothing worthy of such a gracious gift. Jesus, crucified and risen, has prepared the way for us in our poverty and brokeness to join him at the eternal feast and now he invites us to bring in the poor, crippled, lame, and the blind.
May God help us to be a church that opens its doors to the poor and seeks no place of honor. May God give us the humility to follow him always serving as his emissaries to the poor and forgotten.