Grace and Peace to you,
My sisters and brothers in Christ
What is our purpose,
Towards this fragmented world?
Not just being humble,
Not just walking with God,
But extending to others that same radical hospitality
Given to us, freely
Because of the One, who loves us
Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.
My husband loves to tell the story of his Grandmother,
Fondly known as Big Ma.
Each holiday season,
Without anything in return,
She would could dinners for all of the postal workers,
Police and Firefighters
In her neighborhood on the South side of Chicago,
This was her way,
Of saying thank you,
For the service they performed, almost 24/7
For those in this neighborhood, and the whole community
And it was not just a couple of people, or maybe just the local fire house
As a child, my husband watched the stream of hundreds of people
In and out her kitchen for years!
Big Ma gave of herself, and of her resources!
These dinners were not offered at a cost
She was not a wealthy lady
She lived in a working class neighborhood
Which took care of their own
She, and many others like her
Lived out this radical hospitality
Because they had heard the Gospel,
And how the Creator God extended to them,
Without expecting anything in return
A Love without no end.
Hearing tales such as this,
We are astounded by such selflessness
We try to quantify on the how’s
And we continue to bury ourselves in,
“But there is no way we could do that today.
We don’t have the assets,
Or the time.”
We are not fully living into our purpose,
As people of faith, beloved.
Could we accomplish,
If we discarded the misconception
Only is possible,
When carefully scheduled?
Or endless access to resources.
The Holy Spirit was definitely gaining momentum last Sunday
Stemming from many of you
Many were excited about this idea
Of not just taking breakfast to our first responders
“Pastor, we need to get them to come here!”
This is ministry in motion,
Sharing this sacred space
By offering breakfast,
A simple, ordinary meal
Of pancakes and sausage,
Something many of us cook in our own homes
For our own families,
Extending to them,
The Police Officers
Tirelessly giving of themselves as humanly possible
Feeding them out of love
The dining room table,
Lives are shared
People are bonded
Stewardship of life happens!
The Fire Department in town was singing our praises
So delighted that we were doing this,
“Redeemer is so generous in helping us with our food drive!”
Especially mentioning our two usual suspects
Gert and Ted
The collective community of Christ
Not only invited those
Who have status in the communities we too are present
Who in turn would sing our praises publicly?
In those avenues of influence
Attracting a little more recognition and potential members
To come and join the Christian band
What if we invited
And the blind.”
As Jesus calls us to?
What if we invited
The homeless, who bring their invisible friends along
Those who identify as transgendered,
An existence that still is confusing and complex to many of us
Those who are still caught in the throes of meth addiction,
Because the drug embeds itself, attaching underneath of the skin
Those who give up to others their sacred bodies,
Because that’s only commodity they have to live.
What if we opened up this space,
Invited them to sit down with us
Heard their stories
Offered up our food to them?
Knowing that they could not
In no uncertain terms
EVER repay us
There would be no recognition
No recouping our time or money or food
Why do it then,
Especially on these…undeserving…people, right?
We’ve heard this mantra time and again,
Pushed out by society as propaganda,
Punishing them for taking the drugs or the alcohol
Although not acknowledging
That not having a healthy family system
Or accessibility to community resources towards healing
Is probably a huge factor for them
Not emerging from that hellish darkness
Punishing them for not having enough strength
To leave an abusive situation
Although not acknowledging that neither the system
Nor the laws
Are enforced to protect the vulnerable
To protect and shatter that wall of silence and shame
And that there is an absence of places of safety
And yet people picket and proclaim
They are pro-life
Punishing them for being lazy
Not getting up and finding work,
And a home
Although not acknowledging that the absence of radical hospitality
And this system of inequality imbedded in our society
To where people don’t get a living wage,
So they can get 8 hours of sleep in a clean bed
So they can look presentable when we invite them to the table…
Who stand in these greener pastures
Who are jockeying for a place of honor at the table
Are shocked when a guest,
Begins to call us out
To something deeper.
In this Gospel passage,
We as sisters and brothers in Christ,
May have been exposed to a superficial message-
If you are seen as humble
And you give up your seat
Your host will surely see you,
And reward you
With an even better one!
This is sometimes where,
The Gospel starts,
So you can profit.
Jesus delves deeper,
Challenging those who were gathered,
Once more breaking the rules,
As He just has done,
Healing on the Sabbath,
Dispersing with proper guest etiquette.
Jesus teaches them
And reminds us
That this hospitality
Goes beyond our understanding
“When you are invited by someone
To a wedding banquet”
The wedding banquet
Gathered together to celebrate
And yes, even a little vanity because we are human,
To be seen.
But how many of us have caught ourselves grumbling,
When we do not have a prominent or favorable seating place
When our table is all the way in the back of the banquet hall,
We broadcast how much we have spent
Or how many wedding gifts we have brought.
How many times,
Have we seen among churches,
On Sunday mornings
A sacred time to come together,
To celebrate Life
To be seen.
Especially when we hear people grumbling
When the guests or visitors sit in the front pews,
That clearly belong to so and so’s family,
Whose family founded this church
Or whose family funds this church.
We scrutinize who can,
Who is deserving enough
To be called to the Table,
As if we are in control.
We stand at the doors of the church,
Not to welcome,
But to criticize
Seeing if they pass our test
We want to see what they are bringing,
what they are offering
Rather than going beyond our comfort zone,
Our church doors,
Inviting those who are discarded by others,
Into a place of honor in our sacred space
We shut the doors,
In so many ways.
Rather than following Jesus’s instructions
Following Jesus’s footsteps,
We ignore what He has called us to,
And we seek those places of honor
Because in this life,
Sometimes sadly it brings us comfort,
Because it’s something we are able to hold up
Or hold onto,
The wedding banquet
The day that the kingdom of God,
And this broken Creation
Will be melded into One
Who then, will have that place of honor?
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Remember the two sons of Zebee-
“Jesus, which one of us will sit on your right and your left?”
Will we be arguing about this, even on that day of days?
About who should enter first or be seated first?
Is it by the number of days we performed charitable tasks?
Or how much we have given? Will we have receipts or spreadsheets to back this up?
“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled,
Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The Good News is,
And what we have forgotten beloved,
Is that Jesus Christ,
Gave up that place of prestige,
Gave up something most precious
Offered up Himself AT THE TABLE,
So that we,
Children of God,
Would be able to be fed,
So that we would have LIFE
We forget that Jesus Christ,
The Son of God,
Lived out a radical hospitality
So that we might forever be connected
With the Creator God,
Because of God’s Love,
But the Good News is,
Jesus becomes that guest once more-
Jesus teaches us,
Instead of discarding us,
Because we are unworthy,
Undeserving at times
But Jesus does not see us marked by our SINS.
Jesus sees us as beloved children of the Creator
Jesus has lived His life as us,
And Jesus Forgives US
And then extends that radical hospitality-
Empowers us RIGHT HERE
At the TABLE
Jesus is host,
And transforms our unworthiness,
Into life sustaining mercy and grace.
(*Disclaimer* The following ending to my sermon was ad libed or rather flowed as the Holy Spirit pushed me, but the following words are my thoughts…
end with the story about being immersed in a sabbatical moment last weekend with the BFF and company, and how this homeless person was asking for money…and then asked for leftovers seeing we were carrying food. I had a couple of knee jerk reactions-Giving someone who hasn’t eaten and has no access whatsoever to good food, to give him something that I had eaten-was a horrible idea, and treating that person as if they were nothing more than an animal. My husband, seeing the meal I had purchased for him and our daughter to share, full of tacos and refried beans and rice-handed this untouched and ready meal to this nameless person. And I experienced my second knee jerk reaction-for a moment I said to myself, but I bought that for…see there exposed is our weakness. And as we walked away, I was thankful of my husband’s example of radical hospitality without a thought-and now I had to strive to exude that hospitality to others, because of the love that has been shown to me, in all of us, in so many ways. Yes, sometimes we don’t know what we are doing or if we are doing the right thing or how do we work through being uncomfortable and the knee jerk reactions because we are human. BUT the Good News is that Jesus walks with us, and opens up the Table to us, and shows us, and gives us LIFE so that we can live out our lives, not for ourselves, but for what the Creator.. So, whose with me to live out radical hospitality? (if show of hands, say awesome!)
Thanks Be to God