Jesus is known for speaking in parables. In Luke 14 he is at a Pharisees home for dinner, he pushes the boundaries of the established religious laws and heals a sick man, and the addresses people motives for inviting people for dinner. “….invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
This parable speaks directly about Jesus’ controversial practice of an open table and offering a safe place for all. It was a common belief, taught through the scriptures, that people who were crippled, blind, lame or had illness were stricken with that because of the sins of their parents. This ultimately lead to them being considered “unclean” and cast out of society. This dangerous theology was born out of the writings attributed to Moses in Exodus and Deuteronomy.
(Exodus 20:5)--"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,"
The above scripture, among a few others, was and in some places still used to explain that God was punishing then parents by visiting the inequity of the fathers on the children for four generations. Do the actions of a father affect his children? Yes, they do, but one cannot derive from that God will in turn have a sinful father’s children be born lame, blind or crippled. Yet, when Jesus is healing a man who had been blind since birth the question is asked of him, what did his parents do for his to be born blind.
So when Jesus states that people should invite the poor, crippled, lame, and the blind, he is asking them to invite those they thought were cursed by God. To invite those who society has deemed cursed, unclean and sinful into ones home to eat without getting anything in return from them.
Jesus goes on to tell the parable of a man who was having a banquet and he invited many guests only to have them give excuses that only come from privilege. I just bought land, I just got married, I just bought oxen so I can’t come. In other words, what they were doing was more important, they were not hungry or in need of the banquet. The man got angry and turned around and invited everyone the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. This is what the kingdom of God is. The table is open to all, but not all know their need for it. The three excuses come from a place of being privilege and power, which are not inherently bad unless they are stumbling blocks to people participating in the kingdom of God. Those on the margins, those who are considered cursed and unloved by God, culture and religion heed the call to a community that loves them, cares for them and sees them as equal in the kingdom.
May our church be a community of open doors and tables. May we invite all to come and participate. May we blaze a trail and set and example of God’s love for all to our kids so they will live the same.