by Barbie Fischer
Often the word hospitality invokes images of places to stay and delicious food to be consumed. Throughout the Bible there are over 52 references to feasting and 73 references to banquets. These stories are not just about eating, drinking and being merry; they go beyond that.
In Matthew 22, the wedding banquet is used as an imagery of heaven. Yet those invited were too busy and consumed with work to come. So the host told his servants to invite anyone they found, “those on the street corners … anyone.”
In Luke 12:12-14 we are instructed that:
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. But when you give a banquet, 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.
These stories caution us that yes, some of us are too busy for heaven. Too busy to come to the wedding feast the Lord has prepared for us. They show us also that while it is comfortable for us to invite our friends and family and “rich neighbors” to a dinner, we are called to go beyond that. We are called to invite all people just as they are, that they may come to the feast and get to know the Lord. As Christians, these stories are cautionary tales and a call to go beyond the comfortable.
Heaven is open to all, yes, even those who make us uncomfortable at times, because they do not look or act like us. In the story of the wedding feast, the people who came did not have to clean themselves up before they entered the feast. We are not told to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, but make sure they clean up before they come. They were welcomed just as they were. So why is it that so often we expect people to clean themselves up before they come to church, to wear a certain kind of clothing, to act a specific way? All before they come to know Christ?
While the people who came to the banquets in the biblical stories may have been strangers to their hosts when they entered the feast, do you think they left the same as they came? How are people supposed to come to know Christ if we are too uncomfortable to get to know them and share Christ’s love with them?
This week when your worship service begins, look around. Would anyone off the street feel welcome in your congregation? What if they were covered in tattoos and piercings, or maybe their clothes are tattered — would you welcome them to the banquet as you did your friends and family?
As the Lord said in 1 Samuel 16:7, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” May our eyes be opened to see people as the Lord sees them.