“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host.” Luke 14:8
Last week I was given the opportunity to eat a meal with colleagues in the Metropolitan Chicago Synod and participate in a communal learning event. This event was led by Pastor Sunitha Mortha, Assistant to the Bishiop for Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging and Pastor Ruben Duran, from the ELCA Churchwide Office. We enjoyed a meal at Rios de Sudamerica Restaurant in Addison, a Peruvian Restaurant. We heard Tony Perez, the owner tell the story of his restaurant, his family, how he came to this country, and his faith story.
After hearing his story, we engaged in conversation to connect our own stories to his story with the question, “How was Tony’s story a window or a mirror for you?” We reflected on the impact of listening to the stories of neighbors in our communities. Then we were encouraged to carry this practice into our own communities to learn about others, especially, those who come from different backgrounds than our own. Hospitality and welcome were modeled throughout our time together.
Hospitality and welcome are important ways to bring each other together in community. And, when extending hospitality to others, one of the best ways to show welcome is by sharing a meal together and spending time in meaningful conversation with others.
The writer of Sunday’s Gospel from the Book of Luke understood meal-time hospitality and table fellowship. In Luke, Jesus is frequently eating, drinking, partying and participating in meals with all kinds of people. Eating with people from various backgrounds and walks of life was a frequent occurrence for Jesus whether it was on the way to Emmaus, in an upper room, in the fields along the road as the disciples plucked heads of grain, in the home of a unfavorable tax collector, in the homes of respected religious leaders, or as we will hear on Sunday, in the home of an unnamed Pharisee who offers Jesus hospitality for a Sabbath dinner.
The respected, social climbing, religious Pharisees are watching Jesus very closely, watching his every move. And, Jesus has been watching their behavior. Having observed how they chose banquet seats and noting how they elbowed themselves into the place of honor. Jesus says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host.”
Jesus invites us to be the community of God’s people, invited as God’s guest. Jesus challenges us to save a spot for others as all are welcome at the table. To come to the table, God’s table where we can live in the joy and freedom of community with God and with each other. Amen.