People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Luke 13:29-30
In the ancient world there was reciprocity when it came to dinner invitations. It was an occasion of social importance and power. You figured out pretty quickly where your standing in the community on whether or not you were invited to a dinner party or not.
I apologize in advance for any trauma this might cause any of you, but do you remember going to Junior High lunch for the first time? As a part of the orientation, wouldn’t it have been helpful if there had been a seating chart depicting where it was safe to sit and where it might be socially dangerous? Because where you sit in a junior high lunchroom matters.
Jesus recognizes this social phenomenon and turns it on its head, and never gave a seating chart.
The Creator-God is about to throw a world-wide feast of grace for broken people, but there will be a great reversal regarding the guest list. And that shows us that the singular dynamic of the life of people who follow Him is humility.
People who live to puff themselves up, will end up flat on their faces. But people who are humbled by God they will be transformed to more than what they were before.
A relationship with Jesus transforms us and exalts us by humbling us: it’s the Jesus Way.
Despicable me and despicable you— with our sins, habits and hang-ups, our pasts, our presents, our weirdness and our neurosis—we get a seat of honor at the dinner table of the Living God of the Universe all because that same God humbled Himself and came into this broken world as a baby named Jesus.
The one being in the entire cosmic universe who had no reason to humble Himself because He is perfect beyond comprehension, humbled himself to be born to poor peasant parents, worked as a calloused-handed carpenter in a backwater town in a no-name country and then begins to go around from village to village inviting broken, wounded, misfit people to a great banquet.
Many people I know spend vast amount of energy, resources, and time to try to validate to someone that they belong; that they matter and are significant.
So many people end up exhausting themselves elbowing their way to the table.
It only looked like a bunch of kids eating lunch. It was really about opening our insides in front of everyone. . . . The contents of your lunch said whether or not you and your family were Okay. Some bag lunches, like some people, were Okay, and some weren’t. There was a code, a right and acceptable way. It was that simple. . . . If code lunches were about that intense desire for one thing in life to be Okay, or even just to appear to be Okay, when all around you and at home and inside you things were so chaotic and painful, then it mattered that it not look like Jughead had wrapped your sandwich. A code lunch suggested that someone in your family was paying attention, even if in your heart you knew your parents were screwing up right and left.” Anne LaMott, Bird by Bird.
We spend a lot of ourselves trying to prove to others that we are Okay.
The good news about Jesus means that you can be honest with yourself and God that you are not Okay, but God welcomes you to the feast of love and grace anyway. He makes you a very important person, though you bring nothing to the table for Him.
If you feel like you are on the outside of the family of God, you are invited to God’s Table. You don’t have to wait until you feel Okay about yourself to come to the table of the God. Or you don’t have to wait until you have your act together. In fact, the messier you are the better it is.
But for many who attend places of worship every weekend have forgotten their table manners. They turn their noses up at some on the divine guest list, thus forfeiting their seat. And some sitting at Jesus’ salvation table are still exhausting themselves, trying to earn the approval of bosses, peers and critics—that they don’t even like—and they are killing themselves along the way.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you don’t have to prove to anyone anything about your value.
I spent the first 20 years of my adulthood mostly trying to prove that I was valuable to God. Then when I lost it all and was at the bottom, God came to me and said, “Are you hungry? Wanna come to dinner?” I said, “I got nothing to offer you in exchange for the privilege of sitting at the Table.” And He said, “That is what qualifies you to come. Besides, your place at the feast has already been paid for.”
Remember, that you have done nothing to deserve a seat at the table of grace—so don’t puff yourself up, but also remember that the seat is permanently yours, so live your life with all the dignity of a child of the King.