Monday, June 29, 2009

The Great Banquet

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach to the congregation. I really enjoy these times up front. I enjoy researching the passages I am preaching from and hopefully teaching something the congregation has never heard or considered. I work hard to not to be the pastor that starts a message with a story from a Chicken Soup book or a quirky joke. I share my personal experiences that relate to the passage or I bring people up front to share their experiences.

Yesterday I spoke on the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24). This is a very difficult passage to preach, especially if you share the parallel passage in Matthew 22 or share that there is a similar passage in the Gospel of Thomas. My emphasis was not on those that turned down the invitation, although it was necessary to demonstrate that it appears that everyone turned down the invitation, rather the emphasis was on inviting in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. It was not about inviting the “in crowd but the message is about inviting those that are on the outside.

Before Jesus told the parable he shared this bit of information on who to invite to your parties:

Luke 14:12-15 “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.”

Here is where I think I dropped the ball.

I asked the congregation to look at all the empty chairs in the room and to visually pick a chair. I wanted them to notice that there was plenty of room, and as we gather to celebrate and worship God, who should we be inviting in. (My hope is that they remembered verse 12 and would not just invite friends and family)

I was criticized for presenting a self serving message that was only concerned with filling the place (church) with people. Now I know that I did present the idea that Jesus is relational, and that throughout the Gospel of Luke Jesus enjoys table fellowship with the religious folks and with sinners. I also shared that this same idea is communicated through the Old Testament. But as I am trying to reach people without a relationship with Jesus, let alone other Christians, I am going to have to choose my words more carefully. What got lost in translation?

The servant is told to go out into the streets and make people come in to the party, the word here in Greek is anagkazo or better translated compel. Unfortunately this translation and phrase helped the Inquisition to forcefully compel others into the faith, or risk losing their lives. My hope is that I communicated well that there is a sense of urgency but we must be able to communicate to others, in love, that Jesus desires to invite everyone into a relationship with Him and to enjoy His incredible party.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Curse of 3?

First let me say that I love Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Michael Jackson. I loved Farrah’s poster as a boy in the 70’s. My brother had a poster on his wall that I thought she was pretty HOT! Ed had that great laugh every time Johnny Carson would tell a joke. He was the perfect sidekick. And Michael was pretty cool in the 70’s and 80’s. I even went to a Jackson concert with my wife Monica early on in our relationship.

But the purpose of this quick post is to ponder the Curse of 3. Do celebrities get freaked out when one of their own dies? There is this legend that celebrities die in threes. I personally think this is crazy talk. If that were true who picks which three die? Why were the three chosen, is there a merit system? Did God cause the Angel of Death or the Grim Reaper to swoop down and pluck three celebrities?

What are your thoughts and feelings of the Curse of 3? Is it real or not?