I was amused to see that the upcoming gospel for this Sunday is yet another of Jesus’ challenges to those poor liberal Pharisees who seemed doomed always to miss the point. You may recall the story of them pretending to like Jesus, while at the same time planning to trick him into either denying God or committing treason by denying acknowledgement of the emperor. It seems we are slow learners. Having last week heard about and participated in God’s invitation to the banquet that is to include everyone, this week’s scripture finds us embroiled in a discussion of just who owns what – a kind of biblical version of “whoever dies with the most toys wins.”
In the Pharisees' attempt to retain control (no matter the cost) they choose to “chop up” God’s call to celebrate at a shared table. They have elected to turn down the invitation to all comers in favor, yet again, of pursuing their own desire for power. At the end of the encounter, however, it is the Pharisees who go away empty-handed, having failed to recognize or embrace the love and generosity offered to them by God through Christ.
This story is a reminder to us of how dangerous it is to become so focused on meeting our own needs that we become blind to the acts of God in our own lives and the lives of others. God invites us to the table, but God does not force us to sit down. God treats us as grown-ups. We are included, but left to make our own response. Those responses will have consequences – fruitful or otherwise, depending on what decisions we made. The freedom to choose is a privilege for us and a risk for God, but it seems God has elected to be in a relationship of love where we are not prisoners, but partners.
Let us be generous with our love, as God is generous to us. Let us give thanks for the many gifts we have received. Let us invite, but never coerce. Join us at the heavenly banquet on Sunday and celebrate God’s choice of us.
The Rev. Sue Eaves