I do not think my condition comes under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but I certainly am party challenged. Somewhere along the line I did not get the social script for attending events designated as a party. More than once I have suggested I need to have one of my children give me an ‘urgent’ phone call in case I felt a little trapped and out of place. I usually rely on Sherri to help me know how long I need to stay and when leaving is acceptable. I sometimes fear the things I talk about are either esoteric fountain pen geekdom or subjects where I fall into professor mode with a three-hour lecture in mind. I generally wind up apologizing for both at some point.
Party guests sometimes bring challenges. I am not the only one I am sure! Jesus represented another kind of challenge. He loved people too much to either stay away from parties or to stay silent. Jesus did His best work at parties! Luke 14 records Jesus’ teaching at a formal, invitation only affair as well as the post party roadside conversation.
I appreciate Jesus’ keen assessment of human behavior at parties. I often spend a little time conducting social interaction research myself in those moments. I jokingly tell people I may be more suited for writing about parties than attending them. On this particular Sabbath Jesus accepted an invite to the one of the chief Pharisees’ house. They came to watch their guest who tended to break social conventions. Jesus did not disappoint the crowd of semi-uptight attendees. Rather than a parlor trick, Jesus healed a man with serious fluid buildup. What they could not see was Jesus’ even greater work to heal the far more serious heart or liver problem.
Good party guests also have stories to tell. Again, Jesus did not disappoint. When Jesus speaks, however, His words have power. His words convicted. His words called for humility and loving responses. While Jesus’ words can bring peace and comfort, He did not use those words with the uptight crowd. This crowd wanted the best rooms and the seats of honor. This crowd only ate with respectable people. This crowd only followed social protocols derived from pride and control.
I hear Jesus today. He wants to heal us of so much! That healing, however, comes to the humble and the outcast. I hear Jesus today. He wants us to open our lives to others. That opening, however, becomes a heavenly enterprise when it provides access for those at the margins or in need. I hear Jesus today. He sends us to those we would not have thought of as ‘preferred’ guests. I hear Jesus today. He asks us again if we consider the cost of discipleship. He wants to know if our quest to follow Him reigns supreme over everything else. I hear Jesus today.
You have been so good to me! I do not deserve to be a part of Your body, the church. I do not deserve to hear Your voice and feel Your Spirit along with the saints. Forgive me, I plead, for times when I wanted respect from others rather than wanting to live respectfully as your son. Forgive me, I plead, for times when I took offense when I was overlooked or overshadowed by others. Forgive me, I pray. If I can accept the small room, the children’s table, then maybe I will be better suited to invite people who never even get to come to the party. Maybe I will see the outcast instead of looking beyond them in my rush to do important stuff. By Your Spirit I could even offer an invitation from the King to a wounded child of yours who thinks their scars, bruises, and coping strategies disqualifies them from polite society. You still offer those invitations today don’t you? Can I carry one?
I have been in a bit of a tight spot lately. I know You are near. I know You love. I know you call in a still small voice. I also know at times I push You away for fear of where discipleship may take me in this next season of my life. Today, Jesus, I feel like the unwanted wayside man. You have called, but I have resisted. Today, Jesus, I surrender again my wishes, pride, and claims for respectability.
I surrender all I have to just be Your disciple. I trust You even though it feels so risky today. Today is a good day to reconsider the cost of it all. I started building the tower and fighting the fight in faith. I said yes to the cost many years ago. Maybe I did not know today’s cost when I started, but I still believe I made the right choice then. I think the stack of used calendars and shelves of filled journals have brought me to a place where I can trust You even more.
How can I say thank you for coming to the party?
In Jesus’ name,
Thank you for walking with me through Luke 14. I hope walking with an awkward non-party guy has not been too painful. While I struggle with parties, I deeply enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with a few folks. Maybe we can share a cup someday and talk about how good God has been and how He loves us enough to call us to new places of discipleship. Maybe we will not get that chance here, but I know we will all enjoy The Last Big Party in the Father’s house. I cannot wait to see who you bring from the streets with you on that day! I know the Lord will make them feel welcome… after all He invited me again today.