How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom. Luke 14:15, The Message.
I’m a homebody, relieved rather than offended when left off a guest list. But when the invitation is from the boss or from Al and Tipper Gore, I’m smart enough to accept with graciousness, show up on time and have a good time (The Gore invitation really happened, and I’ve been waiting years to weave it into a conversation. It was a wonderful evening even if we didn’t shake hands with them or if the only thing I ate that evening was the asparagus.)
The point is, everyone knows you’re supposed to show up when the invitation is from someone important, someone high up. So, it’s obvious the story Jesus tells in Luke 14 about the dinner fiasco is fictional. Yet the ridiculousness of the story drives home several points—the host is super ticked off when the guests don’t show; strangers off the street are treated to the gourmet meal of their lives; and the original guests never get invited again. At the end of the story, the obvious moral is: Don’t be a fool and blow your chance at something fabulous.
But I think there’s more to the story than foolishly losing what should have been yours. It’s not so much about missing out on the dinner as it is about why you chose to miss it in first place. I believe the crux of the story lies in the reasons the guests gave for not attending the dinner party: One guy was so involved in his real estate holdings that he simply could not get away. The next one was in the middle of a financial transaction that involved cow trading. And the third was on his honeymoon.
Out of our possessions, professions and relationships, emerge legitimate obligations and urgent needs that we serve up as excuses for not doing the important stuff. Fools, we dish out these excuses to God, naively hoping He doesn’t see through us. And later, when the same things that kept us from chilling with God collapse–when we lose our job, home or family–we knock on His door, hoping His grace will blind Him of times when we tossed that dinner invitation into the trash. That’s a pretty disgusting, yet truthful, picture of who we really are.
There are a million options out there for the New Year’s festivities. But do it right. Grab a chair at the Table of God’s Goodness. Revel in His presence. Give praise for everything–the joys, the pains. And acknowledge that God has been with you every step of the way.
Bring it on, 2012! I’ll be having dinner with Jesus. Every day.