March 19, 2012

Greeting to all in these waning days of winter,

Here is an excerpt from my sermon for this coming Sunday. The title is “The Banquet Table of Opportunity: A Parable.” Frederick Buechner defines a parable as a small story with a large point.

The Parable of the Great Banquet found in Luke 14: 15-24 is among the most well known and the most beloved of Jesus’ parables. In this parable an unidentified host prepared a great banquet.  When the time for the feast arrived the invited guests, using a great host of excuses, started sending their regrets. These excuses are well known. “I have purchased land.” “I have purchased oxen.” “I have gotten married.” Undaunted by flood of excuses, the host simply expanded, radically expanded, the circle of invitees.  To his great banquet he specifically invited those who were often specifically uninvited to the grand feasts of the day.  Our text identifies these as, “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”

 What this parable originally meant is that the host of the banquet, God, regarded the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame, as well as their needs, as holy.  The first hearers understood it as a teaching that when the reign of God was fully known the forgotten and excluded of the world would know what it was like to have enough, what it was like to feel like they belonged. It was originally a parable of justice, of a world set right by being turned upside down.

 Over the centuries of the Christian faith the parable has been spiritualized.  For many of us it has come to mean that it is the invitation of the Great Host that gets us into the Banquet of Heaven rather than our moral standing, our spiritual prowess, or our theological insight.  It has come to be interpreted as a parable of grace through faith, a parable of unmerited favor as the sole guarantee of our eternal well-being.

While not refuting the worth and significance of these historic interpretations allow me to suggest an interpretation of the parable for our community this morning.  It is an allegorical interpretation of this well-known story. It is an interpretation with economic and political ramifications. . . (Please come Sunday for the rest of the story.)

Prayers of the Congregation

  • Jessie Guiton for her sister in law Teola
  • Ann Fields for Leslie
  • Kay Baxter for Stacey, Jamie and Virginia
  • Phil and Gloria Meads for Max Poers and John Parente
  • Homer and Zondra Martin
  • Karen Okusu for her mom
  • Georgia Upshaw for Ginny
  • Marc and Helen Harrison for Marc’s dad
  • Thanksgiving for all our children and youth – May God bless and lead them all
  • Marie Johnson for Donnie as he prepares for officer training at Fort Benning, Georgia
  • Larry Sims for his family
  • All our teachers, students and school employees
  • Shirley Jones
  • Susan Joachim
  • Edna Dorenzo
  • Richard Ice
  • Fannye Leary
  • Steve and Carol Leichter
  • All who are looking for work
  • The people of Syria
  • The people of Burma
  • All who face depression
  • Joshua Ross
  • All who put themselves in harms way on the behalf of others
  • Al Johnson and Roy Browner as they get settled in Garden Grove
  • Thanksgiving for all the new members of our church
  • Natalie Washington for her son Jermaine

Announcements

I urge everyone who shares my interest in the future of theological education to join me on Wednesday for the Baptists Lunching Together program at Grand Lake Gardens (12:00 lunch, 1:00 program, cost $8.00) to hear Dr. James Donahue, President of the Graduate Theological Union, speak. Call Joan Thatcher 510-350-7008 by Tuesday noon for reservations.

Thanks to all who helped make Sunday’s Hunger Task Force Lunch and Bake Sale such a success!  I have provisions for the week.