We gathered on June 12 to celebrate the inclusive love of God for all of us, marking Pride Sunday in the LGBTQ community. Our observance became poignant with the tragic news that morning of 50 people being killed in a shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Our hearts go out to all who suffer violence and hatred, simply based on who they are and whom they love. JBM
A little story:
A tourist arrives at a restaurant and is told there are no tables available. "What if the President arrived. Would you have a table for him?" he asks. "Of course!" replies the hotel staff. The tourist responds, "Well, the President isn't coming. I'll take his table."
“For everyone born, a place at the table.”
Since I first heard this wonderful song, these words have haunted me…in a good way! In 8 words, they capture the essence of the Kingdom of God, the Way of Jesus. And in such gentle terms.
It’s often said that our Jewish forbears are people of the book, and that is true. Christians are too; but even moreso, we are people of the table. Not just any table, but the welcome table, the banquet table where everybody’s invited. Where hungry people are fed. Where lonely people find company. Where hurting people find comfort and support. Where those who thirst are satisfied. Where we find Jesus.
I have a lot of images for this table in my head:
- My mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving Day table – extended to include anybody who showed up, needed a great meal and an extra helping of love.
- Hogwarts, where Harry Potter went to train as a wizard, where he first felt at home and loved, where the banquet tables in the Great Hall were magically filled with delicious things to eat, where the food never ran out.
- Our own parish hall, where hundreds are fed with sandwiches each month, where parishioners young and old gather for meals, simple to fancy.
- And of course, this altar table, where we meet Christ in bread and wine.
“For everyone born, a place at the table.”
Let’s take a look at today’s Gospel – it’s all about the table. Look in your Bibles for Luke 14:12-23. It should be on page _______in the pew Bibles. In verse 12, Jesus advises his hearers to invite all kinds of people when they have a dinner – poor people, disabled people, marginalized people. Then Jesus tells a well-known parable about a man who held a great banquet. When all was ready, the invited guests decided not to come. They gave a lot of excuses.
The banquet host then throws open his banquet to all in the town – whoever wants to come in. They do, but there is still room. So the host sends word to all in the countryside, far and wide…until the banquet hall is full of people. In verse 23, the host even says to “compel” people to come in, that my house may be filled…a bit of hyperbole, I’m sure, but we get the point!
The trigger for this parable is revealing. Back in verse 15, one of the dinner guests sitting with Jesus made a strange exclamation: “Blessed is the one who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” That remark tells us that this parable is about God’s Kingdom…about how God welcomes all people and longs for his banquet table to be full. “For everyone born, a place at the table.”
So, I haven’t even mentioned Pride Sunday, and our sisters and brothers (and ourselves) who are Lesbian or Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, our just questioning their identity in some way. Why? Because the issues of inclusion, of hospitality and welcome, of equality - these are all Kingdom values for all of us. It’s not just about LGBTQ folks; it’s a core value for all of us who follow Jesus. The banquet is for everybody.
In Jesus’ day, it was lepers who were set apart and shunned from society. Jesus marched up to them, named the real disease, which was prejudice, and healed it with the grace of inclusion. In 19th century America, the issue was the enslavement of fellow human beings. The followers of Jesus, finally, named that sin of inequality and cruelty – a sin which ran utterly contrary to our founding values! - and banished it – at great cost - from our nation. In order to move away from these sins, we must name them, acknowledge them.
In our own lifetimes, we have overturned more stereotypes and prejudices – those against other races, against equality for women, against disabled people, and now, against gay people. In order to move away from these sins, we must name them, acknowledge them, and set out to undo – to repent from – the attitudes and structures which have kept them alive in our society.
At the end of the day, Jesus calls us to a new ethic, a Kingdom ethic. You can describe it in several ways:
- Love your neighbor as yourself. (And love of self means we can take pride in who we are: beloved creatures of God!)
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- For everyone born, a place at the table.
Or, if you prefer, the stunning, powerful words of St. Paul from the book of Romans (and this is the same Paul who said a couple of nasty things about gay people!):
“For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor thins present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I’d say that about covers it. AMEN.