Saturday, January 10, 2009

Guest Lists

When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

                        Luke 14.13-14 

Party Etiquette

Jesus accepts a Sabbath invitation to dine with a prominent Pharisee and his friends. They think they’ve shrewdly lured Him into a situation where He’ll slip and breach Sabbath customs. They monitor His behavior very closely. He doesn’t trip over the Law—He stomps on it. He ignores the taboo against “working” when He heals a man and challenges His dinner companions to condemn Him for performing a miracle on the Lord’s Day. When no one responds, Jesus decides to teach these high-handed men a thing or two about party etiquette.

He notices the guests are crowded around the host, intentionally taking the most honorable seats at the table. When you’re invited to a celebration, He tells them, don’t presumptuously seat yourself in the place of honor. What if someone more important than you shows up? The host will have to ask you to move, which will embarrass you. Take the lowest seat and allow the host to ask you to move up. Then everyone will honor and respect you. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14.11)

Invitation Advice

Next, Jesus offers some sound advice about invitations. When you give a party, He says, don’t compose a guest list of friends, relatives, and rich acquaintances. If you invite them, they’ll probably return the favor and ask you to one of their parties. That’s all you’ll receive in reward for offering your hospitality first. If you open your home to outcasts—poor and sick people—you’ll be far better rewarded at a more prominent occasion, the final judgment. These unfortunate guests can’t repay you, but the One watching over them has unlimited means and your kindness won’t go unnoticed.

Life is a Banquet

Almost any gay man of a certain age—i.e., mine—can recite Rosalind Russell’s Auntie Mame credo in his sleep: “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” In a sense, albeit with more delicacy and to greater purpose, that’s what Jesus is saying. Life is a banquet. It spreads its riches and delicacies before us, offering more love, joy, peace, and prosperity than any of us possibly can consume on our own. Its treasures are to be shared and its pleasures come when we invite others to our table or join someone else’s table. Good etiquette ensures we’ll get the most out of either experience.

When people invite us into their lives, there’s no need to jockey for position. We come humbly, counting the kindness and trust conveyed in their invitation as sufficient honor. We’re there for them; whatever place they give us is important. Humility obtains status. And, ironically, scrambling for status typically ends in humility—well, actually, humiliation. On the other side of the equation, when compiling our guest lists, we consider who will benefit most from what we’ve been given to share. If we give to get, limiting our guests to an “A-list” of people in a position to help us, that’s all we should expect to receive—a little boost along the way, quid pro quo. (And that’s not guaranteed.) But if we open our hearts and arms to outcasts and others in need, our kindness won’t go unnoticed. Our rewards will exceed expectations. “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality,” Romans 12.13 says. As followers of Christ, our guest lists are less notable for who’s on them than why they’re there.

It's not about who's on our guest list. It's why they're there.

(Tomorrow: Rest)

Postscript: Be Their Guests

Briefly, I must recommend two extraordinary blogs that I’ve recently added to my regular reading. The authors (both readers here) move me in profound ways.

I met Genevieve, author of The D Line, indirectly through Edrick, who featured articles by both of us in his bi-monthly GLBT magazine, The Epistle. Her piece, “A Light Shining Through Life’s Rough Seas,” drew a marvelous allegory of Christ as a lighthouse steering storm-tossed believers to safety. My eyes pooled up with joy and my heart leapt as I read this:

In my thirty-six plus years of salvation, God has never changed. He is the same person now when I met Him for the first time. Jesus has seen me through some rough seas. When I was struggling with my gender issues Jesus made it clear that this was part of his plan for my life. He accepted me as a transgender person and he accepts you.

Genevieve’s faith and love shine through her blog just as they did here. Her compassion for those who lack—or reject—understanding inspires and challenges us all. Her invitation to the banquet her life mustn’t be missed.

If you’ve not yet got to The Soaring Impulse via one of several S-F links, now’s your chance. Maithri Goonetilleke, a physician currently living in Melbourne, Australia, calls himself “just another young poet walking the broken road to freedom.” There’s no adequate way to describe Maithri’s blog, other than saying when you’re there, an exquisite calm washes over you. The gentleness of his spirit rises in every post, regardless of its specific content. The Soaring Impulse becomes amazingly real. And the conversations between him and his readers (which he calls “whispers”) are every bit as wonderful as the posts they concern. Treat your heart and soul to Maithri’s blissful feast.


kkryno said...

Hello, Tim!

I truly beleive that when you over look people in need you miss out on giving of yourself. So many just don't get the point. We all do best when we nurture each others' souls.

I just try to remember that I could easily be in that person's shoes. Why I'm not is always a mystery to me.

I'm back from NM, so I'll try to drop by more regularly.

(BRRRRR; it's really cold here!)

Tim said...

Hey, Vikki! I'm glad you made it home safe and sound.

Your timing couldn't have been more perfect. As I prepared this post, I couldn't help thinking of you and the concern for the homeless mother and baby you wrote about over at your place. (Even though they've moved on, I continue to pray for them BTW.)

I agree that when we deny help to others we ultimately deny ourselves the opportunity to serve, to learn, and to be blessed.

Earlier today I was looking at a videotaped sermon by my former pastor and one of his points hit me like a sledgehammer. He said often all it takes is one bad decision to steer you into a life of disaster--one drink, one fit of rage, one lie, etc. Given the bad decisions I've made in my life, like you, I don't know how I've been spared. That's the mystery of God's grace. And knowing His grace leaves me no excuse for not sharing it with those who don't.

Keep warm up there! Spring will be here before you know it...

Joy always,

FranIAm said...

Ah I love this blog. Vikki is here and you are speaking of my beloved friend Maithri.

Now I will go off to meet Genevieve.

Tim said...

Fran, it's so true. God has bountifully blessed S-F (and me) with an amazing group of great friends and loving believers. Each new reader, comment, and email that comes along plunges me deeper into His warm and healing sea of love.

I thank God for you, Fran, for Vikki, Maithri, Genevieve, and everyone else He's so wondrously guided here. And for all of us, I say gratefully, with godly pride: we are beautiful souls in the making.

As Psalm 118.23 says, "The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes." He is worthy of all praise!

God's light and love to you always,