Dr Justine Toh, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, shares with us a personal reflection on the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, provoking us toward self-reflection and humility.
You are who you eat with.
“I am who I am because of who we all are”. Who do you invite to be part of your world? Who do you let change you?
In today’s video teaching, Jon Owen reflects on the parable of the Great Feast. This story challenges us to consider who we invite to our table: is it the people we know, or is it those on the outer, those we may not feel entirely comfortable in knowing how to love?
Foodie culture seems to be part of mainstream Australia at the moment, with stylized cooking shows on our TV screens. Far more important than the food we put on our table, however, are the people we invite to join us there. Sharing a meal is a powerful way to share life. In order to genuinely share life with people, we need to cultivate an attitude of respect and welcome. Throughout Jesus’ teachings, he repeatedly challenges us to encounter the person on the “outer” with respect and care, valuing them as equals and as people worthy of our service and sacrifice. As we respect and care for those who don’t usually feature in our lives, we learn more of the heart of God and are changed to reflect his image.
Inviting new people to our tables can feel risky. Various messages of judgement against those on the outer may cause us to question whether genuinely displaying this kind of respect and love for them is warranted. The teachings of Jesus, however, invite us to value those on the outer. Jesus encourages us not to fear: in loving others as we have been loved, we experience the abundance of a banquet in the Kingdom of God.
Engaging with the story:
Create some space this week to re-read the parable and its surrounding context (Luke 14:12-24). When reading the parable imagine yourself in the story or teaching. Where would you stand? What do your surroundings look like? What can you smell or hear? What would you ask Jesus? Imagine that you are a person who is declining the invitation of the feast: reflect on the reasons you may do this. Imagine you are the central character, whose invitation is refused by the many people he wishes to welcome and honour. Imagine you are one of the outcasts, living on the streets and not accustomed to being treated with respect or value.
Reflect and Pray:
Communities of any form or size can be a place of welcome or a place which reinforces division between “us” and “them”. This lent, examine your tables:
Who is it that you invite to your table?
Who is it that your normally don’t?
What has been your experience of feeling invited and welcomed?
When have you encountered people or communities who made you feel valued? How did they do this?
What do you think of Jon Owen’s invitation to take the risk and invite someone on the outer, and let them change you?
Thank God for the way that he has invited you into his feast, honouring you and serving you. Take time to reflect on the love you have experienced, from God or from those around you. Encourage each other to discern who it is you need to value and invite to your table.
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Today's Reading: Luke14:15-24
15 One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
16 Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ 20 Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
Jon Owen is the CEO and Pastor of Wayside Chapel, a community providing unconditional love, care and support for people on and around the streets of Kings Cross, Sydney.
This series has been produced by Common Grace and Bible Society Australia.