Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
(Luke 5: 29-32, New International Version)
There is nothing better than a personal invitation to a meal, an event, a concert.
I recently hosted a Garden Party that included line dancing in the driveway and some
wonderful singing. It was an opportunity to celebrate many summer birthdays and the
engagement of my eldest.
The invitation list was a reflection of joy and gratitude.
Levi experienced grace and forgiveness from Jesus who said to him, Follow me! He left
everything behind and wanted to share this joy of discipleship and gratitude with friends.
Many, like him, were tax collectors who were seen as collaborators with the Roman Empire in Palestine. Sinners! Traitors! Jesus was critiqued for eating with those people by the religious right of his time.
At Méli-Mélo last Sunday and after a delicious meal of veggies and grilled cheese sandwiches (with lots of ketchup) I learned how to play 'fish'. Nathan and Ethan had great fun teaching me this simplest of card games that was not on my Conservative family's list of appropriate Sunday games. Such fun! Such laughter!
It's amazing how religious rules can ruin a good meal or card game. There are those who have the list of who not to invite given their political allegiance, gender, orientation or age. What happened to joy, gratitude and fun? To sitting at table with Jesus and meeting new friends whose lives may be touched with the exuberance of a new disciple named Levi? Or laughing together in play and frivolity across the generations where the young teach the older (me) something new?
Our religious negativity turns a lot of people off 'church'. Our lists of do's and don’t sap joy and spontaneity out of life. Let's let go of an old time religion of criticism and judgement and join Jesus at table with those who need grace, salvation and healing.
If the meal is where sinners gather then I want to be on the guest list.
If our radical hospitality is for those who need welcome, belonging and joy then I have a place at this table.
Sounds like our SouthWest Vision!
Providing a table where all are welcome, with food for body, mind and spirit.
Nous procurons une table où chacun trouve de la nourriture pour le corps, l’âme et l’esprit; une table où tous sont les bienvenus
P.S. Thanks to Licensed Lay Worship Leader Valerie Nickson preaching this Sunday at
SouthWest and the worship leadership of our own Dennis Brown.