“Gather Around the Table”
by Pastor Anna Morgan
July 14, 2019
The Parable of the Great Banquet
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” - Luke 14:16–23 (NIV)
In this parable, Jesus is describing kingdom gatherings. For us today, a kingdom gathering would be a Sunday service. The host in this story is Jesus. Meanwhile, the servants are everyday people like you and I. We are those who help serve the gatherings every single week.
There are two groups of people who are in this parable. First, there is a group of people who decline the invite. These are the people who tell Jesus that they don’t need what he has to offer. They believe that they have everything that they need in terms of relationships, provision, and health. So, they will not come to the gathering because they have other priorities.
This is an important parable for us to observe in this generation due to a cultural shift in attitudes regarding the church. A Gallup Poll found that within the last nine years American church attendance has declined by five percent. There’s another poll from Pushpay that found that millennials are half as likely to attend church as previous generations.
Accordingly, the second group of people in this parable are those that are incredibly needy. They are marginalized people. They are people who could never repay the generosity on offer at this banquet. It is more than they could ever deserve. So, Jesus is asking the people at his table, “Which of these two groups do you belong.” He is imploring whether or not they will say yes to the invitation on offer today.
Both groups were invited. If someone misses the banquet, it is not going to be for a lack of invitation because everyone is welcome. Jesus reaches out to both groups. But still, even today, it is so easy for our excuses to prevent us from weekly church attendance. The Apostle Paul describes it this way in Ephesians 1:22–23 (MSG), “At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.” This is the way the Kingdom economy works; Jesus is at the center of it all. He is the most important thing. Then, after that, is the church. Thus, the church is not an add-on to our lives; the church is central to our lives. It is one of the most important things that we do. That is how we enter into the feast that God has provided for us.
There are three things that happen when we gather.
Discovery: We discover our communal identity when we gather as a church. More is happening than the pastor speaking. We are recognizing who we are. 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NIV) says it this way, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” So, that is what is happening when we come to church on Sunday. We learn a new cultural identity, a kingdom cultural identity. We learn what it means to be connected to each other.
Demonstration: When we gather, Jesus lays a spectacular banquet. It is the power of God for exactly what you need in your life. This is about what the Holy Spirit is doing when we gather. It is not about the worship leader or the preacher. The Holy Spirit has something planned just for you. He is here in our presence. He dwells on the inside of you. He is active, and he is consistently moving and making things happen every time we gather in power.
Deepening: There is a promise that when we gather the gates of Hell will not prevail against us. There is something about being in the room. We need an army of people that have our back. We need that support and prayer.
Week after week, the Holy Spirit lays this table for you and I. He waits for us. He is waiting. We need the Holy Spirit’s empowering to make it in this life. Whenever we gather, he is always waiting.
Are you someone who declines the invite to the gathering, or do you attend?
What obstacles are preventing you from regular church attendance, and how can you remove those obstacles?
Who is someone that you can invite with you to come to church?