The dinner party

Psalm 93, 96 (Morning)

Psalm 34 (Evening)

Ezra 10:1-17

Acts 24:10-21

Luke 14:12-24

When I was a kid, I was not the most skilled at table manners. Probably the thing I used to get most in trouble for was “blurting out something at the dinner table that turned out to be the elephant in the room.” You know, things like, “My mom’s not here because she has the cramps!”

So I have to chuckle at our unnamed dinner guest in today’s Gospel.

Jesus is being scandalous again. It’s important to remember that he is the dinner guest of a Pharisee. In his suggestion that his host invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,” He really just said, “Ya know what? You really need to have a banquet and invite the ritually unclean to your table.”

Wow. What an elephant at the dinner table that must have been!

Well, and it never fails. Once the elephant has been introduced, it invariably becomes THE dinner table topic, because someone else at the table picks up on it, and says something just as mortifying. Sure enough, our unnamed guest in Luke goes, “That’s an AWESOME idea! What a blessing that would be!”

You can just see our host in this story trying to quietly eat his dinner, thinking, “My God, whatever possessed me to invite these people! How do I get them out of my house?”

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I discovered there was one church that must have also been imagining this dinner table conversation and took it to heart. Since 2008, Manley Baptist Church in Morristown, TN, has held an annual Luke 14 Party –a two day extravaganza where they invite those in their community with developmental disabilities, their families, and their caregivers. From the looks of the photos, this is not some rubbery overcooked chicken breast affair, either. We’re talking games, crafts, live entertainment, and a petting zoo!

I have to admit when I saw the pictures, I was like our dinner guest in Luke–what an awesome idea!

This particular church chose folks with developmental disabilities as their invitees, but it’s easy to see that this concept of a Luke 14 Party could embrace all sorts of marginalized people in a community.

Who are the “ritually unclean” in your community that would be shocked and amazed to have a party thrown for them? What might change in your community if you did?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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