Just imagine! You spent a lot of time, money, and energy in preparing a dinner party… perhaps a wedding or a birthday.
You are lucky enough to have not only good food and your friends. You have managed to get a surprise guest. Your close friends have heard many things about him. Everyone wants to meet him.
Your surprise guest turns out to be a know-it-all and an equal opportunity offender.
First, he lectures your friends. He tells them on how he thinks they should behave. Then… he finds fault with you as host or hostess! He tells you that you should have included other people, people you would never have thought to invite. You should have invited people you have no respect for.
Certainly, a description of an obnoxious guest!
Let step back!
The story of what Jesus did as a dinner guest of a leading Pharisee challenges me to think about it in today’s terms.
Let’s step back a minute. Remember that Luke is telling the story of someone he believes has come to change the way we think about God… and ourselves. This God becomes one of us. He gives up his life to show how much God loves us.
Luke writes as someone who was not raised as a Jew. But he is a believing Gentile who is clearly well versed in Jewish religious beliefs and culture.
He writes to mainly Greek-speaking people like himself who have heard the Good News that this God loves them. Yet, they find themselves marginalized. They were not accepted by the Jewish leaders who saw themselves as holier than those born and raised in a Greek culture.
True, he draws on many of the same stories told by Mark and Matthew. But, as any good preacher, he is going to bring out dimensions of these stories not appreciated by those who grew up in the shelter of Jewish culture.
What Luke wants us to think about.
In his retelling the story he speaks to both fellow Gentiles as well as the Jewish people of his day… and us today.
Jesus obviously takes on the “holier than thou” crowd, the people look down on those not born in Jerusalem… or even in Israel. They don’t act like we do. These people don’t belong in or “gated communities” where we all look and think alike and go to temple.
To Jewish people of his time, the story raises the question of whether their God is too small. Does God exclude people who were not born into the Jewish faith, let alone the stricter understanding of the Pharisees.
He reminds the Greek-speaking Gentile followers of Jesus that we all have tendencies to think more highly of ourselves than others.
Today, he also tells us all that our God is often too small. We should reach out to the marginalized … in his day the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Implicitly he reminds us that each of us, in our own way, is crippled or blind.
Remember, this story is just one of the many stories in which Luke that shed light on God’s love for every person he created.
Some things for us to think about…
Who are our obnoxious guests who dare to remind us that God loves each of us, even those who look or think differently?
Maybe today we can offer a welcoming smile to the strangers in our midst. The people we see but don’t see!
Do stories like this flesh out Jesus’ challenge to change our way of thinking about the foot washing God who asks us to wash one another’s feet as he did?