A Luke 14 Party
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus does a lot of partying. He’s described as someone who is constantly eating and hanging with people that normally someone of his pedigree would avoid. He eats with the rich, the poor, and sinners of all kind. Some of his more infamous dinner guests are tax collectors and prostitutes. To eat with someone in antiquity was to declare social solidarity, which was a statement if someone was ever going to make a statement. It was to take a step outside of the social norm and embrace people whom you’d normally ignore and definitely not fellowship with. But this wasn’t the case with Jesus, someone who lived his life as a beautiful contrast to the way of the world.
A Luke 14 party is one where the guests can’t repay you for what you’ve done. In Luke 14, Jesus advised,”When you give a luncheon or dinner [or party], do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Throwing a Luke 14 party is one where you don’t expect to get anything in return. It’s a gathering of people who maybe won’t receive another invitation the rest of the year. And there are plenty of people in our society (and in our own communities) who won’t be invited to any party this year. It’s time we change that.
An incredible couple from our church started this Luke 14 party movement a few years ago. They decided to throw a party at a local assisted living facility that is literally blocks away from our church. It’s a board and care with low funding and it’s not an easy place to live. We have a few attendees who come to church from this facility and we’ve developed a relationship with them over the years. Throughout the years, members from our church have built gardens, brought food, held bingo nights, and helped remodel the facilities. And we’ve begun a tradition this time of year–hosting a Christmas party.
This past week we gathered together for a time of celebrating. We brought with us desserts and presents. There were enough presents for every member of the facility to receive a gift from someone who cares about them. I’m always blown away by the beauty of such a moment. Being with the residents and celebrating Christmas with them was a blessing in so many ways. One of the requests from the residents was to sing together. Together, with one guitar, and quite a few voices we sang Christmas songs. I’d be lying if I said our singing was harmonious or even melodious. I’m sure Randy Jackson would’ve told us it was ‘pitchy’ a few times. But none of that really mattered. Truthfully, I’ve never had so much fun singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as I did that afternoon. There was one resident who was unable to speak, but he could tap his foot. I watched him during the songs. He closed his eyes and tapped his foot as we sang, the music very much alive inside him.
At the same facility earlier this year, we helped rebuild a garden. We brought in new plants, cleaned up a dirty outdoor spaced that was covered in empty bottles and cigarettes, and fixed a broken fountain. After cleaning up the grounds, we hung wind chimes from every possible place we could find, so this garden not only had beautiful new flowers, but a beautiful sound that would ring every day. The entire day was a work project that had deeper meanings. We cleaned up a physical space to communicate a deeper spiritual truth. People matter immesnely to God. All types of people, from all walks of life have an invitation to come to the party.
When Jesus spoke about organizing parties where the attendees couldn’t repay the host, he wasn’t talking about charity so we’d feel good about ourselves, as if we need a divine pat on the back. His words were about changing the perception–the one we ourselves may hold, but also the dominant viewpoint of the world. A perspective that places certain people in the valuable category and others on the outside. Jesus erased the lines that separate us. One way we can continue to do away with the division is to throw a party. Ironically, sometimes the best parties are the ones with the most unlikely people attending. Because when you throw a party for those who normally don’t get invited, your heart grows. Moreover, when you meet new people your perspective of God’s family grows. The blessing that Jesus describes is a spiritual blessing, but perhaps it’s also a social blessing of sorts. You may be surprised to learn you have good friends in places you’ve never looked before. Although they may not be able to invite you to a party, they repay you in ways far greater than simply returning the favor.
Jesus lived as a beautiful contrast to the world–a countercultural, revolutionary, flipping-things-upside-down kind of life that he invites his followers to mimic. A life that intentionally contrasted itself with the dominant viewpoint of the world. I suppose the only question we need to ask ourselves is: When are we going to throw a Luke 14 party?