Welcome to our live streamed service today!
This week, we will continue in our focus of “listening” and Pastor Mick’s theme of “Encounters on the Road to the Cross”. This week we’ll be looking at Luke 14:15-24.
We’re also thankful to Huw for leading our children in the first in a short series of Kid’s spots.
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It’s been said of Luke’s Gospel that throughout it, Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Maybe that’s why it’s one of my favourite books of the Bible! Of all the things I’ve missed over this last year, I reckon right at the top of the list would have to be the ability to gather around a table with other people and enjoy food, conversation, stories, laughter…
But it’s not just in Luke’s Gospel that this theme of meal sharing appears. For me it’s been one of these things that once I begin to notice it in the Scriptures I start seeing it everywhere. From David’s ‘table in the presence of my enemies’ to the feeding of the 5000; from the first Passover meal to Jesus instituting of the sacrament of communion. The theme of table has real prominence in the Bible.
And in today’s passage we have Jesus using the image to give us a glorious picture of heaven. ‘Heaven will be like this great banquet,’ he says. And he’s using this picture to continue his message that we reflected on last week – the Good news of the Kingdom of God is this: The outsiders are now to be welcomed in!
The image above is a favourite of mine. A copy of it hangs in my office. It’s by a Jesuit artist from Germany by the name of Sieger Koder and it is titled, ‘All are Welcome.’ I think it captures so much of the truth of Jesus parable of the great banquet – probably better than I could ever preach (no ‘Amen’ to that, please).
I wonder what you see when you look at it? Honestly, the reason I was drawn to it in the first place was because at first glance it almost seems ugly, right? The features of those sitting around the table have been accentuated to the point where they seem grotesque even. But then when the time was taken for me to understand what the painter was trying to communicate I now believe it’s one of the most beautiful images I know.
The picture is shown from the perspective of Jesus. We know this because there are what looks like wounds on his hands and he also seems to be breaking bread with them. The Eucharist, perhaps? And then when we go around the table starting with the person on Jesus’ right we can understand a little more about who some of these people are and who they might represent. Firstly we have an immigrant who looks like he has been injured in some way. Secondly we have a wealthy woman who, if you look very closely, seems to be wearing a veil, indicating some kind of grief. Next we have an intelligent physician, striking a classic ‘thinking’ pose. After him we have a clown in full costume with a sombre expression. Next to the clown we have a beggar, who is so downcast that they cannot lift their head from the table. Continuing round we have the scarlet lips of a prostitute, and finally a Jewish man identified with his prayer shawl.
In many ways it’s a ragtag bunch akin to the guests in Jesus’ parable who have been ushered in from the highways and byways as the message of the Gospel goes out: All are welcome! It’s beautiful, right?
But there’s more! And you may need to look very closely for this detail. If you notice the detail on the wall to the left of the table you’ll see that there’s an etching. It portrays two people embracing and another turned away. It’s actually a depiction of the parable of the prodigal son (next week’s sermon, incidentally). And if you look at the way it has been positioned in relation to the table it shows that the embracing father and son are part of the gathering around the table, but the son who turns away is separate. And if we apply the message of ‘All are Welcome,’ here is what we find: All are welcome! All are invited in! And the only ones who to be excluded are the ones who exclude themselves…