Dinner Time

The house was packed for a special dinner, full of the wealthy and influential of the city, each convinced of their own superiority over the others. It was a beehive of activity as they clamored for the best seats, all wanting to be as close as possible to the same man.

Still more were gathered outside the house, trying to even catch a glimpse of this man that had the whole nation captivated. I was one of the ones outside of the house. Like everyone around me, I didn’t make the guest list. None of us had what was required for admittance: money and power. And lots of it.

But this was too important. I couldn’t be here and not at least TRY to see him and hear what he had to say. Especially if he was as revolutionary as everyone was claiming. So I found a place where I could see through a window and watched.

He looked so ordinary that at first I thought he was working as a server. But soon I could tell it was him because everyone was watching his every move. Intently.

Transforming Words

He began talking but I couldn’t hear the words, but I could see the tension in those inside the house. Their shoulders were tight with anger and they gritted their teeth every time he said something that challenged their long-standing rule over the people.

He stopped talking and no one responded. They all just continued watching, seeming to be looking for a moment to pounce or some reason to have him arrested and thrown in jail.

He then turned to the host of the dinner and began to speak. It was as if the whole world became silent as everyone held their breath trying to hear even one of his words. I couldn’t hear him, but those towards the front could and when he finished they all had an expression of disbelief and joy on their face.

The people behind them grew impatient and began asking what he had said and slowly the words floated backwards, impacting each person as much as the last.

And then they reached me.

A man ahead of me turned and told us, “The teacher looked right at the host and said, ‘When you throw a dinner party, these aren’t the people you should invite. They can all return the favor and that is all you’ll get. Instead, you should invite all those outside the house: the poor and powerless, the broken of this world that cannot return the favor. THEN, you will have more than parties. You will be blessed.’”

I was so surprised that this man would say such a thing to the people that mattered most. He was turning their world upside down saying that us, what the rich considered the refuse of the world, were worthy of an invitation.

I can still remember the judgmental stares from those inside the house. Invite the poor? They are dirty! They have diseases! And they don’t matter! Why would I do such a thing? How on earth would I be blessed?!

BUT I can also still remember the joy of all those who had gathered outside. He was talking about us. US!

He was saying WE were the ones to be invited, to celebrate with, to walk through life with. Us! The overlooked ones. The invisible ones. We were different in his eyes, and the joy of knowing our lives mattered to him was enough to make my soul sing.

Not only that, he said it while in their house, looking right into their eyes. He stood up for us to those who had told us we were worthless, that our lives were pointless, and that we were poor and broken because we were cursed by God.

If this man was who others claimed he was, life as I knew it was going to change.

Not My Story

I wish I could say that what you just read was a moment I had actually lived through. Unfortunately, I cannot. But what I can say is that the man everyone was watching was real, the conversation happened, and the world for the poor, broken, and wealthy alike did in fact change.

What I wrote above is my take on Luke 14 when Jesus has dinner at the house of a prominent Pharisee and turns to his host, telling him, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, 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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I was not outside the house that night. I did not hear his words, see the reaction of the people, or feel the release that a poor man, a cripple, a lame man, or blind man would have felt.

But today, I feel the impact nonetheless.

Becoming a Dinner Host

On May 8th we hosted a dinner in Nicaragua. Walter, Johana, Michelle, and I (thanks to the generous support of a loving donor!) were able to invite a group of 40 people to have dinner with us. All 40 were part of our single mother support program that so many of you give to.

And it was a beautiful thing.

I wish I could say this scripture was the reason we formed the guest list. But it wasn’t. We just wanted to get everyone together and celebrate. But the Lord had much bigger plans!

Two days before the event I was reading in Luke and came across this story about Jesus. And it blew my mind. Jesus told the man to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, [and] the blind” to his dinner. When I thought through our guest list, everyone was poor, three were fully or partially crippled – one from cancer and two from birth defects, and one was both lame and blind.

And everyone, including us who invited them, were broken.

“We are going to have the dinner Jesus commanded!” I realized. All of sudden my excited went from a 9 out of 10 to a 1,868,499 out of 10.

Living up to the Hype

I cannot express the joy that was present in the dinner. I also cannot fully explain the profound impact that the dinner seemed to have on everyone present.

We didn’t eat the best food in the world. We didn’t have the best entertainment in the world. And we didn’t eat in the nicest facility in the world.

But we did have love. And lots of it. Flowing in all and through all and filling the room. I remember stopping eating for a moment and looking around. This is what I saw.

An ex-prostitute sat at the beginning of the table with her two daughters, holding the hand on the youngest one. She is now gainfully employed at a manufacturing center, is learning to love Jesus, and learning to love her daughters well.

Across from me was a woman that was once widowed with 9 children and left to starve. She was holding one of her 20 grandchildren, kissing his little hands and laughing at his ticklishness.

Next to her was a 19 young man who could barely walk due to his 6 year battle with cancer, head held high even though the pain was excruciating. His mother was sitting proudly by his side, smiling at her son in only the way a loving mother can. Both live lives of faith I can only dream of someday living.

Close to him was a partially deaf and mute girl who had both physical and mental limitations laughing with her mother and sister. Abandoned by her father because she was “too much work” and called pointless, worthless, and equally ugly comments by her community, she now possessed a strength and courage few ever find.

Next to her was Ruth and her mother. Crippled, blind, lame, and called a curse by many from the time she was born, Ruth was so overjoyed by the whole event she was laughing in the way only Ruth can. And her entire family had huge smiles on their face, the contagious kind that leave a mark on your soul.

Walter was entertaining, Johana and Michelle were serving and loving on everyone, and kids were running all over the place. It was truly a beautiful site.

Afterwards Ruth’s mother told me the following: “For so many years we have felt alone, like we were the only ones with difficulties similar to my daughter. But tonight I saw that others have difficulties too and that we are all a family in Christ even if we don’t have money or anything to give. It was so encouraging.”

Blessed Indeed

Jesus told the Pharisee to invite a different crowd and he would be blessed. Having sat at a dinner with those Jesus described, I can confidently say that His words are true. That meal did bless my life.

Ruth said she was encouraged, but she was not the only one. So was I. So was Michelle. So was Walter. And so were the other families. In fact, over the next month as I visited each family’s house they all talked about how much they were impacted by the dinner.

About how it made them feel so special and loved.

I think what Jesus was getting at was that there is great joy in watching love transform, empower, redeem, and ultimately help people come to know Christ. And so, in those conversations with the families, when they felt comfortable enough to share their hearts, we then got to point back to the cross and tell them that it was all because of Christ and that He loves them so much more.

These are families that I love. Deeply. And I truly believe that knowing Christ is the greatest blessing one can have. So for me, getting to share in that journey with them and knowing this dinner helped show them even a little more of His love makes my heart sing like the man in the story.

In short, I am blessed indeed.

One Comment

  1. Karen Sanderson says:

    Chris, as usual…tears. What a blessing and an encouragement. You are truly living Jesus! May He continue to bless you and all those who work with you. And especially may He continue to bless these wonderful guests at your feast!

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