I am sharing here two days of devotionals by Joni Eareckson Tada, then commenting at the end about how I believe the message of these two devotionals and the scriptures about which she writes are speaking to me today.
A Seat at the Banquet June 13 and 14, 2014 by Joni Eareckson Tada
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant to ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'” Luke 14:16-18, 21
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'” Luke 14:22-24
First, the master offered free food and drinks to his invited guests, but everyone RSVP’d with regrets and excuses. That made the master angry and so he decided to throw his party for the poor, the handicapped, and anyone who could be found feeding off the trash cans in the streets and alleys. After the servant had gathered as many social outcasts into the banquet as he could, he told his master, “What you ordered has been done, but there is still more room.”
Notice what the master does next. He orders his servant to go out to the roads and country lanes (a good distance beyond the streets and alleys) to find more outcasts and make them come in. The master’s motive? He simply must have a full house and will not settle for anything less.
In this parable, the master’s grace is not lavished on the deserving but on the undeserving. The unacceptable. Those who shouldn’t be invited. And God bestows His grace on the same–not the proud but the humble (Capon).
God’s grace is not a response to what men do. God’s grace is a divine initiative which is totally unconnected to a person’s merit. And not only is the grace of God an initiative but a radical one that most would consider outlandish if not mad. But isn’t it just like God to flaunt his foolishness as wiser than men’s wisdom and his weakness, stronger than human strength?
The Gospel sounds like a tragedy: Die to yourself and you’ll live. Salvation sounds like bad news: We are not saved because we are brave, clean, and reverent, but because we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God. In short, the Good News has nothing to do with turning bad men into good men but dead men into living men.
Little wonder the Gospel seems so distasteful, so offensive. It’s mostly off-putting to people who feel they have everything, people who want to keep their winnings in this world.
That’s why the Gospel is only good news to those who consider themselves losers, whether it’s crane operators or bag ladies, schoolteachers or drug addicts, the tennis pro on a world tour or the homeless drunk living in an alley. Each must consider himself a loser if he wants a seat at the King’s banquet. And the price of a seat? That each dies to himself.
The price of salvation is high and, yes, you should sit down and count the cost. But when you finish counting, you have the absolute certainty that everything you’ve got turns out to be exactly the right price for a seat at the banquet. All you have to be is a certified loser and God will send His servant, Jesus, to positively drag you into His house.
Father, thank You for sending Your servant Jesus to search for me, find me, and bring me to Your banquet.I hold back nothing. I give you everything. Jesus, You win.
www.joniandfriends.org Taken from Diamonds in the Dust. Copyright © 1993 by Joni Eareckson Tada.
Cathy’s Reflection :
In my early 40’s during a time of brokenness in my life I had three dreams that occurred during a brief two week period. In the first dream I had won the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes. It was $ 7 million. I awoke amused, since I did not enter such sweepstakes. A few days later I dreamed almost the same dream, but it was the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes and it is $27 million. Then, a few days later I dreamed I had won the Florida Lottery and it was $77 million. For just a brief moment I felt the urge to rush out and purchase a Florida lottery ticket. In the dream the cul-de-sac on which we lived had been turned into a street party scene. It was colorful and festive. TV Channel 7 was there. People were cooking out. Balloons were everywhere. Party music was playing.
I had heard about a preacher who, when asked by a congregation member if he would accept a gift to the church from lottery winnings, said that if God chose to bless a man that way who was he to deny him the right to give his tithe from the blessing! I knew rushing out to purchase a Lottery ticket, though, was not the point of the dreams. But in my broken, wilderness place of being at that time, I just asked, “What does this mean, Lord? How does this relate to this awful place of hurt, anger, alienation, and brokenness where I find myself? It was several days later, after posing that question more than once to the Lord, when I received His answer. Oddly, it was as I was driving home. In the car, I pondered the three dreams once again and, suddenly, the answer was right in the front of my brain, just appearing as though imprinted across my forehead. “Welcome to the banquet!” was the Lord’s reply. I remembered this Scripture about the alienated and undeserving being gathered into the banquet and welcomed as guests. I realized that through the brokenness and hurt of that season in the wilderness, feeling that I was so far off the streets where I had been journeying in my faith, the Lord was inviting me into a relationship of intimacy and blessing with Him still. Matthew 6: 18-20 reminds us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
My dreams and my circumstances made sense. We have been invited. Will we come?
In this current season of brokenness and questioning in my life, I have experienced theft. Three times in the last year, as our home has been under renovation, items have been taken by workers who were paid to be here to work. They didn’t even have to break in. They were invited in and paid adequately for their work. Later, they were discovered to have been dishonest workers. I am asking God again, what does this mean? What am I to learn from this? To hold all things with an open hand and not become attached to anything? To quietly endure the insult of having things stolen from us by those with whom we have contracted for services? To stand over everyone who comes here to work so as to afford them no opportunity to poke around for things they might desire? To lock ourselves down into a posture of “us-against-the-world” and strive to hold onto that which we have accumulated in life?
I suspect there is a deeper meaning in this that really doesn’t have all that much to do with the items stolen, or necessarily even with the construction subcontractors who stole them. I think the message is more about the reality that there are dishonest workers everywhere, in all kinds of work, including the ministry to which I have been called. That has been a lesson that I think I have been learning this past year, too. Even those in ministry with whom I am seeking to serve through study and a hoped-for ordination to ministry, I have found, sometimes dine at the table of the enemy, feasting on dainties set there to tempt. But instead of experiencing disappointment or being critical of brothers and sisters in ministry whom I have found to be fallible and broken themselves, I am being called to look within my own heart, to challenge my own motive for service and to know, without a doubt, that what I do is, in fact, driven by my desire to serve, please, and glorify God, not myself or others.
And in the moments when I discover that my motives are not as pure and holy as God and I myself would desire, to know that even then, I am still one who has been not merely invited, but compelled by the love and grace of God to dine at the banquet, even though it is among others who, like myself, are broken and undeserving.