Food, glorious food
It is amazing how much of our lives are taken up with eating, and how important meals are ... not simply to fulfill the physical need of getting energy into our bodies but the social aspect of meeting people over meals, of celebrating holidays and other special occasions with food.
Over the last month I have been to - Birthday lunches, a wedding Banquet, preparing meals for friends from the USA, breakfast with Christians in Malta, food with friends.
In our culture food is an important part of social life. Wether it be celebrating 50 years of Mens Club, Ladies Guild, the end of the academic year for the vestry, golf club, bridge club ... or whatever the occasion food plays an important part in our social life here in Belfast.
The same was very true in Jesus’ day - When someone prepared a feast - the invites went out. There were those who were invited and those who were not. In today’s reading we see Jesus using this meal which he was a guest at to teach some very important lessons, not simply about protocol at meals but actually digging down to underlying attitudes towards all whom we meet.
Meals in Jesus’ time were important social affairs - those who were important were sitting next to the host. Those who were least were sitting further away. Imagine the problems trying to sort out who would sit where.
I know that this is going to be an issue when it comes to wedding plans in the Ferris household when it comes to table positions for my Sisters wedding next May. Who sits where? Just at the end of July I was invited to a wedding Banquet - there was as there is at all big dinners a seating chart, telling all who is sitting where!
In the first half of the reading - Jesus uses that very scenario - who sits where - as a lesson to those around the the table
The attitude which Jesus is trying to teach is that of humility - of saying look you are just as important as I am, of equality in the sight of God.
This is an attitude which is indeed lacking so often today - where people are trying to go for Gold, trying to climb the social ladder, to portray themselves as better than someone else.
In the second half of the reading - Jesus uses the fact of the invitations being sent out to all - particularly to those who wouldn’t normally get anything - perhaps maybe only the scraps left over. This is radical teaching - the Kingdom of God is indeed being opened to all... to every single person.
What a challenge that is - from a society which is made up of a segragated people - people who were in the loop, people who knew they were right and that everyone else was wrong. To become a society or kingdom where every single person is invited equally.
A world in which those who are at the bottom of the heap are actually invited to the top table
A world where those who are outsiders are actually key to the whole enterprise
A world where all are treated with amazing grace and love regardless of who they are, what they have done.
A world where outward appearances dont matter, but rather the heart is what defines you
That really is silly - it is inside out and back to front - but actually that is what Jesus was doing- it is crazy but that is the gospel.
In this back to front, inside out kingdom - there are a few things we need to know
Firstly the invitation has gone out to us all - are we ready to respond?
Are we ready to say I would love to come along, to get involved, to invite others, to encourage others to play their part
We are all called to serve humbly
None of us as christians can say I don’t need to do anything - we have all been given talents, all been given resources, passions in which we can channel into things which help to build up the kingdom of God.
How are you and I this year going to serve God, where we are and with what we have this year?
In this church we are are all called to serve - regardless of our age, our background
In the September edition of the magazine, which you will see - centre page is one of the bits of the vision which I along with the rector and group made up of the current youth groups is a vision statement and way forward to re-invigorate the youth ministry of the parish.
You will also get with your magazine a yellow sheet - entitled ... how can you support st columbas - we are trying to see if there are people who could get involved in various aspects of Church life who we could draw upon their talents - not just for youth but for MU, Ladies Guild, mens club etc.
Or if you would like more information.
We want to make sure that there is no one in this parish who is able to say that they have not been invited, nor that they do not belong to the organisations. If you have an inkling that you would like more information about something that is happening, that you might like to get involved please do fill in the yellow sheet.
Myself and the Rector would love to meet people over a coffee to chat about people getting involved in organisations,
we would love to chat with people about faith,
about bible reading,
about getting deeper in their relationship with God,
about using your gifts - whatever they may be
about service with the youth organisations,
Jesus has given us a wonderful example of service, of being a radical invitation giver. As his followers we need to fling wide the doors of our church to an amazing welcoming church. Where those who have not set foot inside this building on a sunday morning before or recently receive a warm welcome, where those who come to our organisations this coming year are welcomed as if they were the VIP’s in the room.
Are we prepared to invite and welcome people who are different - who would we question about inviting along to our groups and why?
Our parish is doing its utmost at the moment to invite young people along to our sunday school, doves and youth group. But it is each one of our responsibilities to invite, to talk to our friends about St. Columba’s, to get involved in what is happening.
It is my prayer that we would each do this - so that the Body of Christ, that is the church here in this parish may be built up and that we would grow in faith, hope and love.
As we conclude - Jesus invites us to humility of spirit and to reaching out - let us do what we can to include others.