Sunday, March 16, 2008

Community, not charity

Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or 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." (NIV)

It may be my favorite snippet from Jesus. Just a brief reflection he offered when at a party table himself, thanks to the invitation of a wealthy religious leader of his day.

I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in his interpretation:

Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God's people." (The Message)

No telling how many times I've read the words. But I just saw something new and extremely important about this story.

No doubt, Jesus is seated at a table with his host for the party meal. As he observes the assembly of invited guests, he offers his suggestion about the guest list the next time his rich friend throws a party. He encourages his friend to invite people who don't often, if ever, receive an invitation to a party.

But, here's what I hadn't thought of until now.

Jesus doesn't have in mind a soup line or a giveaway effort.

What he imagines is exactly what he is enjoying. A sit-down dinner at the host's table. He's talking about serious friendship and fellowship! He wants his friend to discover the joy of the poor.

The reciprocity will not come in the form of any future invitation to come to their homes for a "pay back" party.

No. The payback will be in the event itself and in the eternal scheme of things to come.

I love it.

We dare not settle for the confines of controllable charity. We must dive into the deeps of genuine community engagement.

There we will find the true joy!

3 comments:

Jeremy Gregg said...

I think that one of the most important parts of CDM's ministry is the way it gathers both the rich and the poor around the table to share a meal and to get to know each other. This week's Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast was a good example of this, as our formerly homeless neighbors enjoyed breakfast alongside our top donors.

The Urban Engagement Book Club is another strong example of a place where we do this -- gathering all of God's children together around the table.

We need to find more ways to provide such opportunities for all of our neighbors to come together for shared meals and conversation.

Would any of this blog's readers be interested in joining me for a lunch with some of the formerly homeless people whom CDM has provided with homes? Email me at JGregg@CentralDallasMinistries.org if you're interested.

Enjoy your vacation, Larry!

Jeremy Gregg, Director of Development
Central Dallas Ministries

Karen Shafer said...

I would like to join you, and I will email you this information.

Steve said...

You all in Dallas may not appreciate something from Ft Worth. More likely, this book has been read by all of you, but I just have to comment that what you said here is spoken of in a book called: "Same kind of Different as me"...worth the read. Same sentiment...As Eugene so poignantly said it, Jesus' point is not to assuage the guilt feelings of the "Haves", but rather, to include the "have nots". In so doing, the haves see their need, and find their need met.