The Gospel & Pastrami Sandwiches

In Luke 14:1pastrami5-24 Jesus shares the parable of the great feast. A man once gave a great banquet and sent word to those invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” All the invited guests started making excuses so the master of the house said, “go quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” The servants obeyed and still there was room at the feast so the master said, “go into the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”

Now this parable was addressing the Jews (and in particular the Pharisees) rejection of Christ’s invitation to enter the kingdom; but there is another important point to be made here. Look at who was invited; the poor, crippled, blind and lame. These were the individuals who were tossed aside from normal society. In most cases they were outcasts and even unwelcome in “proper” society.

It was a Sunday evening in the small church I grew up in on the edges of inner-city Detroit. We were all listening attentively when I heard the pop and fizz of a coke can opening. That was followed by the rattling of a paper bag as a young man pulled out a rather aromatic pastrami sandwich and started in on his dinner. This wasn’t a rare situation at the Redford church. The young man might be considered socially awkward, or mentally limited by today’s standards. He sold fuller brushes door to door and could only make it to evening services. In all the years he attended I never once heard an individual criticize the young man, or rebuke him for being a disturbance at church. For the most part people seemed to appreciated his effort and made allowances for his somewhat peculiar behavior.

For me that story illustrates the essence of the gospel and at least one lesson Jesus was trying to teach in Luke 14. Open the doors, invite everyone from the city streets, highways and hedges. Embrace their imperfections, love them through their peculiarities, and exercise some grace and compassion when they don’t fit into our well defined little boxes. After 30 years of ministry I have seen too many people driven out the doors of our assemblies because they don’t fit our neat, tidy, and antiseptic environment we call church.

If you read our Lord’s parable all the way through, the ending is rather chilling. “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet” (14:24). Count me among the poor, crippled, blind, and lame that I might enjoy the Master’s feast!

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