Please read Luke 14:7-24
As we make our way through the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 14 we are given a teaching by Jesus set inside a story about seating charts and banquet etiquette. What I think about when I read these verses is the conversation my husband and I have every year around “gala season.” Gala season is the time of year when seemingly every non-profit my husband supports (usually related to immigration) has their annual gala fundraiser/awards ceremony.
Marc loves these events. He loves the silent auctions, getting dressed up, the speakers, the mingling and networking, the dinner conversation with strangers, and the program. I…don’t. “Gala” in my mind translates into making small talk with strangers while wearing an uncomfortable cocktail dress and high heels. Marc and I have been doing this a long time and we have come to several agreements around gala season, one of which is that we pick one (just one) each summer to attend as a couple. So because the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor, it was at one of these gala banquets where I felt God’s providence most intensely.
Finding our seats among the hundreds of others at the banquet in a huge ballroom, I saw my place card next to a man who was already chatting up every person at the table. He was loud, full of energy, and I just knew he was going to talk my ear off. We started with the usual questions about who we were, where we lived, worked, etc. As we talked we each started to realize something. He and I were intricately linked together by the same life changing experience. We both had been involved in a tragic situation that shook us professionally and personally.
We had walked the exact same journey, experienced the same stressors and threats, had the same fears, and faced the same consequence for standing up for justice. By the time the main course was served we had pulled our chairs away from the table and were holding hands and crying as we recalled the events that had taken place and how we were healing in the aftermath.
Our spouses, the ones who wanted to come to the gala in the first place, were stunned at the seemingly random connection made at a banquet of strangers. Turns out we weren’t strangers at all. Without knowing each other’s faces, we were known to each other in ways that most people could never understand and being able to talk face to face about our common experience was profound for us both.
The setting was a gala banquet, but as I learned in that moment it was never about the meal or the seating chart or even the celebration. It was about being known and connected to another human being. Our unplanned, unexpected meeting face to face over a meal was one of the most healing things that had ever happened to me. Driving home that night, Marc and I alternated between crying and laughing in amazement about the ways the Spirit was at work.
The ballroom banquet table turned out to be holy space, sacred space. All this because I said “yes” to a gala I didn’t want to go to in the first place.
I believe that God plans banquets like this all the time. God keeps setting places at galas of grace in hopes that we will answer with a resounding “YES” rather than fuss about the clothes or the seating chart or other things to do. I believe that God keeps inviting us to surprise banquets to reveal just how wide God’s mercy really is. I believe that God has place cards with our names carefully printed up just waiting for us to show up and take our seats because God knows that amazing things happen around the table.
So when the invitation to the banquet comes may you say, “yes,” and may you be fed at the table of God’s grace.
In Peace, Pastor Ruth
Let us pray:
We are turning, Lord, to hear you, see you, and know you. You are merciful and kind, slow to anger, rich in blessings. With every twist and turn, lead our steps back to your grace and your mercy. Lead us in your ways of new life, forgiveness, and re-creation. We pray in the name of Christ, the one who reveals your love, Amen.