Today’s Author: Carol Swanson

Photo by Stella de Smit on Unsplash

“Our Daily Bread” Worship series has had us thinking about Bible stories centered on food this past month:  how important food is to our very existence, and how God’s active presence is found in these narratives. When I started thinking about devotions on food stories, my mind was drawn back to the February study on the Kingdom of God in the Gather magazine used by our women’s circles in the ELCA. The author of this study, retired New Testament professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Mark Allan Powell, shares some powerful insights into the radical ministry of Jesus, and so I would like to quote sections of the study today and tomorrow. Powell writes: 

Kingdom Meals

‘Banquets seem to have been Jesus’s favorite image for the kingdom of God. Many of his parables feature banquets (Matt 22:2-14…; Luke 14:7-14 and 16-24). References to eating or food come up in many other Gospel accounts as well (feeding the multitudes, discussions about fasting, references to fishing or shepherding, eating with outcasts, and so on).

‘This brings us to a discussion of the “acted parables” Jesus performed by staging pretend banquets with tax-collectors and sinners. Nothing that he did got him in more trouble than this. He is routinely condemned as “a friend of tax-collectors and sinners” and as someone who eats with such people (Mark 2:13-17; Luke 7:34 and 15:1-2). 

‘We are left to piece together what was going on. It was common in Israel’s tradition for prophets to perform public acts that would attract everybody’s attention and get them talking about what the act meant. (Think of “performance artists” in our modern world.) So Isaiah walked around naked (Is. 20:3); Jeremiah wore a yoke one time (Jer.27:1-7) and on another occasion, broke a pot (19:1-13). Similarly, Jesus seems to have gone from village to village inviting “tax-collectors and sinners” to gather with him at pretend banquets (he wouldn’t have had the resources for a real one). There, in the public eye, they feasted on whatever they had, demonstrating that this is what the kingdom of God is like. The religious people of his day clearly got the message and they hated it.’ (Gather Magazine, Volume 35 Issue 1 January-February 2022, “The kingdom of God: Mysteries of the kingdom,” by Mark Allan Powell, p 32.)

This idea of Jesus hosting “pretend banquets” intrigues me. His parables come to life?  Would I want to join in? But the guests have been labeled—judged—“tax-collectors and sinners.” Would I feel too uncomfortable, maybe a little afraid, and stand back, like the “religious people”?  If Jesus were to put on such a demonstration today, who would he invite to his banquet?

Gracious and loving Father, you are always nudging us to widen the circle of acceptance, always challenging us to actively welcome all into your kingdom, as sisters and brothers in your family. Please open our hearts and minds to your vision for this world. Amen.