Preparing a Banquet

February 20, 2021


Isaiah 58:9b–14 | Luke 5:27–32 | Psalm 86:1–11

We’re only four days into Lent – a time of solemnity and abstinence. But today’s gospel has me thinking about parties. You remember parties… where people gather to eat and drink together, listen to music, dance and even hug one another. How many birthday parties, anniversary parties and weddings have we missed this year as we’ve huddled in quarantine? We hope that as more people are vaccinated, we will have the opportunity to gather and celebrate together again soon.

In today’s gospel we read of a tax collector named Levi (also known as the Apostle Mathew). Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish authorities as collaborators with the Roman occupiers. After meeting Jesus, Levi becomes a disciple and he organizes a banquet in Jesus’ honor. To the dismay of the Pharisees and their scribes, Jesus attends the banquet which is attended by a group of Levi’s friends. Jesus sits at the table and eats and drinks with the tax collectors and other “sinners”. Jesus responds to the Pharisee’s complaints by explaining that he has not been called to minister to the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. I like to imagine it was a great party! Maybe some of the guests had a life-changing experience as they sat and ate with Jesus. I like to think that I would have been happy to be invited to that party….but I also know that I possess more than enough self-righteousness that I could also be among the scribes standing on the sideline, judging the participants.

As much as I miss parties, I am certain that I miss Sundays in church even more. I miss our opportunity to gather each week and celebrate the Eucharist together. As Jesus embraced the outcasts at Levi’s banquet, so is He present for us when we gather at the altar to share in the Eucharist. And I am grateful to be a part of a Christian community “Where all are welcome at the Lord’s table”.  

I am confident that it won’t be long before we will be celebrating birthday parties and weddings again.  And we will return to church to celebrate the Eucharist as soon as we are confident that it is safe to do so. And we will welcome all who come to our table with open arms and open hearts. We will eat and drink and sing and even embrace again. Until that day we may find comfort in the words of the Psalm:

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, *
and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer, *
and attend to the voice of my supplications.

In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, *
for you will answer me.

I wish you a blessed Lent.

Paul Brookes