Friday, April 22, 2011

The Tree of Life: The King's Banquet

Missio Lux is continuing our call to celebrate Easter at Occidental Square. Occidental Square is in the center of Pioneer Square, the historic district in downtown Seattle. It’s also a straight shot from Qwest Field where the Seahawks play football.

This year Mars Hill is renting out the stadium to bring their 9 church campuses together to worship on Easter. They are expecting 20,000 people to attend. It will be filled with loud worship music, an engaging sermon, and lots of key people from around the city.

Missio Lux, on the other hand, will be bringing in tables and chairs, as well as delicious food, to celebrate Easter through sharing a meal. Most often, when groups come to Occidental Square they stand behind a table and pass out food.

We did when we first came. I will never forget the first time we went to Occidental in the summer. We brought food for 300, far more than we were asked to bring. We thought we’d have leftovers to give to the shelters. Instead, we spent 5 hours serving food to almost one thousand people (which included 9 trips to the store by my husband). But, we served 1,000 meals behind the table. We felt pretty good to be there, too, as the people that we served were far different than what our Eastside Seattle exposure usually served us.

But, the miracle of two Easter’s ago, was when God gave us a clear and compelling call to go to Occidental Square to share Easter Afternoon with the poor and disenfranchised through sharing a feast with them. Sharing a feast. To share a feast means sitting down to eat lunch together.

We did this because we read what Jesus had to say to his disciples in Luke 14. He told two stories and both of them come with a call to share a banquet, or a feast, with those that the rest of the world forgets about. Jesus tells the dinner guests “When you put on a luncheon or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives and rich neighbors. For they will replay you by inviting you back. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those that could not repay you” Luke 14:12-14.

When one of the dinner guests makes a statement, “What a privilege it would be to have a share in the Kingdom of God,” Jesus gives him a picture of what it means to have that share in the Kingdom. The story is basically that a man gave a great feast and invited all his friends. But, they made excuses, life got in the way and they were too busy to come. The man, out of anger, decided to fill the tables at his party anyway. He told his servant to go out into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. When there was still room, the man sent his servant to scour the places even more going to the country lanes and behind the hedges so his table would be full.

Jesus repeats the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind two times in Luke 14. Why do you think it is repeated? We find a clue in his response to John the Baptist in Luke 7 when John sent a question, “Are you the One to come, or should we look somewhere else?” Jesus replied very matter of factly, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”

Why do you think that John asked the question?

It seems obvious to me now. He asked Jesus because he thought that the Kingdom of God would look a lot different than how The Message presents it: the wretched of the earth receiving the King’s invitation to the Banquet. Everyone automatically assumed that the invitation would go to the ones that had been working so hard to receive it. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had put in tremendous effort in helping all the people get “good and clean enough” to host the King at their dinner tables.

I came face to face with Jesus’ mind when I heard about Mars Hill being within eyesight of Occidental Square and thought about the vast differences in our approach. I saw 20,000 people filling a stadium and then thought about a few hundred people dining together in Occidental Square. I started to feel like what we were doing would be insignificant in comparison.

But, then I remembered Jesus’ words. I remembered that if he was coming to a party today he would want his favorite people: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind to be present. He would be delighted to sit at any of the tables where the great divide of the bridge in Seattle is brought together by a family with children and a couple of gruff homeless men saying grace together holding hands, or a couple from Microsoft land eagerly inviting a couple that has all their earthly belongings in their packs on their back to share lunch at their table. Jesus would throw his head back and laugh at some of the funny stories being told at the table.

It was last year that we even decided that we would not preach at the Square this Easter. I think that the poor and disenfranchised have probably been preached to enough. It is through listening to their stories that we offer our biggest witness. It is when Lance, a typical eastsider, sat down and heard the story of a man who had lost everything but then offered to pray for Lance, that his world was turned upside down. Lance suddenly realized that his definition of “success and spiritual maturity” were in direct contrast to the ways of the kingdom.

This year, we are inviting the banquet guests to share their stories of how Jesus has been present in their lives. We will have the opportunity to hear of how beds were miraculously provided, new jobs came from out of nowhere, bodies were healed. Last year Angie told a story about being at the kid’s table making Easter bags to pass out when they were approached by a homeless man who came and told them that Jesus loved them, and died for them, and that he especially loved the children. He wanted them to know that. She writes of being stunned that the man had witnessed through his actions when he reached across all the social barriers that still separated them, despite being at the same Square at the same time. He made it clear that we are all one in Christ. 

   CLICK HEREto read more compelling stories from last year.

So, off we go on Sunday. Twenty thousand we are not; but we are seeking to live a kingdom lifestyle that delights the heart of the King: being present together in unity with the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind so that the tables are full at the King’s Banquet. I hope you will join us!

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