Many of Jesus’ stories and parables center on parties and feasts. A consistent theme in these stories is that many who attend are unworthy. We see this in the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:15-24). Many on the initial guest list refused to come, and so many others were then invited. And those invited later were people one would never expect to be invited to a noble event.
The great parable of the wayward son (Luke 15:11-32) ends with a surprising feast. The elder son in the parable gives voice to our confusion when he complains about the party. How could his father throw a feast for such a disgraceful person? And how could his father invite everyone to share in this family disgrace?
This feast also includes a surprising guest list: you and me.
At this table, I am so grateful that Christ, our elder brother, is totally different from the elder brother in Jesus’ story. Jesus not only enjoys the party, he serves as host. He not only tolerates everyone who attends, he extends the invitation.
We see this at the original Communion meal. When Jesus gathered his disciples for this meal, he welcomed a betrayer and denier, and all the rest of the fearful and faithless disciples. He invited those quick to quarrel and those soon to be scattered. These are the witnesses to the new covenant of Christ. These are the heralds of the historic change. This was not a feast for the great, but the grateful. This was not a feast for those who had earned a place at the table, but for those whose place at the table was earned by the host of the party.
Are you wondering whether you are fit to take Communion today? Are you worthy to join in this feast? It is a terrible feeling to find yourself at a party and not be sure if you are wanted. It is worse to want to be at a party and know you are not invited. You may feel that way today. You may feel you are unwelcome, unworthy to partake. You may be listening to voices that say you aren’t welcome, or that there isn’t room.
In that case, hear the voice of the host. This is his table and he welcomes you. He says, “I have come to seek and save the lost.” All people are invited to receive Christ and be baptized into his life, and all who are in Christ are invited to this table. This Communion meal, like the very first one, is the feast not of the worthy, but of those who have been called and have said yes to the gift of God’s welcome.
Ethan Magness is pastor of spiritual formation with Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland.