In this day and age, we receive all manner of evites: to meetings, parties, events and more. Upon receiving the evite are we excited? Were we just hoping for a day or evening off? Does this seem more obligatory than interesting? Do we have to rearrange schedules? Are we hoping something more exciting comes along? We have choices – delete, never open, don’t answer, answer with regrets, or accept. And then come all the consequences of all those choices we make, intended or not. Does all this seem like a phenomenon of the internet age? Not really. It is as old as time and part of the gospel.
Luke describes this process of invitation and human response in chapters 14 and 15 of his gospel. It is like a play with three acts. Act 1 is the parable of the Great Feast – you know the outline. The king prepares the great feast and invites the guests, many of whom answer with regrets as they have other things to do. So, the king sends servants out to the highways and byways to invite just everyone (Luke 14:21).
Act 2 is today’s gospel, often titled, “The Cost of Discipleship” in which Jesus talks about the consequences of accepting the invitation. At the end of it all, there is indeed the Great Feast – but Jesus is talking about getting from here to there. Even when one chooses to accept the invitation, there are still lots of other choices to be made. In the gospel, Jesus makes his point with some startling hyperboles: you can choose your earthly family, or you can opt for the heavenly family. Choose those this life but be ready to pick up and carry the cross. And before any of those choices, count the costs. Are you willing and able to pay the cost for your choices of discipleship?
Does that sound too grim? Too melodramatic? I don’t think so. I think it’s a realistic counting of the cost. The cost of not following Jesus, not coming to the banquet, not carrying the cross. What a pity it would be for us to respond to God’s evite in this way: “Great idea to have the heavenly banquet. I have other priorities right now – raincheck?”
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