…when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place… For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” …when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” —Luke 14:10a-11,13-14
One of the go-to-sound-bites of the perpetuators of the culture war (aka: The War on Christmas) is the question, “Whose birthday is it, anyway?” Most often posed by Christians who complain that they are being discriminated against because shop keepers insist on the more inclusive, “happy holidays” over “Merry Christmas” the answer to the question is, of course, Jesus.
Just as Jesus did when he told this parable about dinner invitations and seating arrangements, the Rev. Dr. Shanell T. Smith (a professor at Hartford Seminary) flipped that Christmas question on its head, when reflecting on this week’s March on Washington she asked, “Whose Banquet Is It Anyway.” I like Smith’s questions so much more!
As we honor and celebrate the economic and social contributions of our nation’s workers this Labor Day weekend, Smith’s question is a marvelous call to the very meaning and history we remember this week. “What if America was a banquet, and at this banquet the servings were fair wages, just trials, civil rights and liberties, but offered by invitation only? According to those who “March(ed) on Washington,” this was exactly the case. Blacks deserved the same fair treatment as whites, and they were protesting to bring about the necessary changes. Perhaps if everyone took heed of Jesus’ instructions on banquet etiquette, things would be different and better.”
Beloved, we have not achieved the dream of equality in America. And everyone wants to be at the banquet—the banquet of equal opportunity, mutual respect, and equal rights—justifiably so. Therefore, as part of our Labor Day celebration, let us be reminded that Jesus invited everyone to the table. Everyone. No exceptions.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do as I do. Turn it upside down. Humble yourself and sit at the lowest place. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed—and repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Then Jesus will say to you, “Come. Sit here, next to me.”
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade (firstname.lastname@example.org)