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April 3, 2015, 8:55 AM

Attached (Maundy Thursday Meditation)


Luke 14:16-24 CEB
Jesus replied, “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people.  When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, ‘Come! The dinner is now ready.’  One by one, they all began to make excuses. The first one told him, ‘I bought a farm and must go and see it. Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them. Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’  When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’  The servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.’ The master said to the servant, ‘Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
 
Attached
 
Holding up pieces of a broken chalice. I broke this chalice ten years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I had been leading a multi-sensory worship service for the Wyoming Annual Conference. I had a large box of materials, and as I packed everything away at the end of the service, I wrapped the chalice in a piece of fabric and laid it top of the nearly full box. While walking across the dark parking lot I fumbled to get my car keys out of my pocket, and dropped them onto the pavement. Believing I was Wonder Woman, I determined I could pick up those dropped keys without putting down that full box. It happened as if in slow motion. The box tipped. The wrapped chalice began to roll, unwrapping itself as it gained momentum…and smash! It hit the pavement and shattered into these pieces. I think I cried a little.
 
I have been carrying this broken chalice with me ever since. It was a gift from Doug, and the first personal chalice I ever received. It is the cup of salvation and graced many a Holy Communion table. It was beautiful, it still is beautiful in its own way. I’m attached to it still, and probably always will be.
 
But that is what it means to be human, right? Attachment is part of our humanness. We assign meaning to things; pour memory and sentiment into them. Allow them to represent people and events and feelings. And we define ourselves by our larger attachments: family attachments—wife, mother, daughter, sister—work attachments, extracurricular activities, talents, hobbies, interests. These are all good things, even great things. They are part of the tapestry of our lives, the fabric of our being.
 
But there resides a danger in our attachments as well. We can become too attached. Our attachments can begin to own us, control us.  The root meaning of attachment from the Old English is ‘staked to,’ or ‘nailed to.’ What happens when our good attachments begin to consume us and take over our lives? It is not a comfortable question to contemplate. Perhaps that is why the Parable of the Great Banquet never appears in the regular Sunday lectionary.
 
We have been exploring the parables of Jesus throughout Lent and have seen how many of these parables have layers to explore and contemplate. There is one undeniable layer to our parable tonight, and it addresses our attachments. A wealthy person decides to host a lavish dinner, a feast, and invites all their peers—wealthy people all. The invitations are sent. The feast is prepared. Servants are sent forth to announce that ‘dinner is served.’ The excuses ensue.
 
The first can’t come as they have just made a significant investment, a large piece of property has been purchased. Excuses are made so that this investment may be attended to. The second can’t come because a huge (enormous) number of oxen have been purchased…ten oxen, five teams of two. This is an extraordinary number for first century Israel. The second can’t attend, there is work to do. And the last has just gotten married, and you know, family comes first. These are good things; the security of investments, fruitful work, starting a family. But these three are too busy, too attached to other things, to accept the invitation to the feast.
 
So, the feast planner invites those with little attachments. Those who will see such an invitation as the wonder it is. The feast planner invites the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, the transient, the refugee, the homeless—for who else is living in alleys and highways? For this isn’t just some lavish dinner, we know Jesus. This is the great feast of God’s realm, sung of throughout Isaiah. These first invited were so busy, so attached to other things, that they missed it.
 
Jesus tells this story at a lavish dinner, surrounded by wealthy guests. He has observed people entering the banquet, vying for the best seats. He has noticed that all invited will be able to return the favor, and continue this networking system. So he urges them to be a people who take the lowest seat, not the highest, and embrace a sense of humility. He calls for them to invite those who are not able to repay the favor and embrace true generosity. He invites them to help make this dinner they find themselves attending a glimpse of Isaiah’s feast, God’s kingdom.
 
How timely this parable is for where we find ourselves today; as individuals, as a community, as a culture. We have so many attachments and the vast majority of them are good things, great things. But we have so many attachments and they pull us in so many different directions. Our calendars seek to own us, our schedules demand our attention, our obligations consume us. What invitations to God’s feast have we missed? What kingdom moments have we passed by without noticing?
 
Here is the table, an appetizer of the Great Feast to come. Here is commonwealth living, kingdom living. Here, in this place, we have the opportunity to embrace humility as we dip our feet in the waters of the basin. Here, in this place, we come with our hands empty to receive abundant grace in the bread and the cup. Here we practice letting go of our attachments and witnessing God’s commonwealth in action, God’s kingdom realized right here, right now. Thanks be to God! Amen.

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