Last Sunday’s sermon, “The Strategic Blessing of a Scandalously Diverse Guest List,” asked the question: “Who is Jesus calling you to put on your guest list?” This came from Luke 14:12-14, where Jesus tells the host, the one who invited him to a dinner party full of society’s religious elites, who he should invite: not your friends, family, or rich neighbors with the power to repay you in kind, but the outcasts and the overlooked with no earthly means to repay you. The result of this subversive guest list, Jesus says, is that you, the host, will be blessed.
The sermon also mentioned Minister Candace Simpson, a religious educator and podcaster serving at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, NY, whose philosophy is that heaven is a revolution that must begin here on earth. Simpson says that “in his own special way, Jesus subverts what a blessing is, and more importantly, who can give you a blessing.” She points out how earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” and, “Blessed are those who hunger now, for they will be filled.” These aren’t your normal blessings. They’re subversive. And they’re meant to be so, because subversion yields transformation—change—which is the necessary outcome of a life of discipleship, a life devoted to following Jesus, a Christian life.
“Blessings help us reimagine the world that we live in,” Simpson asserts. They are “a gift to reimagine our society.” So, when we ask ourselves who Jesus is calling us to put on our guest list, let’s think terms of whose perspective might bless us with a reimagining of society. As Simpson suggests, look at a blessing as “a thing that changes us for the better.” This is how rethinking who Jesus might be calling us to put on our guest list results in the strategic blessing of a scandalously diverse guest list. That kind of subversive approach to who we invite into the circle of our affection stokes and nurtures a transformation of ourselves we didn’t know we needed until Jesus pointed it out, until he showed us how to love the whole world starting with how we see one another. To be changed like this is a blessing.
So, in seeking to be blessed and to be a blessing today, I am thinking of who Jesus is calling me to put on my guest list so that I might offer hospitality without repayment, loving kindness with no strings attached, in how I pray; specifically, in terms of who I pray for. In a prayer over dinner with my family this week, I prayed that Jesus would be our guest at the table with us. Likewise, when we pray for others, we don’t hold them at arm’s length, tossing a coin to them like a beggar on the street with obligatory words spoken about them to make us feel better; but when we pray for others, we invite them into our heart, home, and very life, pulling them close that they might receive what they need and we might be changed for the better by that deep need, reimagining society so in order to know better how to serve it as an expression of holy love.
A prayer: Generous Host of All Creation, I thank you for inviting me into the circle of your expansive affection. Today I pray for those suffering from floods in Pakistan, for the millions displaced from their homes that they would find hospitality and rest, and for our hearts to be broken to the reality of climate change’s effects on our most vulnerable neighbors. I pray for men poisoned by the internalized toxins of racism and white supremacy, for those who see the table of your world’s hospitality growing too big for the beautiful diversity of your whole creation, that they would be blessed with experiences and relationships that help them see how their own identity—their own belovedness—is not based on a manmade construct of race that grants them power only to the extent that others are beneath them, but on the timeless gift of personhood made in your image that is, in essence, love; and that I would see past their life’s veneer constructed by hateful ideologies and into their wounds, their pain, their needs. I pray for women facing criminality for seeking abortion care, for women who need that care but who do not have the means to travel outside of our state to receive it, for their experiences and stories to be heard in deep gray understanding that would best help and serve them, and not in shallow black-or-white certainties that judge and dismiss them. I pray for children and families in our community who do not have enough food in their homes for them to be nourished in mind, body, and spirit, that they would have their utmost needs met without further burdens added to their already heavy load. I pray for all of these neighbors, near and far, and that their lived realities would open the eyes of my heart to each of them, O God, that in seeing them my heart would be melted and molded to be more in tune with the world as you see it, and that my life would be filled with your compassion and used in accordance with your merciful will to build up, do no harm, understand deeply, and love completely. In the name of the One who calls me to pray like this always I pray. Amen.