The Great Banquet
My local church set aside this past week for a time of focused ministry in our own community here in Durham. A wide variety of service projects were engaged, from activities for children of all ages, serving coffee at the train station for the many commuters, cleaning up and doing repairs around the city, and all sorts of festivities. Of course, the purpose in each event was to shine the light of Christ into our surrounding community. Various teams were set up for special assignments. One of these assignments was to host a banquet to which everybody in the city of Durham could be invited. The team that was given this project found out about it only on Wednesday and had until Saturday to find a venue, organize the catering, recruit volunteers and servers, oh. . . and somehow get the message out to anybody and everybody that all were invited to the great Durham Banquet. A sum of £100 was initially given for the project. The rest would have to be donated.
The inspiration behind this feast originates in the parable of the Great Banquet found in Luke 14. Before telling his parable, Jesus says to a Pharisee who had invited him to dine in his house:
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14, ESV)
The community of King’s Church in Durham moved forward to invite anybody who would come, not with the hope of being repaid in any way, but simply to be a blessing in our own community. The results were astounding. Loads of people offered willing hands to prepare delicious food, donate money, spread the word about the event, set up, and serve. Two young men found their way along the river paths picking flowers to add an elegant touch to each table setting. After all, this was a banquet – not a simple picnic – and touches of grace were to be found throughout the event. We were graciously allowed to host our event on the lawn in front of Durham’s magnificent 11th century Norman Cathedral and the weather could not have been more perfect! All in all, an estimated 400-500 people were served a lunch to be remembered.
There’s always a bit of an internal struggle about the appropriateness of reporting such events as this. We want to take seriously Jesus’ admonition to not do deeds in order to be noticed by men. I’m not tooting my own horn here because the idea was not mine. Rather, I write to be an encouragement that positive works are taking place around the world. We hear all too often about the devastation being wreaked in people’s lives. Much more seldom do we have the opportunity to hear of the positive, selfless contributions that are being made in the name of Christ. Let us rejoice at the beauty of Christ’s inspiring love toward us, let us continue to share that extravagant love, and let God’s name be glorified here on earth.