Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. I hope you are enjoying the warmer weather and the signs that Spring is on its way.
I love Spring. I love watching the effect that Spring has on our garden. From the cold, damp earth the first snowdrops breakthrough, followed by daffodils, tulips and bluebells, bringing new life and colour after a drab winter. Spring is a season of transformation.
On Monday we looked at the fact that we are called to work with God to create transformation in the world around us. Yesterday, we saw that the good news of Jesus is all about the radical transformation of social structures. Today, as we read Luke Chapter 14 verses 15-35, we’ll see Jesus move on to talk about personal transformation in the lives of those who follow him.
Our focus is verse 33: “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
The story of the great banquet is the story of a man who was prepared to give up everything in order to be a disciple, and to live out the radical, transformed life that Jesus calls each of his followers to.
The first thing we learn is that to follow Jesus means a transformation in our thought life.
In verse 21 the master is angry that people have given excuses for their non-attendance. It seems a natural, and indeed justifiable, response to their rudeness, and the potential waste of money and food. However, he does not plot revenge or seek reprisals. Neither does he harbour bitterness. Instead he seeks to turn around his initial anger and transform it into something completely different – and so he extends hospitality, generosity and welcome to others.
In Romans 12 v 2, Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
When faced with frustrating or challenging situations, how do we react?
Do we conform to the pattern of this world; justifying our anger as ‘natural’ or ‘reasonable’?
Or do we ask the Holy Spirit to transform our thoughts and emotions?
Are there areas of unforgiveness or resentment that we need to give up, in order that we can follow Jesus on the journey of discipleship?
Secondly, the parable of the great banquet shows us that being a disciple of Jesus means a transformation in our relationship with the world; in particular the earthly enticements of money, sex, and power. The guests that were invited to the feast missed out on the celebration because they were caught up or distracted by worldly possessions, their wealth and status as landowners, and the fact that they had just married!
In this way, the Bible is as relevant to today’s culture as it was when it was first written.
Are there aspects of our relationship with, or attitude to, money, sex and power that need to be transformed, or that we need to give up, in order to follow Jesus more closely?
Money, sex and power are huge driving forces in our world. If we are able to live differently in these areas, then we will indeed be the ‘salty’ salt that Jesus speaks of in verse 34, and make a difference in the places where God has planted us.
Finally, we return to the table talk and table practices from Tuesday’s podcast.
As we saw yesterday, throwing a banquet and inviting guests was intrinsically linked to social status and acceptance from the in-crowd. To have your invitation rejected or spurned, as happened to the man in today’s parable, basically meant he was socially snubbed, publicly shamed, and the approval of his peers was removed in an instant. However, rather than letting rejection shape his actions, the man instead goes about cultivating a new community. Rather than conforming to the old ideas of social hierarchy, he models a new way to live, and invites those who would normally be excluded. And the feast continues!
We see similar themes in verse 26, when Jesus talks about disciples needing to hate their parents, partners and children, in order to follow him. Hate in this context in not an emotion, but rather a way of saying that our commitment to Christ should come before all other social relationships, however close and important they are to us. In verse 29, Jesus also talks about a builder who will not take a step of faith and lay the first foundations for a tower, for fear of public ridicule, if he cannot complete the task.
The application here is clear: to follow Jesus means a total transformation in our relationship with and to others.
In our social media driven age, the desire for approval, likes and follows is endemic. Keeping up with the in-crowd, constantly thinking about how people will respond to your latest post or photo, and the fear of being publicly shamed, is leading to a mental health crisis amongst the young.
For some of us, no matter which generation we belong to, being open about our faith, saying that we are a Christian, is something that we just daren’t do, for fear of being socially snubbed.
For others, fear of ridicule or failure is preventing us from stepping out into the things that God has for us.
We need to ask the Holy Spirit to transform our attitudes and ideas about our position and place in society, give up our fears, and ask God to create a new vision of community, belonging and acceptance in our hearts.
Reflect on the words of Psalm 56 v11: “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?”
Do not let the fear of man, the distractions of the world, or an unhealthy thought life, rob you of your place at the feast. Give up these things, trust in God, and in all areas of life, seek to be a disciple of Jesus.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are the God who transforms lives. Show us today the things that we need to give up in order to follow you more closely. Fill us with your Holy Spirit to enable us to do this. Amen.
READING: Luke 14:15-35
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’
Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.”
‘But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.”
‘Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.”
‘Still another said, “I have just got married, so I can’t come.”
‘The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”
‘“Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.”
‘Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”’
Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”
‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out.
‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’