When I was around 14 years old, my dad brought home a friend from work. Let’s call him Walt. Walt had fallen on some hard times personally and financially. For several months Walt spent a lot of time at our house in the evenings and on weekends. He helped out with home improvement projects. He played games in the yard with us. He had dinner with us on many evenings. Most importantly, Walt was not alone.
One Saturday we installed paneling in the living room. I say “we” but I was only peripherally involved; my dad and Walt did almost all the work, though I did lend the occasional steadying third set of hands. It was a big project, and we worked well past our home’s normal supper time. When the project was done, we washed up and sat down to supper, which was already on the table.
“Eat up,” I said to Walt. “You sure earned it.”
That was a mistake. My dad shot me a look that I knew meant we were going to have a talk.
A few hours later, after good food (my mom is a great cook!) and plenty of conversation and laughter, Walt went home. I had forgotten all about my earlier misstep, but my dad hadn’t. As the front door shut he turned to me with a stern look.
“Don’t ever tell anyone they have to earn a meal here,” he said. “That’s not how we do things. You should know better.” I started to say it was a joke, but didn’t get to finish. “It wasn’t funny. Don’t do it again.”
My dad is not a particularly religious man, but that day he taught me a very Christ-like lesson. When Christ invites us to the table, it’s not because we’ve somehow earned it; it’s because he loves us. Christ offers us a grace freely given, and no one else around the table gets to judge who should partake. We don’t even get to judge how much. In the Parable of the Workers, laborers who work a partial shift get paid just as much as laborers who work a whole shift. If that seems unfair, take it up with Jesus. Until he says differently, we are all welcome at the table.
The Peace of Christ be with you.
This first invitation is dedicated with much love and thanks to my dad, who is so encouraging to me about the blog and has provided great feedback that has helped shape it. Love you, Dad!