Luke chapter 15 contains the well known parables of lost things – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. I always thought these parables were about how God seeks after us and finds us even when we are lost, but in my New Testament class last week (and in last Sunday’s sermon at TCC), I was shown that each story also ends with the theme of celebration. The shepherd calls his friends and neighbors together to celebrate finding the one sheep, the woman does the same for the coin, and the Father throws a big party when his son returns home. The message of the parable is clear for the Pharisees and scribes (Jesus is telling this parable to them, see Luke 15:1-2) – don’t grumble about the ‘unrighteous’ who are found by God. Don’t be like the older son, indignant that those who did right all their lives were not getting any special treatment but the “prodigal son” (note that Luke doesn’t use the word prodigal – that’s just the editorial heading) gets a feast with the fatted calf and a new wardrobe: ring, robe, and shoes. The parable is also for us – don’t just be glad for your own salvation but seek out those who have been newly found by God and throw a party. Bring our most lavish gifts to celebrate with any and all who want to celebrate. Not those who we’d expect to see at the banquet – friends and relatives, but the poor and social outcasts. Remember the parable of the Great Banquet was just the chapter before!
The theme of feasting, hospitality, and eating together is all over the pages of Luke’s gospel. Once I started noticing it, it is so clear that Luke really wants us to know that eating together is very important. It’s quickly becoming my favorite Gospel narrative. Because of its emphasis on eating together (Jesus eats with ‘sinners’), it shows that these simple actions are actually very important to God. I like cooking for people and because of passages like Luke 15, I am beginning to see the dinner party as a necessary spiritual practice in my life. So come on over for dinner sometime!