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I recently shared a message from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.19-31. It was a simple parable I’ve read countless times but I feel like for the first time ever it really challenged me to wrestle with the implications of what Jesus was saying to those like myself who feel secure in their social status and their religious ties. In the past when I read the parable I always said how stupid can you get not to extend compassion to those right outside your door. But as I read this parable afresh in light of its cultural context (see the extended quote below for that) I was left with this question: Who is sitting at my table, with my family, and why?

In the ancient Mediterranean world, mealtime was a social event whose significance far outdistanced the need to satisfy one’s hunger. To welcome people at the table had become tantamount to extending to them intimacy, solidarity, acceptance; table companions were treated as though they were of one’s extended family. Sharing food encoded messages about hierarchy, inclusion and exclusion, boundaries and crossing boundaries. Who ate with whom, where one sat in relation to whom at the table – such questions as these were charged with social meaning in the time of Jesus and Luke. As a consequence, to refuse table fellowship with people was to ostracize them, to treat them as outsiders.

It is against this backdrop that Jesus’ table practices in the Third Gospel are set in sharp relief . . . Will those who follow Jesus learn to embody the message of his scandalous table practices?Joel Green, The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, pgs. 87-89

F.F. Bruce a number of years back had a book called “Hard sayings of Jesus.” This parable definitely belongs in there. Let me ask you a simple question, who is sitting at your table and why? Believing in Jesus resurrection has all sorts of difficult implications, one of which is the growth of radical hospitality in our lives…

(Photographic art by rainsoaked, piece entitled “sleep“)

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