Sunday, January 13, 2013
Guess who's coming to dinner?
Luke 13:29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.
Luke 13:30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Jesus was describing to the followers the kingdom of God and what would happen in the final days. Typical of culture in those days there was to be a great feast in which many special guests would come and recline at the table with the Master. What a great time of joy and celebration that would be! Of course the Pharisees were looking forward to this event and assumed that they would be the honored people who would have the places of honor in the kingdom. Instead Jesus was again changing the paradigm. Those who think that they are special and highly favored may not even find themselves invited to the banquet! The kingdom was now going to be opened up to Gentiles from all over the world and they would respond -- they would come and discover that they had the honored places at the great banquet table.
For centuries now the West has been the cradle of Christianity and has seen herself in this favored role or position. It has been those in the West who burned with a passion for Jesus Christ and have traveled the world as missionaries sharing the gospel message with those who had never had the opportunity to hear. But today Christianity is in the decline in the West and those revival fires are no longer burning. Traveling through Europe you discover beautiful old church buildings standing as monuments to the past but that are struggling to simply keep their doors open. They have become museums to the past. In Quebec, Canada we find thousands of Roman Catholic church buildings that are simply standing empty. And in America there are mega-churches facing bankruptcy and shopping mall sized church buildings looking desolate with knee-high grass growing through the cracks in the parking lot.
Meanwhile in other parts of the world -- those lands where the missionaries took the gospel, there is fertile ground. Whether it's the underground movement in China or the exploding spread of Christianity in Africa, the very face of Christianity is changing. And yet somehow the West may find itself in the very position of the Pharisees, taking for granted that they have the choicest seats at the banquet table. Jesus reminded the Pharisees and he reminds us today as well, people will come from all over the world to participate in the kingdom of God. And if you are assuming that you will be first -- forget it, for you very well may be last!
This is not just about the kingdom to come, but speaks into the kingdom of God which is active in the world today. And for the kingdom to continue to expand, we must act like citizens of the kingdom. In other words we must react the way that Jesus would have reacted and the reality is that there are people coming to dinner who will have the seats of honor that may just shock us! Leadership within the Church is shifting and those who have typically had the power need to recognize this shift and allow God to do his work. Look at the shift within the Episcopal Church in the United States where one entire segment has now placed itself under the authority of the Bishop from Africa. Why is this? Because spiritual leadership is rising up in other parts of the world and the last are becoming first and the first are becoming last.
Those who have become accustomed to the seats of honor must be willing to get up and get out of their seats, making way for the new guests who are coming to dinner -- and if they don't they will be embarrassed when they are asked to move! The center of Christianity is shifting and we must thank God for the continued movement of his Holy Spirit in this world. Just don't be surprised at who will be coming to dinner -- and where they will be seated!
Lord, I'm so grateful for your movement around the world. Please, help us to make space for the Spiritual leadership you are raising up in other lands. Amen.