One of the streaming apps on my phone recently prompted me to check out a show called “The Cleaning Lady.” I dismissed the notification without much thought, only to find the same recommendation on a different platform a few days later. OK, I thought there must be something about this show and decided to see what it was about. Overall, it is a great series. Much of the story is focused on a wealthy and highly connected Armenian crime family with abundant use of the Armenian language, references to Armenian history, culture, and the war in Artsakh. The first couple of episodes I watched focused on the elaborate and lavish wedding the family plans for their daughter. Hayak, the patriarch of the family, has an idea. He instructs his associates to contact the dignitaries, business associates on the guest list and inform them that there is an Armenian tradition of presenting a gift to newlyweds, and he would like their monetary gifts to be no less than $25.000. Though astonished and dismayed by this strange custom and demand, Hayak’s guests agreed and obeyed.
The parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:12-24) is the Gospel reading for this Sunday. It depicts a feast with a very different outcome – one where the host went out of his way to prepare for his friends and guests, but nobody accepted his invitation or showed up to celebrate with him. They all had seemingly legitimate excuses, which can be clustered into two categories – business and personal.
A feast is a recurring theme throughout the Holy Bible. In fact, the ministry of our Lord opens and closes with a story of a feast. Christ revealed his divinity in the wedding of Cana by transforming water into wine, and He concluded his ministry by transforming water and bread into his life-giving body and blood at the Last Supper.
What is the spiritual significance of a feast and this parable in our lives today? A feast functions in two ways: it nourishes our physical bodies through delicious food, it lifts our spirits, removes sadness, and fills us with joy when we get to spend time with our friends and loved ones. The Biblical imagery of a banquet symbolizes God’s heavenly kingdom, life in faith on this earth, and how that impacts and changes our lives. When we embrace faith, seek God, form a relationship and friendship with God, accept his invitation and choose to spend our time with him, then our lives will start transforming. Once we step into his presence, He will nurture us by removing and repelling every brokenness and sadness from our lives and filling us with joy.
The guests of the parable declined the invitation to the banquet because they were preoccupied with seeking security and safety in their business affairs and plans, and they sought joy in their relationships and marriages. By inviting us to reflect on the message of this parable, the church reminds us about an important piece of mail we received. It includes an invitation to a banquet and an opportunity to step into the household and presence of the Lord. How will we respond?
Business, careers, friendships, and marriages are undoubtedly important. But joy, pure and holy joy that can not be taken from us, joy that does not pass away with time – can only be found when we step into the presence of God, get to know him, and spend time with him.