I am not one of those with money, so I browsed the auction, sat and people watched. I noticed that people cluster in like minded groups. The teachers were popular, everyone smiled, waved and hugged them. The head of school and development director paid special attention to the grandparents. However, the dominant group seemed to be the 20 - 30 something, rich, chic , power brokers.
They wear the expensive clothes, designer glasses, large diamonds and watches, the Hummers parked outside. It was obviously a closed group. I overheard the conversation, who would spend more tonight. It seemed like a familiar competition. Just then, a man in his mid 50’s approached. He was well dressed, yet seemed older than his years. He caught my attention because he reminded me of my father.
I watched as he approached. Maybe it was the erect bearing, or just because he looked like my Dad. That kind, gentle war veteran, who suffered through Korea and Vietnam, yet with a beautiful laugh who was loving with his children, who died much too young when his children were far too young. A man who spent his life working 18 hours a day to make our lives better, to make someone else life easier.
It was with this memory, that I heard the man ask the group “would any of you like another drink?” He was the waiter. His words hung in the air for what seemed an eternity, and no one acknowledged his presence. He asked again. One young man in an expensive tuxedo, fluidly placed his used glass on the tray, grabbed another drink, and kept on talking to the group. I watched with a sense of sadness.
I do not believe these young successful men and women wanted to be cruel. This was their world, what is expected. Survival of the riches, others are employed to make lives easier. Right in front of me, surrounded by riches, a human with dignity, was seemingly pushed to the margins of society. Deemed invisible and less than an object. I wondered how many people moved my father to the margins.
In reading the Gospel and reflecting on the events of this past week, I am reminded of how close we are to equality, yet how much work we have yet to do to bring about that Kingdom of God. We find Jesus at a fancy banquet. The attendees the power brokers and wealthy of the day. Jesus notices their positions at the party. He turns to the guests and then speaks directly to the host.
“Why are you inviting people like you, who can help you, the rich, powerful, people who will help you. Why do you invite those who cannot do a thing for you, the outcasts, the misfits, those that you cannot stand. Those you never invite. It seems typical Jesus and straightforward. The problem and the beauty of Jesus’ words is that they are disturbing and discomforting. Especially when the dinner guests are you and I. Jesus is pushing each one of us, to move beyond our own safe comfort zones, our like mindedness, our own social groups.
Yes, we volunteer at the food pantry and the homeless shelter. We write checks, yet that is only the beginning. Jesus wants more. It is easy to listen to talk radio that agrees with us, eat with friends we know, spend time at work with those we like. Work for our own families. It is easier to seek our own heaven than to worry about someone else hell. And Jesus cannot be serious, who wants to be the lowliest.
He obviously has not lived in 21st century America. Where in our society are the poor, the lowly, the sick, humble, small, invisible, or powerless exalted and valued. Only in the eyes of God. Imagine Jesus speaking to us now, change his words of poor, crippled and outcast to “invite that hispanic, black or white waitress who is wiping the sweat out of her eyes.
Invite those totally different from you - by race, social class, gender or belief. The person you cannot stand the one who screams at you because you have different beliefs on marriage, abortion, war, politics, guns, even different beliefs on faith. It is not that easy now. What does our Kingdom look like? Yet the beauty of this challenge is that Jesus always gives us a way, and that way is love.
You can change the world, you can issue any invitation. This vision of a Kingdom on Earth is a liberating vision for everyone. Nothing can make a person so much like Christ as loving, accepting and caring for their neighbors. Imagine the church of tomorrow, imagine the world today. It is radically different from the political and religious kingdoms, it is inclusive unlike the the powerful, beautiful social groups. Because no one is excluded.
Jesus tell us a new relationship with God brings us into a new relationship with our neighbor, especially with the most vulnerable of this world, even with our enemies, those who are not in our social groups. I know we cannot possibly invite everyone to our table, but maybe we can try. Yet, imagine the possibilities if that table is not only in your home, that table is your life.
Instead of clinging to power and wealth, model the new world by putting our worldly goods at the service of others. Using our seat at the head table to challenge the structures that continue putting people on the margins. Open our lives to that person waiting on us at a restaurant, a simple I appreciate your service.
With this new table, the person cleaning our rooms at the hotel, is no longer just pushing a cart and cleaning toilets, he or she is my brother or sister. The janitor who works alone at night, “how is your family, how is your health.” Mutual dignity and love. A way of widening the circle of humanity, breaking open the walls of this new Kingdom.
And it has to be done with love. If I give to the poor and and don’t have love then who is really poor? The poverty is found within me. We need our lives to look like the love of Christ, the reason he lived and died. When all is said and done, it will not be the possessions, it will not be the status, the power, the banquets or the parties. All that will remain in that Kingdom is love.
That night, as the man wearing the nice black suit was ignored, he continued on. The slight did not seem to affect him. He had probably seen too much in his life to worry. His pains, his joys, his tears, his journey. What stories his life would tell if someone would pay attention. I wonder if he was used to being invisible. He asked another lady and she look at him and smiled, and he smiled in returned. I thought, the beginning of that Kingdom.
Maybe Jesus used that night to remind me of the places we find God. Despite the riches in front of me and models of worldly success. I have looked for God in many places, in power because I knew I could control my life. Searched for God in money and possessions - if I could make a more, I will have more. I looked for God in the admiration of others - if they think I am OK, I am OK. I found disappointment.
I have a feeling that Jesus is right. That that we need to look for him in different places and people In the shadows, in the margins, in all those places and people we just seem to pass by. Then we can stop worrying about how we look in the eyes of others and simply look in love into the eyes of those around us.
Because the poor are near or far away. In society or in our home. The poverty may be material, social or spiritual. Hungry for bread or hungry for acceptance. They may need clothing or they may need the sense of wealth that God’s love for them represents. They may need the shelter of a house made of bricks and cement or the shelter of having a place in our hearts, seated at our table, in our lives.
Yes, Jesus may be on to something, this acceptance and love thing. So for the next few months, try it, invite someone in. What do you have to lose - maybe this world, but I promise that you gain, one beautiful Kingdom.
 Mother Teresa. In the heart of the world