In high school, my trigonometry teacher invited students to earn extra credit for class by entering our county’s annual toothpick bridge competition. At 11 p.m. the night before the deadline, I decided I should probably start. After requisitioning all the toothpicks and wood glue in our home, I began my attempt. The next day, I turned my (sagging) bridge in to my teacher to earn my 10 extra points.
Then, a week later, I received a letter: My bridge design had placed third in the county competition, and I was invited to a dinner reception. Little did I know that I’d receive much more than a delicious meal, as each of the winning designers were awarded trophies, swag, and generous college scholarships.
Looking around, I didn’t understand how I made it through the door. I was surrounded by kids who entered this contest each year and casually threw around terms like “hypotenuse” and “compression forces.” I’d hoped to boost my lowest test score—yet I’d received far more than I imagined (or, truth be told, deserved).
I wonder if this might be how Levi, his fellow tax collectors, and the other “disreputable characters” felt as they gathered around the table described in Luke 5. Maybe they thought, I’ll go and at least enjoy a good meal. And instead, as they sat with Christ, they encountered a fullness beyond what any meal can bring.
Of course, Jesus extends the same invitation to each of us. And as we follow Him, He asks us—and expects us—to welcome others. When we try to decide who is worthy of a seat at the table, we’re like the Pharisees, who, in feeling like insiders, reject Christ’s offer. But when we sit and then invite others to join, we find that the Lord’s gracious presence is a feast so extravagant that we all leave more than satisfied.
Father, thank You for welcoming us to Your table. Help us to remember that we are not invited based on our merits but Yours. Let us accept Your gracious gift and extend the invitation to others, becoming a place of welcome for the hurting.
by Kristine Frey, HOPE communications engagement specialist