One recent Sunday I was given opportunity to teach/preach the Great Banquet which is, of course, Luke’s explanation of Jesus’ gracious invitation to salvation (Luke 14:13-24). I placed minimal emphasis on the Banquet’s past portrayal (Isaiah 25:6-9) and focused only slightly more attention on the future realization of this promised blessing (Revelation 19:6-9). Rather I decided to linger in the present-moment reality of this stunning invitation to an extraordinary event happening in the midst of our ordinary lives: we entered into the Great Banquet as a real-time spiritual practice, responding as the expected guests of Jesus Christ. Let me explain further.

Triple-Tense. If you are a surrendered Christ-follower then God has already saved you (past tense), is currently saving you (present tense) and shall eventually, finally, completely save you (future tense). The scriptures verify this triple-tense salvation process. For example…

Past Tense: “For by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8)

Present: “We are… among those who are being saved, the fragrance of Christ”

(2 Cor. 2:15)

Future: “…wearing as a helmet the confidence of our salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8)

Remembering the past tense of my salvation brings me to grateful rejoicing for what Christ has done in my life. And I have a confident expectation of the goodness yet to come – I need that protective helmet for I know not what lies ahead. But most importantly, here am I in the present moment, needing to awaken to the Lord’s on-going salvation activity in my life.

On my best days I desire to keep current with the Lord, to stay in-step with the Holy Spirit, to be sensitive and responsive, open so that His desires may become my heart desires – that’s spiritual formation. On bad days, especially when discouraged, I slouch along in the past tense, coasting in something less than contentment and flirting with complacency – that’s deformation. Fortunately I have learned not to stay in that stall, not to remain stuck in my past salvation, unresponsively rusting away like an old clunker. The Great Banquet is happening – I must awaken and respond to the present-tense invitation for restoration.

Guest List. So Jesus continues to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. That’s us. He’s intentionally inviting you and me to His glorious feast because He loves us and can glorify Himself so powerfully through our restoration. He knows the ones most aware of their own brokenness are also most open to His love. So he invites us, indeed, He compels us – He is passionate in His pursuit and persistent in His persuasion. If we will only listen and respond and receive.

In which category do you find yourself today? Impoverished spiritually? Crippled emotionally? Lame relationally? We’re often so blind we see neither these applications nor the implications? Yet God calls us to include us. In Isaiah 55 He calls us the thirsty ones, the ones who buy food which does not satisfy our souls. He also calls those of us who have no money and cannot buy. Yep, that’s us. We’re included.

As a Spiritual Practice. I have, at times, set a single place-setting on our dining room table, envisioning it as my reserved place at the on-going Great Banquet and in response to Jesus’ invitation I have brought something of my brokenness to my place at the table. Typically I write it – the thing currently crippling me, the issue of my impoverishment, my lameness, my blindness – I write it on a 3x5 card and place the card on the plate. I know that I and my brokenness have been invited, we are expected and welcomed. I surrender myself to the scriptural image of the Banquet and to the on-going reality of the Lord’s invitation. So I leave it on the plate and await an exchange. I wait to see how My Savior chooses to feed my hunger, quench my thirst, heal my lameness, restore my vision. So that’s my response. It’s another surrender. It’s an opening of my heart for whatever transformation God chooses to do at His Banquet, at His invitation, for my present-tense salvation.

Belonging In Real-Time. On that Sunday morning the worship team sang ‘Come to The Table’ as a group of women enthusiastically set a banquet table with fine china and fancy glass-ware. Tall candles were lit and wine glasses were filled – the imagery and symbolism were rich and inviting. Luke’s words from that former time were read and became Jesus’ words in real-time as we entered into the spiritual practice of the Great Banquet. We were a motley bunch, so impoverished, so crippled, so blind, so lame yet so blessed. Blessed because every time we come to this Banquet we feel the belonging-ness of being included. Every time we come to the Banquet the lies which say, “You don’t belong – you’re too broken, too crippled, you’re not enough” – those lies get weaker and our belonging-ness grows stronger.

Have you been too busy and missed too many Banquets? Receive the invitation and respond. Jesus is expecting you.