Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and make people come in that my home may be filled.
Way back on Friday, we began hearing the story from Saint Luke’s gospel about the time Jesus was invited to a dinner at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. At that time, Jesus performed a miraculous cure for a man who suffered from dropsy. In today’s passage, Jesus is still at that table. In this part of the story, one of the people at table says to him, “Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.” While not disagreeing with that person, Jesus intends to clarify who will be at the table and who will not. Those who will be dining in the Kingdom are those who intentionally live in it. While the Pharisees may have thought that meant it was they who would be blessed, Jesus tells a parable to clarify the matter.
The parable illustrates that those who were invited were occupied with other matters: a new field, a new team of oxen, a new spouse. Their rejection forced the host to offer the dinner to a new group of people: those outside of the accepted group. And so his servants went out into the streets and alleys, hedgerows and highways to fill the house, because none of the original invitees would be welcome at the table. So Jesus is doing something new. Since the religious establishment had found other more pressing matters than relationship with their God, he would now turn to those who were rejected and marginalized, and invite them to dine in the Kingdom.
But that command to the servant is for us, his servants. We’re commanded, as that servant was, to bring people to the table of the Kingdom of God. We’re commanded, in the very strong language of this gospel passage to “make people come in” that God’s home may be filled. There’s plenty of room in the Kingdom; the table is large and the spaces at it are plenty. We are being sent out to the margins to “make people come in.” This demands that we be missionary disciples. We have to be the ones to help people to know they are welcome, no matter how far they have strayed, no matter who has refused to welcome them in the past. The mission is always new, and always pressing. If we are serious about serving our God, we have no other choice but to go out looking for dinner guests!