Midweek Faith Lift
September 28, 2022
The Parable of the Great Dinner Party
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
September 9, 2022
Elizabeth Leighton, who lives in Dull, England, was touring the U.S. when she drove into Boring, Oregon. She sent her friend in England a message: “‘Isn’t this amazing? I’m in Boring and you are in Dull.” Inspired by the sense of connection, Elizabeth got in touch with the city councils of each town. Dull and Boring are now sister cities.
“To live spiritually is to know that everyone and everything just is. Do not label, define, or judge what is.” – Joel Goldsmith, The Infinite Way
Affirmative prayer: Today, I awaken from my dullness and rise vigorously toward the callings of my heart. I embrace this life with passion and purpose. Every day, I shall fall more in love with the community of blessed souls – my sisters and brothers – who bring warmth and color to my life. Thank you, God, forever. Amen.
When I read this story, I thought it was hilarious and I immediately knew it fit with the Parable of the Great Dinner Party! How could Dull and Boring NOT be part of a great dinner party? Right?? And imagine how much fun these sister cities have had with this relationship. Most unexpected, which is the best kind of fun. And that, my friends, is the underlying theme of this Dinner party parable. We find it in Luke and Dr. Michael calls it The Great Supper, also the “Law of Generality” but more about that in a bit. Let’s first look at the parable:
Luke 14: 15-24
The Parable of the Great Dinner
15 One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ 20 Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’ ”(NRSV-UE)
It is interesting to note that in the passages just before this, Jesus instructs his listeners to not give a dinner party for family and friends who would then feel obliged to reciprocate. He instead told his listeners to invite the poor, the blind and the lame, for whom this dinner would be a wonderful gift. And then, he told his listeners this parable about how a well-planned dinner party went down! And it was not according to plan, not even a little bit. It was the poor, the lame and blind, which did in fact, attend this feast.
Here we have this apparently wealthy host who has planned an elaborate dinner party, which is anything but Dull and Boring and all the invited guests make excuses about why they cannot attend. The invited guests all sound very similar to the host in their social status-owning land, oxen and getting married! All the excuses sound “semi-legitimate” but would actually be an insult to the host. The dinner and the inviting would have required considerable planning, and yet none of these guests show up for the feast. How can this be and what is the lesson for us? Where is the Divine Order in this mess?
We can get so caught up in our attachment to “how things should be” that we cannot appreciate Dull and Boring! Now this well-to-do host could have just had a temper fit and given away all the food and sat and sulked and complained about his rude guests. I remember those feelings when Todd and I got married. We had planned food for about 75 people, half the number we actually invited to the wedding. Well, about 75 people showed up for the ceremony but only half of them actually attended the reception, which left us with a lot of leftovers!! We gave them away to wedding guests, but I remember feeling a bit disgruntled that people did not also attend the reception! I had more lessons to learn about control issues, that’s for sure!
Seems kind of like life, right? We make plans and God laughs! The other side of that coin is, “Be careful what you pray for: you might get it!” Dr. Michael relates several stories about people he has worked with regarding the process of manifesting their good. Many of the people report being extremely specific about imagining exactly what they wanted, as if putting in an order to the Universe! One woman was very specific in her requests about a relationship, including hobbies, height, weight, hair color, personality traits, occupation and so on. Well, she met the guy, but there was a problem! She forgot to specify that he was also single! Another woman had done that same thing, but forgot to add sober to her list! Are you beginning to get the idea that Spirit might know what we need better than we do?
And that is the point of this parable. Our host in the story sends his servants out into the streets and the lanes to find people to invite them to the dinner party. And when there is room for even more people, he sends his servants out again into the highways and hedges to bring people who might be “hiding in plain sight” to the feast. He does not worry about whom these people are or their condition or circumstances. Everyone is invited and welcome to feast at his table. And as noted in the first sentence, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” When neither the host nor the guests have any limitations of what they are expecting, then those feasting from the consciousness of God, of generosity and love will be truly blessed. And if we refuse the bread, we will not taste of this love and light!
What Dr. Michael makes of this is what he calls the “Law of Delay” which speaks to how we make requests of the Universe when we are asking for our hearts desires. The more specific we are, the more time it takes for the Universe to respond. He says, on p. 174 of The Hidden Parables of Jesus,
But the more specific our expectations the harder it is to accomplish the manifestation. This is the clause within the Law of Delay: The more specific your requests, the longer the delay may be. The more general the request, the shorter the delay…..Generality frees the universe to take many paths to achieve the desired end state.
When we pray for the highest and best good for all in any given situation, we are open to Divine Ideas taking shape in delightful and unexpected ways. Perhaps instead of highly specific details about how the love of our life should show up, we pray instead for a relationship in which we are happy and fully supported in our ongoing spiritual, emotional, mental and physical growth.
The essence of this parable is that when Spirit or God comes first, everything else follows. Hence the opening sentence about those who eat bread in the Kingdom of God being fully blessed. How does this show up in your life and the life of our spiritual community? Well, I remember in 2015 attending a workshop with a spiritual teacher, Janet Conner, in Cedar Rapids. Her guidance was to meditate and listen for the one or two words that Spirit was whispering to us. I remember later that spring, attending a Silent Retreat and while I was there, the words “Delightful Surprise!” came to me.
I had had enough “undelightful surprises,” in my life and I was ready for delight. Then weeks later, out of the blue, an email message pops up in my church email inbox from Richard Mekdici, a musician and friend of mine! Would we like to have Daniel Nahmod play at Unity of Ames on a Sunday? Oh my YES!! And play he did, right here on this platform for the Sunday service and then for a concert and it was so wonderful! He even played my guitar! What a delightful surprise that was!
So back to our sister cities of Dull and Boring! I don’t know how this relationship has unfolded between the people of Boring, Oregon and Dull, England, but my guess is that they have had a great time exploring all the possibilities. While our ordinary assumptions would be that nothing of note or excitement could possibly come from Dull and Boring, the Universe tells us that is not the case. Perhaps that is our ultimate lesson: the lower our expectations, the more joyful the response when the Universe brings us delightful surprises! As Dr. Michaels says on p. 177, “You don’t need perfect things to make you perfectly happy.” When we can let go of that belief, as most of us had to do during the pandemic, then Spirit is free to supply our needs in ever more delightful and fulfilling ways!
May we be open and receptive to our highest and best good and even more delightful surprises.
Blessings on the Path,