who aren’t you inviting?

empty chair

An empty chair or a seat waiting to be filled?

I know my dinner guests.

Their faces pop into my mind as clear as a freshly cleaned window. Before they even arrive I can hear their voices, the various inflections in their laughter and the expressions they’ll most likely exclaim when they take a bite into a dish they think is especially delicious.

I know them so well because my dinner guests are my friends, or friends of friends. I invite them over because I want to spend time with them, to hear about what their week has been like and what simple moments have made them stop and smile when they least expected it. I create a meal because I want to share with them, to give them a taste of something home-cooked, maybe the only non-prepackaged food they’ve had all week. I delight in their company and I want to cultivate a space where they feel welcome to talk about what’s on their heart while simultaneously nourishing their bodies with real, whole foods.

However good these intentions may seem, I realized they’re only lukewarm.

Lukewarm?

Yes, lukewarm. While I feel so much joy cooking dinner and eating with those I really care for, most weeks, I’m sharing these experiences with people that probably expect to get an invitation. Even though they might feel the same joy that I do when we come around the table each week for our Friday Night Dinner, they have already known for weeks that this opportunity awaits them each Friday. They’ve grown comfortable, and so have I, with the idea that we will share this meal together on a consistent basis.

However, each week I’m missing the chance to ask those who really need an invitation to dinner. Maybe it’s the student from South Africa who has come all the way to IU to study theatre, leaving behind their family and friends and left to eat alone in their dorm room each night. Or perhaps it’s the boy who you’ve talked with occasionally in psychology class, a guy who you know likes the St. Louis Cardinals and rock music, but who you have no idea desires to meet new friends that make healthy choices. It could even be the barista at Starbucks who knows you like extra hot chai tea lattes, but has been dying to do more than make coffee and start dabbling in cooking. All she wants is someone to share her creations with, but she doesn’t know who to turn to.

Those examples don’t even begin to touch the long list of people we come into contact with on a daily basis. We might not give too much thought to what these people might do, or not do, around the family table each night, but maybe they are the people who we really need consider when we invite guests to our family table.

It’s easy to give to those who are close to you, who you feel comfortable around and know they will more or less accept your kindness. But how often are we reaching out to those that actually need our care?

In Luke, chapter 14, Jesus talks about the importance of who we invite to gather around our table. To his host, he says, “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” 14:13

Who do you know that might need a home-cooked meal, an opportunity for fellowship or a simple reminder that they are cared for? How can you bless those who are in need? If we don’t take the time to do this, are we really giving our love to those who would benefit from it most?

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