Tony Merida challenges chapel attendees to invite the less-fortunate to feast with King Jesus

Tony Merida, pastor for preaching and vision at Imago Dei Church and Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern, spoke in chapel Thursday on hospitality and the Kingdom of God. 

Merida said that hospitality and grace are to be two primary attributes of Christians. He voiced, “We at Imago Dei Church are always looking for ways for our folks to be missionaries in the city of Raleigh. As a people who have experienced the hospitality and grace of Christ, we strive to be a community that extends the same hospitality and grace to others.”

Descriptions of meals are woven throughout the Bible said Merida. Beginning with the Fall, Adam and Eve are enticed to eat that destructive fruit. Later in the biblical narrative, the Israelite’s were given the Passover as a remembrance of God’s salvation from Pharaoh. And in the Gospel stories, Jesus is found eating with tax-collectors, Pharisees, and the forgotten of society. 

Merida said that the way of the Kingdom is a way of humility and love. One of the ways that Jesus offers this Kingdom love is by eating with all kinds of people. In Luke 14:14-24, he illustrated, the Pharisees are dining with Jesus, and in their presence, Jesus is rebuking them of their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Merida continued, “Jesus commands his disciples to invite the poor, the lame, and blind because they are unable to repay. We should not live by the law of “payback,” even though we commonly do. The law of reciprocity is concerned with the self but the Kingdom life is about emptying yourself. Anybody can practice reciprocity but Jesus calls us to genuine generosity and love for the poor that will not be rewarded on this side of heaven.”

Jesus’ invitation, Merida said, in the Parable of the Great Banquet is sent out twice to the initial invitees, but both invitations are declined because of prior commitments. Jesus then invites the crippled, blind and lame but there is more room for the banquet feast. The King then commissions his servants to invite others beyond the “highways and hedges” to feast with the King.

Merida said, “Jesus is dismantling the Pharisees’ belief that they will see eternal life. Some scholars say that the first invitations are to Israel via the Law and the Prophets but they have declined. So invitations are sent to the forgotten in the city gates and then beyond to the Gentiles.”

Addressing the attendees, Merida concluded, “How are you doing with Luke 14:12-24? Have you really shown hospitality to those who cannot repay you in return? Are you collapsing the distance between you and the marginalized? Express a Kingdom love that is authentic and Christ-like by inviting the less-fortunate to a feast, which should ultimately lead to a feast with Christ.”

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