In the spring of 2011 I produced and directed a stage production called “The Great Banquet” which I wrote based on the parable of the same name or also called the Parable of the Great Feast. It was a two act play that had a six show run and was created for the 137th General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church of Canada which was being held in London Ontario that year. The highlight of the run was a dinner theatre of the Production which was held in St Thomas after a Roast Beef Dinner for delegates of the Assembly. But the premiere of the show run was held at Almanarah Presbyterian Church on Friday May 27th.
The play is about socialite Elizabeth Chapman, who is planning a gala banquet for the guests of the Great Congregation Assembly. Her friend Brandon, feels that the food from this meal could be better used for the needy. Several of those people cross paths with Elizabeth and her staff as the story unfolds, including ex-con and mother Nicole Layton, the local law, Police Officer Harrington, who tries to keep some of the local “unworthy” from crashing the party. As the preparation for the meal unfolds events happen and lives are changed forever. The only question becomes, will the guests show up? The clock ticks down to dinner being served. The cast features; Katie Lewis, Ben Dyck, Corinna May, Emma Davey, Bryce Jones, John B. Howie, Stephanie Klassen and Heidi Shaw.
When I started the journey of this play as an event for General Assembly a number of things quickly jumped into my mind. I was struck by the social aspect given the recent recession and I was struck by the biblical aspect of the parable that the play was based on. Let me start with the biblical.
The entire play was based on the Scripture of Luke 14:16-24. This parable from scripture, to me speaks to us on a couple levels. If you back up to Luke 14:7 to14 you read Jesus speaking about seeking humility. Not to seek status. Jesus then goes on with the parable of the Great Feast talking about the Kingdom of God being like that of a man who is preparing a great banquet. For those that know the parable the guests of the King turn down the invitation to the Banquet. Many excuses are used and all seem justified in the eyes of the people giving the excuse. In the end the King tells his servants to ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ This goes to my first point that speaks to me. God invites us to take our place at His table and with him. It is the most important event in our lives. Yet we sometimes still make excuse why it’s inconvenient for us to come to His table. Everyday of our lives He extends an invitation to us to be with Him. Whether it be Sunday service, youth group, a special event at the church or even just to stop and take a few minutes out of our day to talk to God in our homes. God is always inviting us to come to Him. We don’t always accept the invite. Often in our busy life we have millions of things to do and millions of excuses why we can’t spend the time with Him. But in those moments and times with God is when He will nourish us and change our lives and bring us even closer to Him. He doesn’t just invite His favorite guest to be with Him, He invites us all if we accept the invite. He treats us all equal. No one is better or worse then another in God’s eyes which goes back to being humble and seeking humility. Too often we are hung up on trying to get further in the world. Trying to impress people around us. Judging our success by worldly standards not by Godly standards.
Which brings me to the second part that speaks to me in Luke 14: 7-24. The way we all can accept the invite from God and fulfil His Mission. By acting on this parable and seeking humility we can extend the invitation to others. We shouldn’t be trying to impress our friends and gain social status. We should be helping by serving where God needs us to serve. God wants the unworthy, the sinful, the broken people of the world because they come to him while others will not. We need to invite those who can’t repay us, for in doing so we have an opportunity to receive a reward from God. Just inviting those of the same or higher social standing is its own reward. We have an opportunity to receive a blessing from God and change peoples lives by helping others and being Christ like. Christ speaks on this in Matthew 25:31 to 45. “What ever you did for one of the least of these you did for me.” Are we helping those that are sick or lame, or blind, or in prison or in need of some help in some way? Are we helping those that need food or clothing? Any one that has less we are to be there for, paying kindness forward, for in life whatever we sow out into the world, is what we reap back in.
Which is where the social aspect was brought into focus for me. At the time of preparing for the play, Ontario was starting out of a deep recession. St. Thomas and area where I work and live was especially hit hard with people losing jobs. I saw people that I knew that had worked in factories and made good money suddenly maxing out credit cards and not knowing where their next cheque or meal might come from. People resorting to doing things they would never do. Stealing just to feed their families. I witnessed people being judged by society. Labelled based on their social class, the people they associated with, their life style or crimes they had committed. Each enduring the “social sentence” that had been handed out to them while still being people trying to live their lives while dealing with the scares and baggage of choices and events in their lives. While working on this script it gave me time to reflect on how we can make a difference in the world around us. A person that has always stuck out in my mind as a person that was always there to help those that need it and lived out the Matthew 25:31 to45 verses was Mother Teresa. One of her quotes that I have always been struck by; “At the end of our life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received or by how much money we have made but by how many great things we have done for others.” This spoke to me especially in the times we live. We have come so far in the fields of medicine and technology but have we lost something on a human level. People are so often more concerned about themselves then the people and world around them. More concerned with fame and fortune then changing people’s lives. Have we lost something in all our worldly advances. Have we become so inward focused that we do not see the difference we can make in our community, our province, our country and the world. Do we even see or hear the people around us crying out for a helping hand. Not only hungry for food but also starving for love. Not only needing clothing but in need of human dignity and respect. Not only homeless of a physical home but also homeless because of being rejected by society and the world. It’s up to use to go out and change the world. Love and kindness in the name of God. We can bring a small light to the darkness of someone’s world. With enough small lights together we can light the world, but it starts with us. People say that one person cannot change the world. I believe we can. My grandfather Smith always told me, “Throw a pebble in a pond. You never know how far the ripples can go. With enough pebbles land forms where there was once only water.” Through the example of love and kindness that God shows us, each of us can in turn bring a small light to the darkness of someone’s world. With enough small lights together we can light the world. But it starts with us.
Another quote from Mother Teresa that I try to live by is “Love begins at home, and it’s not how much we do… but how much love we put into action”. For in life whatever we sow out into the world, is what we reap back in. God has Love for us and He has invited to his table. We are to come and accept our place at God’s table. In turn we are to invite others to come enjoy. Give the invitation to all those around you, regardless of status and accept it yourself. No excuses are accepted!