The lessons this week provide us with a wide range of perspectives on spiritual formation and the impact of human behavior on spiritual growth, and the scope of divine hospitality.
An observation was raised by a member of our parish that the numbers of our Sunday attendance seem to have dropped. I should admit that there was a moment of anxiety on my part when I engaged in this conversation. Suddenly, our attention has been focused on a key issue to many congregations which is about survival and stewardship.
The Epistle to the Philippians is giving us a set of spiritual practices that will transform our lives, and bring forth a “harvest of righteousness” (Phil. 1:3-11) in our individual and corporate lives. Spiritual formation involves both life-orientation and repetitive practice. This would include regularly coming to our Sunday Worship Service. In fact, joy emerges from our prayer lives, gratitude, sense of God’s nearness, affirmative thinking, and kindness. All these behaviors are transformed by an attitude of joy and faith in God.
Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast speaks, first, of rejection of God’s way, leading to the inclusion of unexpected guests. Divine hospitality is not limited to the “best people” and often these “best people” have better things to do than follow God’s way.
Each one of us is invited to this party. Each one of us should also invite others to come and join the banquet God prepared for us all.
Do we come spiritually dressed for the party? Do we reject God’s invitation to celebration because we have better things to do, and different priorities from God’s realm of Shalom? Are we preparing to meet God in unexpected as well as expected places? What values and behaviors would make us out of place at a divine banquet?