Here's your November 2013 issue of Shalom eNews

A Place to Eat for All People
A short commentary on Luke 14:12-23

by Michael J. Christensen

"Jesus referred to this eschatological event at his Last Supper on earth when he said: 'I shall not eat this like this again until it’s all been fulfilled in my Father’s Kingdom.'  That future banquet also is here and now, yes, even in this present moment.   The event has been referred to in scripture as 'The Feast of the Kingdom', the' Wedding Feast,' 'the Marriage Supper of the Lamb' or simply 'God’s Banquet for All People.'   What Jesus said about the Temple in Jerusalem ('My Fathers House should be a house of prayer for all people') can also be said about God’s Banquet ('God’s A Table should be a place to eat for all people.')"

"God’s kingdom of peace and plenty is envisioned as a great banquet or Feast. In ancient Near Eastern cultures, wedding celebrations might last for days. Big, lavish affairs, with the richest of foods and the finest of wines freely flowing. What a joyous image of God’s kingdom!"

"In Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of God, the last shall be first and the first last.  The greatest shall be the least and those considered least are to be treated as the greatest.  In this “Upside-down Kingdom”, God seems to have favorites–about 12 or so special interest groups of people:  The poor, the lame, the maimed, the blind, widows and orphans in their distress, the refugee or sojourner, the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, sick, and homeless. God’s Banquet is intended for these our brothers and sisters. The point is that everyone is invited so  ”that my house may be filled.”  And that there is still room at the Table."

 

At the Lamb’s Table in Times Square
by Michael J. Christensen

 “Each time you hear the Word of God, in whatever religious tradition, you are receiving an invitation. Each time you respond to a Call to Prayer or Call to compassionate action in the world, you are saying Yes to God’s invitation. Each time you break bread or share a cup of cold water with another human being, you are participating in God’s great banquet.”

I remember the first time I took the Parable of the Feast from Luke 14 seriously, if not literally.  In a previous pastorate at the Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in Times Square, back in the day before the neighborhood was “Disneyfied”, we ran a regular soup kitchen out the church 4 days a week.   One year, as Thanksgiving Day approach, someone on staff had a great idea. Lets demonstrate the Parable of the Feast from Luke 14. So we did.

Instead of just opening our usual soup kitchen, we organized a First Class Banquet on the Second Floor of our Times Square Building, our beautiful, elegant and historic Supper Club.  We found a fine chef to prepare a great 5-course dinner.  We used our best china, silverware and candle ware.  We got out the crystal goblets and best tablecloths.   Our maître de wore a tux, treated folks as honored guests, and seated them around beautifully set tables.

We had room for about 300 people.  We invited different social service agencies and shelters in Times Square to invite and bring their clients. People with different disabilities accepted our invitation, as did many homeless clients.  We still had room on Thanksgiving Day.  We rented a fancy black limousine and sent a host with the driver through the streets of Times Square and invited street folks to get in the car and come to the Lamb’s for a first class Thanksgiving Feast.  And our house was filled.

We had prepared a wonderful program with professional musicians and singers, and actors offered their gifts.  Great entertainment lasted all afternoon.  Toward the end of the celebration, I stood up as one of the pastors and said:

“Thank you for accepting the invitation to come and dine at the Lamb’s Table at the Church of the Nazarene today.  We are so glad you’re here.  I hope you enjoyed the food and entertainment. There’s no cost for the dinner; it has been paid for in full.  And you have been guests of honor… I also want you to know that the honor of your presence is requested at the Banquet of God.  Our Thanksgiving Feast today points to an even greater banquet for all God’s people.  It too is free of charge, paid in full by another.  You just have to accept the invitation. Just as you’ve accepted the invitation to today’s feast, I hope you will RSVP by faith to God’s great feast, which starts here and now….”

What I said to those gathered in Times Square, I say to you today: You’ve been invited to a great banquet. “Come, for all things are now ready!” Don’t blow off the invitation! Don’t make excuses. It’s the best banquet party you’ll ever experience. Faith is your R.S.V.P. to God’s invitation. Faith is saying "Yes" in response to God saying, “Come.”

All religious traditions have unique ways to communicate and issue the invitation to God’s Banquet for all people.  The most important thing is to respond and Come.

 

ShalomZone News

Amy Moritz tells the story of how she came to be director of the Center for Transforming Communities (Memphis,TN) by starting off with the declaration that "God did not call me to be a property manager."  This was her response to the invitation to become the director of CTC, then CONECT.
•    There was very little cash on hand.
•    There were very, very few sources of income.
•    There was an asset on the books - this old church building, now called The Commons.
•    None of this was enough to keep the old building in Binghampton open more than a few months.
But if you've heard her share this, you also know that she says it with a smile, because "I know better than to box God in."

That was 2008.
Today, The Commons on Merton is a thriving, bustling center full of nonprofits and ministries in service to Binghampton and the rest of Memphis.

And today, Amy is grateful to be part of a special place that has grown out of a process of community and collaboration.

For more about The Commons, check out 
The Commons - a building with a heartbeat
The Spirit of the Commons

Are there ways you are re-purposing and sharing space in your neighborhood? Share your stories with us via email or our Facebook page
Our New Shalom Assistant

This Fall Shalom opened its doors to a new assistant for Communities of Shalom at Drew University. His name is Richard Romero. He is native from Lima Peru. Living in Peru, he and his family were part of missionary team doing mercy ministries in rural areas in Lima. He moved to the United States in 2000 and has been faithfully serving the Church for the last years. Richard holds a B.A. degree in Religious Studies from Montclair State University. He joined the Masters in Divinity program at Drew Theological School in 2010 to prepare himself for the ordained ministry. He is in the process of becoming an elder for the United Methodist Church. Richard has received some awards for excellence in academics. In 2011, he received the Academic Achievement in Biblical Studies, from The Hispanic Summer Program. In 2012, He received the Excellence in the practice of Christian Ministry; and the Arts in Theological Education Internship, both from Drew Theological School. The painting he created for the art internship “Imago Dei” is in permanent display at Drew Theological School’s Seminary Hall.
Richard Romero joined Communities of Shalom during the summer as an intern for the North Camden, Shalom Zone, New Jersey. There he was able to serve at Respond, Inc. as a community organizer. Richard joined the staff at Communities of Shalom – Drew University this past month. He will be working from the Shalom Office at Drew from 12 Campus Dr. building. He is married to Pastor Rev. Amarilys Gonzalez-Lopez and is the proud step-father of Nathan (6). Richard has a unique sense of humor and a great heart for people and God.

 

Shalom Quotes from Bob Lupton 

Quotes from the book, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life by Robert Lupton

A relationship founded on one's giving and the other's need never yields healthy outcomes. Even raising our own children teaches us that independence is the course toward which we must steer them if they are to become healthy, responsible, adults. Love toward our children that do not require responsibility is pathological. It is no different in loving the poor.

If we are to rightly care for those in need, the responsibility lies with those with the resources to create systems of exchange built on interdependency rather than dependency. Though our hearts have compelled us to begin with compassionate betterment activities, we must engage our minds to move toward development. Benevolence funds become job banks. Clothes closets become thrift stores. Food pantries become food co-ops.

We get out of the business of giving away. We start using our heads as well as our hearts to build value into people and relationships- value realized only when authentic exchange occurs. Again, perhaps the greatest poverty of all is having nothing of value to offer the community. I want to believe that no one in my community is that poor

 

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