Party On

“The Uninvited Guest” was the name of this Sunday’s sermon. The Pastor referenced Luke, chapter 7, when the “sinful woman” crashed the dinner party that the Pharisee (Simon) was having for Jesus. (I won’t go into how in the Bible, reflective of society, the women were almost always the accused — even when that “sin” required at least two people to commit it). So girlfriend walks into Simon’s party because she wants to see Jesus. And the host is disgusted that his invited guest would even acknowledge this trashy interloper. At this point you either know, or can guess, the rest; basically Simon gets schooled.

I was thinking how many guests are uninvited in our lives. The word guest has its roots in the words stranger and even enemy. And sometimes these uninvited guests sure feel a lot like enemies, don’t they? The pandemic comes to mind. (“I didn’t invite him, did you?”). And what about tragedy? Thoroughly uninvited; nobody hopes to see tragedy coming around the corner. How about a job layoff or a physical injury? A break-up with a friend or lover? All uninvited, and all unwelcomed — just like the woman come to see Jesus.

Yet there are times when someone didn’t make your guest list, but you sure are happy when they decide to come by, anyway. A new friend; a compliment; a smile; the smell of something delicious as you walk down the street… Sometimes uninvited guests even creep up behind you, and before you know it there they are making you feel good. You hadn’t thought to invite them, in fact you were pretty busy with your guests doom and gloom. It was just that kind of party, until the party-crasher showed up and changed the whole vibe.

But what I am wondering, in all of this, is if there really is anything in our lives that is truly uninvited. The moment that we form an idea we invite that thought into our mind. “I am so alone,” a lot of us are thinking right now, for example. And here comes loneliness, isolation, self-pity, and sorrow, letting themselves right on in. I am not suggesting fault here, that is a defensive response to this idea — a response all too frequent in today’s I’ve-got-to-be-right society. And this idea is not a new one, obviously. Religious, spiritual, and intellectual practitioners have been teaching of the power of the mind for so long.

In that passage from Luke, Simon can’t believe the gall of the uninvited woman. But maybe she was invited, just not by him. Jesus (and I think this might even make sense to those who do not see Jesus as Messiah) invited all sorts of people to him. In fact, it was hard for him to get away, what with all the folks seeking him out. He invited them with his open spirit, his inspiring teaching, and his all around accepting manner. So certainly, you did not invite the pandemic, but others in the world did — through all sorts of channels: infection, unwarranted travel, mismanagement, arrogance… But we are all at the same party now, and thus all exposed to the guest in question. A guest who, for some by the way, has yet to leave, and has caused great calamity in his wake. (And yeah, I’m going to use the he pronoun in order to make up for thousands of years of sexism).

There are all sorts of seemingly uninvited guests we think we want nothing to do with. But after getting to know them, we start to realize just how lucky we are they dropped by after all. Job losses, relationship endings… those folks were not dressed correctly. But once we got over our judgements, they turned out to be valuable additions. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is — I think I even used it in my blog before: “Be not forgetful to¬†entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). Wow. So, assuming strangers are just guests we thought we didn’t invite, it’s best we welcome them all — at first anyway. Then, once we have gained what we were meant to, we can show them to the door if necessary.

In the end, however, there are going to be a few select strangers who become our best friends, our dear family, our lifelong partners. And there’s a good chance we would have missed out on them had we stuck to the original guest list. So go ahead and invite who you want, and then see who actually shows up. There might be some angels in your midst.

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