God has come to be with us in all things. God has chosen our flesh, our weakness as his dwelling place. God’s mercy has come dangerously, wonderfully near to us in Christ. And so a celebration has begun, it is the wedding of heaven and earth. This is why Jesus is hanging out and sharing meals with tax collectors and prostitutes- they know they are sinners who need his help. They are happy not to have to pretend otherwise. They are drawn to Jesus because he insists they can do better, but he never judges them.
Jesus beckons us to feast with him as well, and with all the other sinners like us at his table. There we will be transformed. For God doesn’t want my virtue, he wants my weakness. If I avoid it, deny it, hide it, I'll get stranded, working like mad to cover up the vulnerability, and running away from the very place where I can find Jesus waiting for me with a banquet of mercy. Thank God, there’s no merit system in the kingdom. My only credentials are my foolishness, my willingness to cry out for mercy. My weakness is after all the only thing about myself that I am absolutely sure of. Problem is, it’s also the one thing I most want to deny.
But I need have no illusions about who I am. Why bother? Jesus desires open hearts that he can mercy and unburden. We recall the foolish, stubborn older brother in the parable, who reminds his father, “I slaved for you all these years.” But Jesus has come to remind us that with him, we are not slaves but beloved children of his Father. He begs us to come in to the feast, “All I have is yours,” he says, “all this mercy, all that I am.” A very lavish banquet has been prepared for us; our ticket in is our sinfulness, the Bridegroom is at the door to bring us in. He doesn’t want our merit but our hunger. Why do we hesitate?
Photograph by Brother Brian.