The best stories we may not hear repeated very often, sometimes only once or twice. But they are precious, and we must grasp them when we have the opportunity.
The best stories also often happen by accident—at least, from our point of view. Often we call it an “accident” when God’s plans upset our plans.
This story happened a long time ago. I only heard the story told twice, by my father, who died in 1991, taking too many other stories with him. Other family members have no memory of hearing this story at all, so I have no corroboration of it, but it is too good a story not to be true.
It was in the 1930s, I believe, in the middle of the Great Depression, when human greed and human environmental carelessness had created widespread human suffering. My father was a single man, in his twenties, living at home on a farm rented by my grandfather. My father had been working full-time since at least the age of fourteen. His first job had been hauling gravel for the roads with a horse and team. It was a large family, four sons and three daughters (although one son had died tragically), and it was headed by a pair of godly parents.
It was about New Year’s, and the family had invited a number of distant relatives to come for a big meal. A pig had been slaughtered and roasted, and my grandmother no doubt had been preparing the other food for days.
But there was a heavy snowfall. My father had managed to take a horse and sleigh to the train station in hopes of meeting the arriving relatives, but it was no use. The snowfall had been too heavy, and the trains were not running. My father returned to a house full of food and hope with an empty sleigh.
My grandmother wondered what she was going to do with all that food, but she was not without a solution for long. All of the farms in those days had hired hands to help with the farm work and maids to help with the cooking and canning and housework. They were often younger sons and daughters of even poorer families, and in those dark days they often worked for little more than room and board.
My grandmother told my father and one of his brothers to take out the sleigh again, go to all of the nearby farms, and gather up the maids and hired hands. They did so, and my grandmother was soon serving that very special roast pig dinner to all of the servants in the neighborhood. It was a wonderful party and a celebration that was remembered with joy and gratitude years afterward.
Where had my grandmother gotten the idea from? I said that my grandmother was a godly woman, and I am sure that she had read Luke 14:12-14, where Jesus said, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (NIV).
We may have read this Bible story over and over again and still not gotten the message. When we throw a party, we invite our friends and our relatives, and only by accident do we seem to think of those who may need the invitation the most—the poor, the despised, the servant class.
We have heard this story over and over again, and we still don’t get it. We are the servants, the lame, the poor, the unworthy. God has prepared a banquet for us. He has given His own Son, Jesus, to die for us so that we could receive an invitation to that celebration. And too often we have chosen to remain in the unrewarding drudgery of our servitude and have declined the invitation.