Luke 14:16-24 (New International Version)
Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "
I have always loved this parable! And even more after the Lord used it to lead me into the lives of kids with disabilities. I always loved it in the first place because it identified with those not getting the initial invitation. Growing up was an uphill battle for me, especially after all my friends passed up my permanent 5’4” status after the 8th grade. But it was uphill for serious reasons. My dad’s sudden death at 11 and a mother so needy that she could not parent me. I often felt like an orphan and second rate. So I turned towards sports and achievement in general. I pressed and pressed to succeed. It seemed 100% of the time I was the second or third option, constant rejection.
My big goal was to go on the Young Life staff. This was something I heard from God at the age of 17. When I met my new friends with disabilities at Blackford High School, I was on my third rejection from staff while others were eagerly courted; and this is why I LOVE this parable. Jesus was saying that there was a place for me at His party. I am invited.
Then I met my new friends and they translated this parable for me in greater ways. I realized that this world is full of people whose lives are too full for God and the things of God. They have it all: talents, money, possessions, status and incredible business. What they do not have is time for a party. But when I met my friends, they had very little, but what they did have was time and a heart open wide and ready to be filled. So when we invited them to the party, which was club, they came like stampeding buffalo. They were being invited to the party with all their friends and they did not come up with lame excuses, like I just bought a cow. They came and they wanted in on everything. The first time I threatened to pie a kid, instead of shying away, they all raised their hands asking to be pied. So we obliged and I didn’t want to be rude.
What does this tell us? God’s kingdom is for those who are empty, for those rejected, for those not believed in and for those at least a little bit desperate. The kingdom is for those who struggle, who doubt, who are misunderstood, for those who have lost a lot, for those not picked or an after-thought if they are. The kingdom is for those who are hoping and waiting so long that when they get an invitation they cannot wheel, walk or crawl fast enough to get there. In short, YL Capernaum is the place for kids, leaders, staff, committee and donors like this. I have learned over the years that this is the place for the most “disabled” of all, typical kids who are shattered on the inside, but look good on the outside.
I thank God everyday for leading me to the place of realizing that in all my many disabilities, that I am loved and accepted with my friends. YL Capernaum is truly a ministry WITH kids with disabilities and not a ministry TO them. Let us go to the party together.