Jesus was watching the guests at this banquet playing a game. They would come in. They would look around. They would try to estimate how important they were in relation to the people already there. And they would decide how close to the best seat they should sit.
We do the same thing. We walk into a party and decide who is the best person to network with. Who will give the best return on conversation. Who will give the best access to someone else.
For Jesus, who could read their faces, who could read their hearts, the calculations were plain to see.
He speaks up. If you take the best seat, Jesus says, thinking you deserve it, you are going to be embarrassed when the VIP arrives.
At these parties, people arrived early for good seats. But the best people, the most important people, often waited until the last minute. That way, more people would see their entrance, would see their status, would watch them be escorted to the best seat.
Instead, sit at the end, sit in the seat closest to the kitchen. Spend your time on conversation with the people around you rather than watching people watch you. Maybe you’ll get moved up, maybe you won’t. But get out of the competition for attention.
In fact, Jesus says, plan upside down parties. And that’s the third thing. Invite people not for what they can do for you but for how you can help them. If someone is hungry, invite them to the picnic. If someone is poor, invite them to the picnic. If someone never gets invited to the picnic, invite them to the picnic.
NOT because it will make you look good, but because they need a picnic. And because you have the resources to have a great picnic.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t have a picnic, give your food to the foodbank.” We might think that would be the best use of resources. Instead, Jesus says, have your parties, your events, your celebrations, your feast. Put the energy into planning. Do the cooking and decorating. Do everything the same as now, as well as you can.
Just change the guest list. Because all of us need community as much as we need food, need to be together as much as we need protein.
And besides, Jesus implies, that’s what God does. He is preparing a banquet for everyone. And none of us can repay him. Because it’s not about exchange. It’s about love. It’s not about equity, it’s about extravagance. About God’s extravagant love, expressed in the death and resurrection and banquet of Jesus. To which we are all invited.