Once upon a time, a young man walked into a car dealership to inquire about the purchase of an automobile. The salesmen on duty that day could see that he was young and that he had arrived on his bicycle. They proceeded to explain how good their brand of automobile was, and that one should not aspire to own one of their autos as one’s ‘first purchase’ of a vehicle, but rather that one should ‘work one’s way up’ to their ‘higher class’ model. They laughed as they sent the young man on his way. The young man bought his first car somewhere else, but never reached the point of going back to that first dealership. Years later he read that the ‘higher class’ brand of auto was being discontinued due to poor sales figures.
One time a group of church members, mostly senior with one relative newcomer, were surveying some damage to the shingles high up on their church steeple. The parish community was in need of new members. The newcomer was recently married, and anticipating the birth of their first child. With a smile and as if ‘a dare’, one of the senior members suggested to the newcomer that he should climb up on a ladder and put in a few more nails to straighten up the loose shingles. Do you think the newcomer and his wife were impressed with how the more senior members were concerned about his personal safety? Would this be a reliable group with whom to build one’s future?
Another time, during the usual ‘social hour’ in the church hall following a church service, one of the senior church members was loudly and stridently bad-mouthing the president of Ukraine, so that all could hear and understand (since there was no expressed opposition), what kind and manner of church group this was, and that anybody with a differing opinion was ‘free to go elsewhere’.
These are some examples of how a group, with its representatives and members, can appear to be open and inviting, and yet give new arrivals a feeling of rejection and non-acceptance.
So let us consider what kind of banquet it is, which we invite others to attend.
Is it a banquet to which all are invited and welcomed with Christian love?
(Admittedly a difficult goal to achieve.)
Is it a banquet which people feel they must attend, or else they will have to suffer consequences?
Is it a banquet to which some people are invited in order to serve as sources of amusement?
Is it a banquet through which the host will stroll and cast out any guests not dressed in ‘appropriate’ clothing?
If a guest is invited to a feast, and during the feast experiences insult, humiliation, and/or confrontation, -- is he likely to return again? Is he/she really welcome?
Let us consider our personal conduct:
Is our behavior proper for a church community seeking new members?
Are we a good representative of a loving and accepting church community?