Strangers on the Roads... Thoughts on the Gospel of Thomas, vol. 2, #1
A man was throwing a dinner party and when everything was prepared, he sent his servant to call the guests… The servant returned to his master and said, ‘The ones you invited to the dinner have all excused themselves.’ The master said to the servant, ‘Then go to outsiders and strangers on the roads. Find folk there and bring them here to eat. Those too busy to bother cannot get into my Father’s Kingdom.’ Logion 64, GT
Dinner for one, please James. Madame will not be dining. Yes, you may bring the wine in. Love plays such funny games…
Yes yes, I know--you don’t know that song. Too bad. Sorry for you…
Check with Nat ‘King’ Cole.
Anyway, let me confess: I know the feeling, that empty feeling, when nobody shows up. ‘Nobody’ seems to be reading my blogs. Or my books. I’m doing a solo act. I set the table, lay out the wine and the aromatic napkins---and what happens? Nothing. Nobody comes. What a lonely feeling!
A Dinner Party… Picture it, the setting I mean. What’s that? You don’t see my stuff as a dinner party? OK, OK, put that aside for a minute and think of our logion, the passage we’ve selected, italicized above. That was a real dinner party… And still, nobody came. Puzzling?
A Dinner Party. What could be more delightful?
Just between you and me, I’ve always loved the act of eating. It’s shameless, this erotic indulgence of mine. I’ve nursed it all through the years, honed it, refined it. It’s one of life’s few truly consistent, enduring delights, is it not? Continuing for me, I might add, to this very day, to this very hour, in fact, for the taste of the chicken sandwich I had for lunch lingers lovingly in my grateful stomach as I type these words. And memories--vivid, palpable—of countless other meals are with me still, lingering to grace my old age. I can still taste the beef stew my mother served up for us during the Great Depression, see it still, sitting there on that rustic dining room table, brimming with tasty turnips and succulent carrots, waiting for us hungry peasants, about to partake together in a gustatory thrill that would do us for the next eighty years. Frankly, it’s one of the few pleasures left us octogenarian types---don’t look now, but it’s true! Yes, I said it, and I’m glad! Eating is as much fun as ever. (There’s not much else left).
A Dinner Party… The best of all possible parties!
A man was throwing a dinner party… Think of it for a moment: not a lecture, not a sermon, not a book to read, not a list of commandments to keep, no new religion to join. No, it was a dinner party he was throwing. Life-giving, nurturing, pure enjoyment for the hungry body, no complications, no restrictions, no reservations needed, no price to pay. The Gray Bears Christmas Dinner, all over again, gourmet version. Just come and enjoy!
Still though, nobody came. The tables are empty, the dance floor’s deserted. Another song you don’t know, right?
Check with Frank Sinatra.
But seriously, this may be a new idea for you---the notion that “God” or even Yeshua wants to give you pure pleasure. That the “Father” has in mind for you the ultimate enjoyment, a banquet where Life itself is the main dish. No strings attached. Enjoy!
But still, nobody comes.
Too busy. A thousand things to do. I’m all involved in repairing my house, can’t make it. Maybe another time, pal. My friend is getting married, gotta go to the party there, throw the shoes and rice, get drunk with my old chums. I beg to be excused. I don't believe anybody can know anything about what I choose to call 'religion,' there simply are no answers, so I'm not coming to your 'party.' More important things to do with my time. And so on.
You know what happened next, right? After all, you read it in the Bible. The Master told his servant, OK, tell you what---go out on the roads and find complete strangers, drag them in here to my banquet! But before this saying gets to the “Bible’ it means something quite simple, elementary in fact, so much so that, like the banquet itself, we simply skip it, let it pass us by. What am I talking about?
Strangers on the Roads. Those strange ones out there, the ones no one notices.
Even these have to be dragged in, kicking and screaming. It seems that’s the only way anybody ever gets to this—the ultimate—banquet. Don’t ask me to explain it. It just is. And now you know why they seem so weird, the nutjobs who read the Gospel of Thomas. They've been dragged in off the roads, seemingly at random--and by what strange force, what inscrutable deity?
I choose you, one from a thousand, two from ten thousand. And you will stand to your own feet, having become single and whole. … Logion 23, GT
Strangers on the Roads… Ever know any of these odd ones? Those folk who appear to have achieved some degree of peace of mind, some enviable happiness, an elusive wisdom, despite their obviously obscure social status? Some of them would be turned away at the door, were they to show up for worship at the corner church.
Somebody said it, I forget who: there are just two types of people in the world--those who know, and those who don’t. It can be hard to tell the difference.
Strangers on the Roads… Beat-up, scruffy even. Unlikely specimens for any sort of Enlightenment Project. Not always poor—but all too often from the dregs of the economic subculture. Ask Walt Whitman---he knew about all this. Larry from The Razor’s Edge, Conway from Lost Horizon. Maybe even Alan Watts. That nutbag hippy who lives next door, the one you warned your daughter about. Not your average Evangelical Christian… Not on the School Board.
Can it be that God is really interested in getting you to be happy, making you a single and whole person, right here and now, never mind heaven when you die? Or even present respectability?
You don’t have to be a bad person to miss out on the Ultimate Banquet—just somebody who’s too busy to bother himself. Too busy with something else he/she considers more important, at the time---and the funny thing is, it just might be so, at the time. You are busy, I know.
The Stranger on the Road probably has no watch. Or doesn’t look at it much. Maybe he lives by the Power of Now. Ya think?
Table for none, please James, vol. 2, #1