Construction on the Charlotte Coliseum in North Carolina began in 1986 and was opened on August 11, 1988. At the time the venue was seen as state-of-the-art, complete with luxury boxes and a large eight-sided video scoreboard. With almost 24,000 seats, it was not only the largest venue in the NBA, but the largest basketball-specific arena ever to serve as a full-time home for an NBA team. And it had parking! Some thought the Coliseum was too big, but at one point, they sold out 371 consecutive games—almost nine consecutive seasons. I had the opportunity to go to a few games if they had a special deal and sit in the nosebleeds and feel the thunderous excitement of that many fans. The 6th man effect really was effective there. I also got to attend the first rock concert in the new coliseum. My buddy and I went. It was actually our first rock concert period. During the encore giant cannons rose out of the stage and the singer sang”For those about to rock, we salute you! Fire!” and there was a concussive bang that you felt deep inside of you, with many more to follow. This caused all the construction debris and dust to be shaken from the rafters. It looked like it was snowing inside! One word, spectacular. A short 10 years later, from what I remember, there was a falling out that involved a demand for less and better seating. The idea was to cater to more upscale, prestigious clientele or “fans”. So my thoughts as a, then, fan and I think the thoughts of many others, were that since I’m not upscale and prestigious, the team did not need or want me as a fan. So the sellout string broke, the team moved and they built another coliseum that was smaller with more luxury seating and no place to park. Still not a fan. At a cost of 52 million dollars in 1986 dollars for a municipal expenditure to support a private enterprise, 17 years from opening to closing is far too short a time. So in effect, the desire for more prestigious seats displaced many loyal, ordinary fans and the citizenry that funded the building. All the while, the original Charlotte Coliseum built in 1955 is still in business. So what makes for good seating? What makes certain places more honorable than others? I went looking for help from someone with a little more historical insight than myself. Alastair Roberts wrote, “The meal table was—and is—a reflection of the relations between people and of their place within a broader social and material world; each meal was—and is—an opportunity to secure or advance one’s place within this social order. Indeed, what we call ‘corruption’ was general policy in most first century societies. One’s political, legal, and social position could become precarious if one was not prepared to throw one’s weight into maintaining circles of reciprocal gift. If one did not give gifts and invitations to the right people, you wouldn’t receive the return of social honor or any assurance of social security. Consistently giving gifts and invitations to the wrong people might be an even riskier course of action: it would offend and dissociate you from people with social power. Greco-Roman thinkers on the gift such as Cicero commonly stressed the moral importance of giving judiciously. To give freely to the poor, who lacked the means to give a worthy return—being regarded not only as economically but typically also as morally without standing—might reflect poorly upon the prudence and character of the giver.” I think we can see why Jesus felt that there is a God’s kingdom, worldly kingdom dichotomy. At the banquet that Jesus is at the people are there arguing over the best seating and Jesus tells this parable. The part we do not see is the next parable he tells. In the bridge between the two parables someone mentions how awesome it will be to eat in the kingdom of God and Jesus tells of “a certain man” throwing a great banquet and we find that the prestigious, rich and expected banquet goers are making excuses and not attending. Something, I am gathering that you would do if you felt it was beneath you or not advantageous to you, therefore servants are sent out to gather others in, that is, those that might reflect poorly upon the prudence and character of the giver. There were basketball games that helped to bring some unity to a city that offered tickets that were affordable. There were concerts and events that allowed more people to be a part and to share the joy, but if value is found in the prestige it brings the observer, exclusivity is key, so less seats and others deemed more desirable or valuable. In the kingdom of God all the seats are awesome and there’s room for everyone because you are not there for prestige but the honor of being in the presence of God. In the struggle for higher seating, in every higher place obtained others get pushed away. Jesus points out that that is not the way God’s kingdom works, like it or not. We can try to make it seem that way or convince ourselves that it’s more exclusive and about us, but it is not. The phenomenon doesn’t just apply to 30,000 seat arenas or lavish banquets. Can it happen in our day to day lives? Do we practice living in God’s Kingdom or exclusion? Is the focus on the opportunity for togetherness and relationships or how we personally benefit? Sometime ago I found an article, actually it’s a clipped advice column. And I keep it where I see it when I go into my computer sermon files. It serves as a pretty good modern day parable that really relates to our culture. Dear Amy, Every fall my sister, cousins, and a cousin’s sister-in-law have a weekend shopping excursion in our home city. We stay in a hotel, treat ourselves, shop for children, and go out for lunches and dinners. It is a great time to reconnect. I have a sister, Wendy, whom we do not invite. She is offended to the point of tears when she finds we have not invited her. My two sisters and I are very close in age but Wendy hasn’t been as close to the set of cousins as my sister and I have been through the years. We are all married stay-at-home moms. Wendy is a divorced working mom with one young child. There are several reasons we do not include her. We know she doesn’t have very much money for such an outing. She also does not have many of the same interests as we do. We’re all very active churchgoers while she only sporadically attends services. Plain and simple, she does not really fit in with us anymore. She takes it very personally, and last year she came over to my home unannounced crying about it. Which upset my children and caused my husband to threaten to call the police if she did not leave. Now she barely speaks to me and has told our relatives that I am a horrible person even though I’ve helped her. How can we get her to understand that she should perhaps find another set of friends whose lives and interests align more closely with hers? Sad sister. Dear sad, First let’s establish that I agree with your sister. You are a horrible person. Obviously you can do whatever you want and associate with or exclude whomever you want, but you don’t get to do this and also blame the person you were excluding for not fitting in. The only way your sister would ever fit in would be for you to make room for her. You are unwilling to do that, and that is your choice. But her being upset is completely justified and you will just have to live with that. Perhaps this is something you could ponder from your church pew because despite your regular attendance you don’t seem to have learned much. The only way your sister would ever fit in would be for you to make room for her. The good news is in the kingdom of God, God has made room for you. By God’s grace earthly prestige is of no consequence, and so it should being God’s kingdom here and now. In life, have your seats to the game or the banquet been taken away? There is grace for that. Have we been guilty of placing ourselves above or before God. There’s grace for that. Have you faced heart-breaking rejection that left you feeling all alone? There is grace for that. Despite what we do, God’s love and welcome to the table is there for us. That’s grace. We are called to live in that kingdom right here and now, God’s kingdom, the one where we lift others up and offer our seat to those that desperately need to be fed. Here’s the key. God’s kingdom is not exclusive, it is boundless. In God’s kingdom there is no scarcity to fear and no market to profit from it. God’s kingdom is about limitless abundance and ever flowing grace, justice, mercy, peace, and love and where all seats are in the presence of our host, Jesus Christ. Amen……..