The 15th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17C (9/1/2013)
Lessons:Proverbs 25:6-7 Psalm 112 (4) Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 St. Luke 14:1, 7-14
Semicontinuous Series: Jeremiah 2:4-13 or Sirach 10:12-18 Psalm 81:1, 10-16 (16)
Prayer of the Day: O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace to those who are humble. Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
14:1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
St. Luke 14:1, 7-14. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Jesus and Economics
The Greek root for the English word “economics” is οἰ̂κονομέω (oikonomeo). It is an interesting word, derived from οἰ̂κος (oikos) — the Greek word for “household.” It has to do with the ordering of the household: the organization of supplies, the supervision of servants and slaves, the management of money and other resources… all of these are under the umbrella of οἰ̂κονομέω. It helps us to realize that the old class title “home economics” was more redundant than oxymoronic.
This week’s Gospel lesson deals with the economics of the Kingdom of God. In the first century there are very clear definitions as to everyone’s place in the οἰ̂κος. When invited guests arrive, they are immediately placed in the hierarchy. Whenever a formal dinner takes place, one important task of every guest is to measure his or her relative importance, and take a seat at the table appropriate to that status. One day Jesus is invited to a dinner. He notices that guests are positioning themselves as high as they dare at the table. As they scurry about, muscling their way past some, and steering clear of others, we can imagine Jesus beginning to chuckle. And with a smile (perhaps a grin?) on his face, he uses the example of their actions to teach them a bit about the economics of the Kingdom of God.
He notes that they are striving to see who can get the most honorable place at the table, because that is the way the economics of this world work. Grab for all you can get. Step on a neighbor’s shoulder if you need a boost on the way up. Don’t worry about others: take care of yourself (and your family) first. But Jesus also notices a curious irony about that system. If one tries too hard, and moves too close to the front of the room, there is a chance that it will all backfire. The host might notice that a more honored guest has been displaced. And the ambitious diner might be shamed in front of the whole crowd: asked to make room for one who is more important.
He goes on to say, however, that in God’s economics the rules are different. Do you want to be honored? Then take the lowest seat available, and if the host arrives and notices you, you will be elevated in front of the whole group. The text ends with this reminder: those who humble themselves will be honored. Those who seek honor will be humbled.
I remember Conrad Danielson, my home congregation’s Sunday School Superintendent for more than twenty years. Connie never owned a car, and he lived in a small house around the corner from our family. No matter what the weather, he would walk downtown every weekday to his job at the shoe store, and every weekend on Saturday and Sunday to prepare for and participate in the weekly worship service. Connie wasn’t buried in great style. His is a small granite headstone, nestled in the turf of our local cemetery. But nobody in my hometown doubts that he is now shrouded in glory.
The economics of the kingdom of God call us to consider people like Connie. People who give up their lust for money and power, and live their lives with grace and humility. People who understand God’s economy. People whose very lives become parables of what Jesus teaches: that it is only in giving of one’s self in service that true honor is found.
May we learn from them, and find ways to join them in humble service of the One who gave his life for us. Amen.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What does Jesus observe about the interactions between guests at this dinner party?
- How do you suppose they react to his words?
- How does Jesus “walk his talk?” When does he humble himself and care for others?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- Who do I admire? What do I admire about them? What have I learned from them?
- Do I find myself seeking ways to be honored above others? Or to serve others?
- How might I respond to Jesus’ command to live humbly and serve?