The 15th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17C (8/28/2016)
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.
Humility, Exaltation, and the Presence of Christ
I don’t want to take my belt and shoes off. I don’t want to remove my plastic bag of 3 oz. liquids. I don’t want to put my laptop computer and my step counter in a separate plastic bin. But what I really don’t want is to find myself in between those nylon straps, shuffling back and forth for up to 45 minutes, like so many cattle. What I want is TSA Pre! It has been granted to me a couple of times (undoubtedly with the hope that this might whet my appetite to actually pay for it…). And oh, what a difference it makes. I make my way to the far left line, queue up behind two or three others, and watch as the hundreds of people to my right anxiously make their way towards the TSA agent, all the while worrying about whether or not they arrived early enough to get through the line and get to the gate before their flight departs. I don’t want to wait with all of them. I want TSA Pre!
Which is, I suspect, what Jesus is talking about in this weekend’s Gospel lesson.
He makes mention of wedding banquets and dinners for friends. We might think of TSA lines, sporting event tickets, Disney’s FastPass+, or meet-and-greets at rock concerts. But at the heart of the matter is our very human desire to find ourselves ahead of all the others who are all behind us. It is human nature to want to sit at the head of the table, or stand in the shortest line. It is human nature to hope for an advantage that others don’t have. It is human nature to be pleased when we are considered to be the insiders, even as (or possibly: especially as) others are considered to be the outsiders.
Some would even describe the Christian faith as the ultimate ticket to the inside group. Embrace the correct beliefs, worship with the right people, say the appropriate prayers, make the expected contributions, and your life will be blessed. A healthier family. More success at work. Better parking spaces when you’re out shopping. Perhaps even fortune and fame will come your way if you are a good enough believer. This merging of Christian imagery with American civil religion is more predominant today than most of us want to admit.
Jesus lifts up a different vision. Don’t strive for the head of the table; humble yourself; sit at the lowest place. Don't prepare tea for your rich friends; but for those who otherwise might not have tea. And this: don’t do so as a subversive strategy to be exalted in front of all the others, but because the lowest place at the table is where Jesus-followers find themselves. Among the brokenness of this world. Surrounded by those whose misfortune is evident. Eager to be the presence of God for them. This is our call. If we stop lusting after the best seats and the shortest lines, we just might find ourselves in the very presence of Christ.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What was the appeal of the best seat at the banquet during the first century?
- How must striving for this kind of recognition have shaped people’s lives?
- What alternative is Jesus proposing here?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- In which situations do I most wish to be honored or elevated above others?
- How would it change me to step away from this desire?
- What might I experience, if I was wiling to spend time at the foot of the table?