Luke 14:1, 7-14
September 1, 2019
the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
Luke 14:1, 7-14
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.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “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; 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. 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. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Today’s gospel lesson
is a continuation of St. Luke’s narrative
reporting from the heart of Jesus’ ministry
– healing, teaching, and preaching.
Jesus is preparing his disciples
for the near future when he would be
physically absent from their presence.
He is laying the groundwork for His Church,
and us today,
by giving us the elemental ideals and essential truth
for leading a Christian life.
Today’s lesson could be placed
into the category of “Table Talks”
about the kingdom of God.
Jesus is teaching while he is eating,
sharing his table with others,
breaking bread and sharing wine,
with both his disciples,
and, with his host, a leader of the Pharisees,
and the Pharisee’s colleagues.
St. Luke’s editors label this section as “a parable.” (Verse 7).
This is somewhat inaccurate.
I don’t believe Jesus
would have used the word “parable”
to describe his narrative in this location.
There isn’t any story or tale that imparts a larger truth.
Jesus is simply teaching by directive.
“When you do this, then you should do that.”
While these are not parables (strictly speaking),
Jesus is using allegory and symbolism
to describe what the kingdom of heaven is like.
In effect, he is saying,
“The kingdom of heaven is like ….
When you attend a wedding banquet …
take the lowest seat.
The kingdom of heaven is like ….
When you host a luncheon or a dinner ….
Invite those who can never repay you.”
Jesus is painting on a brand-new palate;
creating a landscape of what the kingdom of heaven is like.
At the same time,
Jesus is telling us the nature of the rules for the kingdom.
Much to our surprise,
the rules for the kingdom are
Revolutionary (some would say),
completely upending our expectations.
Whether we were living
in the life and times of Jesus,
or today, 2,000 years later,
one of the most important social rules
is that we are born with a Darwinian sense of self-preservation, and raised to look out for “number one.”
Self-interest is the motivation of so much of what we do.
We are always thinking
in the back of our minds
when we give
what we can get back.
I give to United Way at the office …
so the boss will notice and think more highly of me.
I give at home …
so the kids will love me back,
or so I can get something from my spouse.
I give at the church …
so I can get good worship,
good Sunday school and youth fellowship, or
good mission and outreach options.
I give … so I can get.
In today’s lesson,
Jesus is challenging this basic assumption.
Instead of looking out for number one,
our fundamental concern should be to serve God’s interest.
This means giving away,
making a sacrifice;
making our self-interest secondary
to God’s primary interest.
This means subjecting my will
To Thy will (be done).
This is a recognition that we are God’s own
and that one day we will return to God;
making God’s interest the focus and motivation of our faith.
It means we substitute the question,
“what do I want to do?”
with “what does God want me to do?”
Consider for a moment
If all the world would discern deeply,
“What does God want me to do?”
There are many,
(some would say) way too many,
who use the name of God
to promote self-interest
– to obtain power, authority, control, or wealth.
Let us not be tempted to make the same mistake.
Don’t confuse my will with God’s interests.
In the inverted world of God’s greatest concerns,
we hear today Jesus teaching
that being humble,
and lifting up the most vulnerable members of society
– the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind –
– those least likely to be able to repay you –
this is God’s concern,
should be our greatest concern, too.
Being humble and
lifting up the most vulnerable
Is God’s intentional desire.
1. First of all, seek the humble and lowly way through life.
Humility means that the interest of others
comes before our own …
like at a wedding banquet.
Let others have more honorable seats.
Take your place at the lowest place.
Pastors and church leaders eat last.
Lowliness springs from gratitude.
Be thankful to be invited in the first place!
consider the fact that none of us have done anything to deserve God’s invitation to the banquet.
Consider our sinful nature …
can we presume to approach the majesty of God
Worthy of God’s amazing grace?
A lowly approach springs from the reverence
we should be offering to God.
Humility is the Disciples’ place in life.
It requires a discipline of reflection, meditation, and prayer.
Humility embraces silence
And recognizes the intrinsic value of becoming still,
Awareness of God’s presence, and
The ability to trust in God’s direction.
Humility lifts up our God above all other competitors,
Shielding us from the temptation of idolatry.
Jesus punctuates this narrative
with his topsy-turvy, upside down rule of the kingdom
by saying in the 11th verse,
“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Seek the humble and lowly road.
2. The second point of the kingdom is made
when Jesus turns his attention
from the guest of the dinner party
to speak directly to the host.
He looks to the Pharisee and his friends.
Jesus directs them to not invite their friends when they host a party.
Instead, extend hospitality and generosity
to those who cannot repay it.
We are usually hospitable because of what it can gain us.
Be nice to visitors and guests at church,
we might be able to persuade them to return.
Be nice to our friends when they come to dinner,
for you never know when it will come time they can repay you.
Hospitality as a quid pro quo
has no merit with God;
Selfish hospitality is nothing more than self-interest.
God’s interest is elsewhere.
God is most interested in making sure
that those who are most in need
and least able to repay
are the ones being served.
Jesus just gives an example
of the kinds of people in his day and age
that would be God’s most suitable guests
– the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.
Today, updated language expands his sampling
to a much larger audience:
the widow, the shut-in, the elderly,
those with disabilities and differently abled,
those suffering from chronic illness,
and new immigrants to our neighborhood.
Ronald Sider, a Christian social activist,
has made it his life purpose
to keep reminding us
that Christians are to have a special relationship with the poor.
He observes that global Christianity is wealthy.
We make up one-third of the world’s people,
but we receive two-thirds of the world’s income each year. Furthermore, he notes,
we spend 97% of our income on ourselves.
A mere 2% goes to Christian work or missions.
(Pulpit Resources, August 29, 2004)
All this takes place at the same time
when almost half of the world,
over three billion people,
live on less than $2.50 a day,
and 80% live on less than $10 a day.
According to UNICEF,
22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
Nearly a billion people are unable to read a book or sign their name.
Less than 1% of what is spent globally on weapons each year
Could put every child through school.
Poverty is grinding.
Who are we inviting to our table?
We serve God’s interest when we invite
the least, the lowly, the most vulnerable.
We serve God’s interest when we serve
those who cannot ever repay it.
We serve God’s interest when we
lose our self-interest first.
The topsy-turvy, upside down rule of God’s heavenly kingdom
is punctuated by Jesus
for the second time in verse 14, when he says,
“And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you,
for you will be repaid,” Jesus promises,
“at the resurrection of the righteous.”
You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Let’s face it;
Jesus would be a challenging person to invite to dinner.
He goes as an invited guest
and immediately criticizes
both his host and his fellow guests.
But social etiquette is not so much Jesus’ concern
as is preparing his disciples for the emerging kingdom of God.
Jesus has bigger fish to fry.
His concern is you and me
– what are we going to make our ultimate concern in life –
satisfying the self, or satisfying God?
There is no time to waist.
Indeed, God’s kingdom begins here and now,
not in some future time or after we die.
It starts with our response to the challenge of the Gospel.
It begins when we assume a posture of humility.
It begins when we extend hospitality and generosity
to those who are most in need.
Dearly beloved members, guests, visitors, and friends of Rush,
whose interest will you serve this day?