View today's sermon on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUby0GtpdRg.
Psalm 81:1, 10-16 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
1 Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
10 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
11 “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. 13 O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! 14 Then I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. 15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their doom would last forever. 16 I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
Luke 14:1, 7-14 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
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.
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 and sisters or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But 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.”
Myrna read two texts for us this morning.
The verses of Psalm 81 that we read focus on what has gone wrong in the relationship between God and humans. God appeals to the stubborn people of Israel to trust and follow God in order to live their best lives.
Luke 14 is encouraging us all to have humility of spirit. This parable is all about who we invite into our midst and how we care for one another, encouraging us to put others first.
Reminder: Parables are meant to make us uncomfortable. If the parable doesn’t make us squirm it is likely that we aren’t truly engaged. Parables are tools to help us see the familiar in new ways. Wedding banquets, Jesus’ setting for the parable, were common occurrences and they were rife with all sorts of “isms.” Classism, sexism, ableism all of which still exist today.
In our Luke passage Jesus’ words may rightly be understood as tongue-in-cheek as he spoke to the guests about humility. Even though his words were rooted in Hebrew scripture; (For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Proverbs 25:6-7) he was speaking paradoxically, poking fun at the ridiculousness of the guests vying for places of honor. Reading Luke this week had me envisioning the dignified guests at the wedding banquet playing an undignified game of musical chairs.
In those days, at such occasions, the host and guests reclined on what we would call a chaise lounge, at U-shaped tables. The sought-after position was in the center of the U, where one could see and be seen, hear and be heard. This was not solely or even primarily about the food. This was about being at the center of the conversation. Not really any different than when we are at a table with a large group, wanting to be in the center rather than way off on an end, perhaps feeling forgotten and ignored. When you recognize the sarcasm underlying Jesus’ teaching you can read between the lines and comprehend that this is really about encouraging inclusion. That is reiterated in the next paragraph when Jesus addresses the host. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
It is worth examining the parable from the viewpoint of both the guests and the hosts. Also, to question our motives. Are we more often seeking blessings for ourselves or seeking to be a blessing to others?
Luke 14:14 states that we will be blessed if we invite the less fortunate into our lives.
A new resource for me, “enfleshed,” wrote in their commentary this week that “a blessing is a thing that changes us for the better – substitute the word change for the word blessing they suggest, for a fresh reading of the text.”
And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you… becomes… But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be changed because they cannot repay you.
Not for the first time in our gospels, or in our lives, it is evident that when we seek to be a blessing we are blessed. When we seek positive change for others it is we ourselves that are changed; we grow into our better selves.
The parable has me pondering, what kind of world would it be if the marginalized and vulnerable among us were seen and heard; treated as guests of honor?
I will close by sharing words written by Judy Chicago as a part of her 1979 art installation, The Dinner Party: A Place at the Table. I heard her words all week long, responding to our two texts.
I hear her words responding to God’s plea in Psalm 81 for us all to repent, to return, to remember who and whose we are.
I hear her words responding to Jesus’ Parable of Humility.
Judy Chicago’s words suggest the solutions to our waywardness. She gently reminds us how to live in harmony with God and all that God has created.
And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another’s will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth’s abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life’s creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again
When I pray these words every day, I end with, “So help me God. So help us all.”
Help us God, that we may all have a place at the banquet of life. May our hospitality and our humility shine through as we are alternately host and guest with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.
Rev. TJ Mack – August 28, 2022