Luke 14:1, 7-14 (NRSV)
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. 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.”
The very first verse sentence refers to a gathering Jesus attended on the Sabbath. Jesus was at a dinner with a bunch of people including Pharisees. They were watching him to see what he do like they were looking for a mistake or reason to go after him. I think it’s easy to fall into that trap, judging and watching people to see if they’re going to mess up. And usually what happens in those situations is that you’re the one that messes up.
The rest of the text is interesting because It discusses our perceptions of ourselves in our own importance. Sometimes when we get hung up on how important we are, we tend to get taken down a notch or two. I remember that once I was at an administrative hearing and there was someone testifying who came across as kind of an insufferable know it all. In the end, she ended up not looking so smart. That was kind of a lesson for me to check myself and make sure I’m not sounding like a know it all, especially an insufferable one.
The other comment I wanted to make was that Jesus used common place events and activities to explain his teachings. In these passages, either the events or the lessons took place at meals. We can all identify with the social and community aspects of sharing meals. We get to know one another, and while enjoying our food and beverages, sharing stories, and being wrapped up in humanity. Meals shared are so special. It’s lonely eating by oneself.
Families share unique characteristics and customs during meals. One Thanksgiving, my dad got into deep trouble with my mom. He decided that he didn’t want to miss that football game he was watching. He set up a mirror, positioned so he could continue to watch the game during dinner. I don’t think he expected mom’s reaction. In fact, she almost blew the roof off the house. Lesson learned? 1. You don’t watch football during Thanksgiving dinner, and 2. you don’t ever upset a Hungarian cook. He never tried that again, because she reminded him of his status at that table.
Another thing that occurs to me in reviewing this text is the central theme and importance of sharing the bread and cup at communion. To me, communion symbolizes taking in bread which may represent knowledge. Knowledge nourishes our minds and allows us to grow. The cup represents the Spirit that flows through us. Both elements of communion allow us to connect as community and to be part of something bigger. I think that’s what attracted me to cc to begin with. It was communion and communication among very diverse and wonderful group of people.
[I’m Bonnie Bomer and I’m honored to contribute to this sermon conversation. I’m an Elder at CCC and I’m a Disability Rights Advocate. Humor is what keeps me balanced and happy.]
I have reached a point in my life where several of my friends have recently purchased homes and I have followed suit. This passage is full of instructions about how to host a party and how to be a guest. These instructions hit close to home. As I contemplate a housewarming party, I’m not supposed to invite my friends? I think this literal interpretation loses the message. It does not say don’t associate with your friends; don’t enjoy their company; don’t host those you love. I feel that this message hits at the intent of the invitation. Why are you hosting a party? To outwardly show what is yours and your possessions? To show how my new hardwood floors (that I don’t have) are the class of the block?
I have legitimate concerns about the invitation list to Jesus’s dinner party. I’m not stating that we shouldn’t invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. I’m just suspicious that opening my home to all of Indianapolis might not be the most prudent decision. Also, the rigorous seating chart seems like a bit formal for a housewarming party. What’s my takeaway? Dinner parties are swell, but invite the people that bring value into my life through our relationships, not financial or social affluence. Have a housewarming because I want to see people I love or as a way of meeting my new neighbors, not because I want social reward.
[Luke Webster has been attending Central Christian Church for 3 years. He is involved in several committees, Fellowship of 12, and active in Theology on Tap.]
My personal faith journey has taken me to a place far different than where I was a few decades ago. I no longer believe in a theistic God. That is, I do not believe God is a “big guy in the sky” delivering blessings to some in an arbitrary way, and withholding the same to others. I believe that our life circumstances are not predestined by some distant God, but are primarily determined by time, biology and, for lack of a better description, the luck of the draw. For me, God is the life-energy that is within and amongst all of us, connecting us together and to the goodness in our universe. For me, the best definition of God in this context is when love is expressed within these connections.
Because of my theological beliefs, I tend to look at this text from the perspective of inclusion, acceptance and connection. The “first shall be last and last shall be first” imagery reminds me that, in God’s eyes, we are all valued and have an equal seat at the table. In my view, our individual situation of privileged or difficult circumstance is not the doing of an arbitrary God pulling the strings in some giant cosmic marionette show. Rather, we are called to be the agents of inclusion, and to mirror the example of Jesus in our words and actions in a world where there is a wide disparity between those with much and those with little. As Christians, that is our responsibility.
I believe we are called to carry forward Jesus’ agenda of inclusion, and to offer a seat at the banquet table to everyone. This text challenges us to make that a reality, and reminds us of our responsibility as followers of Jesus.
[My name is Win Turner, and I have been a participant at CCC for the past two years.]