Date: Aug. 30, 1998
Theme: Social Status, Humility & the Kingdom of God
Scripture: Luke 14:1,7-14
Worship Leader: Henry Kliewer
German Einleitung: Walter Langelotz
There is no limit to what we will do to make ourselves big and powerful.
Even our generosity can be a way of making others feel that they owe us something in return.
Many a table is filled with little more than the self-interest of the host.
Theological subject: Today’s Message is about social status, humility, and table manners in the Kingdom of God.
Words of wisdom:
Recognition evade those who seek it.
Modesty is the skill of reluctantly allowing someone else to say things about you, that you would have said yourself if you weren't naturally modest.
Flattery is like chewing gum -- enjoy it briefly, but don’t swallow it!
Tact The ability to make your guests feel at home when you wish they were.
Humility In the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schultz, Linus and Charlie Brown are sitting and talking about their plans when they grow up. Linus says, "When I get big I'm going to be a humble little country doctor. I'll live in the big city, and every morning I'll get up, climb into my sports car and zoom into the country! Then I'll start healing people. I'll heal everybody for miles around!" And he concludes this speech with "I'll be a world famous humble little country doctor.”
HUMILITY A young American student visiting the Beethoven museum in Bonn was fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a generous tip, and the man agreed. The girl sat down at the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving, she said to the guard, "I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano." The guard shook his head; "Well, Paderewski was here a few years ago and he said he wasn't worthy to touch it."
Feelings about our past actions.
Do you know the feeling of being invited to a celebration, and your host invites you to come and sit down at a better spot, closer to the head table or the stage?
It feels good to be honored by such special treatment, doesn’t it?
On the other hand, we feel out of place when we’re asked to go sit in a different spot, because that spot was reserved for a more important person.
Or worse yet, when somebody asks us to move from their favorite spot in the church benches.
One of the most important jobs at the Whitehouse in Washington, D.C. is the Chief of Protocol. The Chief of Protocol is the person who determines where people sit at state dinners. Putting some dignitary in the wrong place at an official state function has caused more than one international crisis.
People from various social classes mix freely in the classroom, or on the playing field, and in the Laundromat.
But at a banquet, the social barriers rise, and the position of where people sit makes all the difference.
Shift focus to congregation. (law/judgment)
Isn’t it interesting that the table is where we find our place
Even in the Church we exercise a certain rank order, according to the importance that we give to each individual.
For example, our older people will clearly remember the time when the men sat on one side, and the women on the other.
Also, the positioning of the Baby room says something about the importance that we give to children and young families in our worship services.
The best seats are reserved for the most important people.
Issue for today. (where does the text touch our concerns?)
But this is nothing new.
Remember the disciples of Jesus, how they were arguing with each other about who was the most important among them?
Remember also how they were put to shame, when the Master humbled himself to wash their feet.
“The greatest among you must be your servant.”
Biblical text (Background & Context).
Read Luke 14:1,7-14
Content (what will it be a story about?)
1. Jesus, watching folk scramble for places of honor, advised choosing the lowest place, way down from the head table. Perhaps they will have the delightful surprise of being invited up to sit with the dignitaries.
2. Jesus advises the host to be honest about his motives for inviting people: not to his own benefit, but for the benefit of the guests.
Good News (Major Concern of Text/Sermon).
The Purpose of this parable, like other parables, is meant to reveal something about God.
Question: How does God look at our table-time etiquette?
Jesus offers a critique of our strategies for getting ahead.
The opinion of the text is that inGod’s kingdom, the humble are being lifted up and those who exalt themselves are being brought down. (Mary’s Song – Luke 1:46-55)
"All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted"(Mt 23:12).
Major Concern of the sermon - Bible Background
It was the custom to invite people for a meal on the Sabbath after the worship service.
The Meal in our story is attended by Leaders and Doctors of the Law.
It provided an opportunity for academic debate with other Teachers about the Word of God.
At this Sabbath meal Jesus happened to be among the invited guests.
The Jewish Scriptures gave some clear rules about seating order, and so the guests were really not speaking out of turn, when they were arguing about their rank.
Jesus’ criticism of other invited guests seems politically incorrect as well as impolite – you just don’t do something like that.
Jesus’ advise is opposite to the Rule of the Community of the Essenes, a Jewish sect near the Dead Sea that practiced communal life and believed themselves to be the people of the New Covenant:
Their Rules said the following:
“This is the Rule of an assembly. Let each man sit according to his rank! Let the priest sit in the first place, and the elders in the second, and then the rest of all the people; let them sit according to their rank."
Then Jesus turns on the host:
The host graciously invites others to his table. Or does he? Some hospitality can be only a shrewd way of getting what we want from others.
Jesus did not say that one must neglect one’s friends, family, and even the rich neighbor or boss.
It is pleasant to entertain one’s friends – get together for a good BBQ or a Turkey dinner, or Faspa.
It is proper to invite one’s relatives – otherwise you may end up in trouble with your in-laws.
And it’s also to our advantage to entertain those who are role models to us, be it for financial, or other reasons.
But Jesus proposes a guest list of those who can never give in return; those who will not help our status: the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, the handicapped
2 Sam. 5:8 declared the handicapped as enemies of the King.
At Qumran: the handicapped are listed among those not allowed in the assembly, alongside with those who are ritually impure, physically ill, paralysed, lame, blind, deaf, dumb, and those with leprosy, etc.
Jesus’ teaching corrects the strict, inflexible religious teaching that held that disease was due to sin.
He invites the needy to an important place in the Kingdom
We remember his first speech in the Synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has sent me to preach Good News to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, …and so on.”
Mention the Christ-event.
Jesus was a friend of the social outcasts - publicans and sinners, whores and theologians. He welcomes sinners and eats with them (Lk 15:2).
As we struggle to find our place, maybe at the dinner table, at the cafeteria at work, or in the church family, Christ’s invitation is still open to us:
Come to me all who are tired and heavy-laden, I will give you peace.
In Christ, we find our proper place.
We become his brother and sister, his friend and companion.
Each one of us is an MVP (most valuable person) in the eyes of Jesus.
God knows that we all have a deeply rooted need to be recognized for who we are.
That is often the reason for our tendency to puff ourselves up, when others don’t do it for us.
That is also why we push our way up the social ladder as hard as we can- sometimes even to the point of burnout.
The Good News is that God knows our every need.
In Jesus he has come to us to address our greatest need, namely, to restore the broken relationship with our heavenly Father.
He has come to give us New Life.
Invite and encourage the congregation to further action. (recognize past faithfulness)
We are encouraged to embrace the loving grace of God, and to respond to Christ’s Challenge with an attitude of love and compassion for others.
As those who gather at the table of the Lord, we operate under a different set of guidelines than those that motivate the world.
We are motivated by an attitude of justice, service and humility.
Off course, we often fail to hit our mark, and instead of concentrating on being a “humble little country doctor” we puff our heads with ideas of being “world-famous.”
Jesus reminds us of the dangers of wanting to push our way up the ladder, bumping and shoving other people off as we go.
And he is also willing to forgive and give us another chance when we come to our senses.
Responsibility (what is the hearer supposed to do?)
Here, in the church, in our meals and in all our meetings, the first must be last and the last first, the lowest and the least must be treated as the greatest and the highest.
Service and consideration for others are our guiding principles.
This is especially important for us as we begin with the LIFE Process in a few weeks, and as we “send out invitations” to Christ’s Banquet in our Community.
May God grant us honest motives in our search to exalt Christ, and in our efforts to put others before us.
May God also help us to keep our intentions pure as we invite others into our home.