Hard Sayings of Jesus, III (Inscription 48)
Invite the Poor and the Lame
April 10, 2011
· Erin’s e-mail and Josh and Micah’s notes in LO
· Watch “Friday”
· Spring cleaning
Scripture reading: luke 14:1-14
Q Have you ever gone to a dinner where you felt like you were on trial, maybe meeting the future in-laws?
Q How about a meeting where they’re trying to “take you in”?
I was invited to a friend’s house for an Amway presentation. I had already seen how MLM damaged relationships, and I only went to avoid hurting another one, but I walked in with defenses up. I was even suspicious of the “Hi, how are you.”
I entertained myself during the presentation by thinking of all sorts snide remarks. I just sat through the whole smiling and chuckling. The guy probably thought I wasn’t right in the head.
· The reason I did that was to protect myself from being “taken in” because I knew their stuff would look good on the surface.
This is the context of this story – Jesus was invited to be put on trial, to be tested, and he knows it. But unlike me, Jesus didn’t just play nice.
· He heals a guy on Sabbath.
· He rebukes them for self-exalting seat selection.
· He criticizes the host for his guest list.
· He closes by hinting that they are all going to Hell.
But Jesus isn’t being nasty, he is being loving. These guys, the spiritual leaders of Israel have a deep heart problem: They were arrogant and self-serving.
This is our last sermon on the “Hard sayings of Jesus.” Jesus has told us to love our enemies and sell our possessions, now he takes on hospitality: He tells us who to invite for dinner.
· This is the whole “Don’t invite...” passage.
· What he says here applies both to our house homes and our church homes, and hence evangelism.
I think that we are starting to understand how Jesus communicates to us: He uses extremes to shock us out of our selfishness and complacency.
· It’s as if he knows that he could be misunderstood but is willing to risk one extreme to avoid the other.
There are two dangers: 1) The lesser one of taking his words hyper-literally; selling all of our possessions and allowing our enemies to keep hitting us. 2) The worse danger of labeling it as hyperbole and then ignoring it.
Q Which one is more common among Christians today?
Let’s first take care of the first danger:
When Jesus says “Do not invite your friends...” the intended meaning “Do not merely invite your friends, but also invite.”
How do I know?
1. The tense of the verb is present imperative, which in Greek can mean “stop continually inviting.” [cf. Eph. 5:18 “Be continually filled with the Spirit.”]
2. “Scripture interprets Scripture,” Jesus is building off of the entire OT and we read this through his entire ministry.
If this command were literally true, then Jesus is a hypocrite. At the Last Supper he only invited his apostles (not even the general disciples), and he “eagerly desired” this time with them. At the very end, he wanted to be surrounded by friends.
· It is oaky to have time just with your friends, and it is a vital part of a healthy life.
· It is okay if you are not invited to everything!
So we have that settled: Jesus is not saying you can never have a party with your friends again.
Who’s on the list?
Let’s now worry about what he is saying:
NIV Luke 14:12a ”When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors...”
Listen to the three groups of people:
1. Friends: The people you enjoy hanging out with. These are the people that you just like and have fun together.
2. Family: These are the people you have to hang out with, maybe you enjoy them and maybe you don’t!
3. Business or social connections: You don’t necessarily like these people, but it’s a “good idea” to invite them over.
Q Think back to your last party or dinner you hosted – how many people fit into one of these categories? And before that?
Seek first the kingdom
Okay, guilty as charged, I usually only have friends and family over. So what? It’s a party, and I want to enjoy the party.
NIV Luke 14:12b “...if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.”
· As we see in the next verse, he’s talking about the next life.
Let’s go back to last week’s sermon: Life is about more than food, clothes, or parties. The pagans run after that stuff.
I cannot blame an atheist if plans his guest list around what will give him the most fun now. Why shouldn’t he? But, Jesus said, you should be thinking differently.
Q Have you ever thought that you guest list says a lot about what you value?
Let’s invite this person, they are a lot of fun; this person has the connections and if they come then it will be cool. Or, this person is lonely, this person really needs the love of Christ.
· Everything you do has the potential to have eternal effects; don’t squander those opportunities.
A better guest list
Here is what Jesus says to do instead:
NIV Luke 14:13-14 13 But when you give a banquet...
Jesus earlier referred to lunch and dinner, their only meals, and now a banquet, a party – he is closing all the loopholes!
...invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
We need to contextualize this or else you’ll be quick to give yourselves a pass because you have a friend in a wheelchair.
1. The Poor
Poverty is no longer about money, but about social class – poor people aren’t starving to death any more. If a friend is below the poverty line, it won’t really affect your friendship.
· But, you still struggle being hospitable with those who are poor and you can’t relate to.
For that reason, let me go out on a limb and add “dysfunctional” to this group, because these are the poor that we have a harder time inviting over, those who remain poor because of their laziness, substance abuse, atrocious relationship skills.
I am not saying that everyone who is poor is dysfunctional, nor that all dysfunctional people are poor. Just look at Hollywood!
· But the “rich dysfunctional” falls under the “rich neighbor;” we only tolerate them because of the pay off!
Loving the unlovable is hard. Continually “Needy people” drain the life out of you because they are so needy and don’t know how to relate normally.
· When you invite these folks to your house, it is an act of service – you are giving to them and not getting a return.
They don’t have the social sense to talk about your favorite subject: you. They want to talk to about their favorite subject.
A trying conversation
Of course God has a real sense of humor: I was writing this sermon, headphones on, focused, and this one person ignores all that and says hi to me. I take the headphone off, say hi and let her talk for a couple of minutes.
· I am getting ready to “excuse myself” when I remember what I was writing about; I had choose to stop and focus on her.
Did my conversation have any lasting impact? I don’t know, she did all of the talking. But that’s what she needed. She was lonely and could not pay me back.
I am not saying it would be right to always interrupt work for such conversations; that would cheat you and my family. You need to protect your wellbeing or you will have nothing to give.
· Balance is vital: to be recharged as well as give.
In the same way there is the cycle of fast/feast and give/have, I think there must also be one of dinner with friends and with “the least of these.” It is cycle of “serve and be served”
· Friendship is a gift of God that should fully be enjoyed.
I can’t give you a percentage – you can only hang out with friends x out of x times; that would be legalism. But most of you are out of balance, and you know it.
2. The Crippled and Blind
In that day, the crippled and blind were not unable to provide for themselves, and they also were not socially acceptable. There was this deep seated prejudice that the reason they were the way they were was because of sin (cf. John 9:1-3).
Of course, in our day medical advances have radically lowered the number of crippled, and blind, and even these folks can work and be integrated members of society.
The bigger challenge now is opening our home to those whose handicaps make them different from us, particularly mental handicaps. Yes, I am going to go there.
Q What is your gut reaction when you see a severely handicapped person at the store? Pity, disgust, or tenderness?
An important formative part of my early life was having a friend with Down’s Syndrome. Alison was couple years younger and daughter of close family friends, so we were around her a lot.
· At first it was strange and frustrating when she’d interrupt our play and being made to include her, but it became normal.
My mom drilled into us Proverbs 17:5, “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker...”
I only got in one fight in school, in 3rd grade when a kid called me a retard. I was furious, not because he insulted me, but because he insulted Alison by using that term.
· Kids don’t natural accept those different from them, you have to teach them, and the best way is to open your life to them.
The best way you can teach them to accept like Jesus did is to invite them to your house and expect your kids to accept them.
· The Kaplan’s are a model of this, because of her brother’s Down’s Syndrome.
3. The Lame
Jesus mentions another group that gets left off of most dinner and party invite. I have a lot of sympathy for this group: The lame. You know, loosers, geeks, un-cool, the socially awkward.
· It’s like back in the lunch room days; will you sit by those who improve your social standing or will you serve others?
Q Have you ever decided not to invite someone over because they weren’t cool?
You are afraid you won’t have as much fun. You want your party to be about you and having fun, you want to be repaid now, and don’t care about the eternal potential of the event.
· Again, there is a place for balance – there is a place for parties and dinners that are just fun, not serving.
4. The Stranger
There is another key group that we must show hospitality to. Jesus did not mention them here, because it was so assumed in his culture: Strangers, those we do not know.
· The Greek word for hospitality is made up of the word for “friend” and “stranger;” it is making a friend of a stranger.
Q When was the last time you were a stranger? Maybe when you first visited here?
Church can be one of the hardest places: Everyone seems to know everyone, they are talking and laugh, comfortable, and you are trying to figure out where you fit it.
Everyone wants to find their place without the awkwardness:
Kickin’ in the front seat/ Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up/ Which seat can I take?
· It’s not my problem if you can’t recognize fine art.
Q What did you want as newcomer?
· You want someone to help you feel comfortable, to be friendly and welcoming without being creepy.
And at some point, when you are comfortable (it varies with different people), you appreciate being invited over for a lunch or dinner or event. Events are the best because they are less intimidating.
· The Jevons are great at showing this kind of hospitality, bringing strangers in and helping them become comfortable.
I understand there is a legitimate concern for safety. In ancient times, “screening” was part of the ancient’s process for hospitality. The early church required letters of recommendations and a theology test.
· I am not asking you to put you or your family in jeopardy – I won’t do it and I don’t want you to.
But there is something powerful about inviting a person over to your home for dinner especially during a holiday (since we are coming up on Easter).
· I would be a shame (quite literally) if any Christian at this church had to celebrate Easter, our highest holiday, alone.
Are you going to do it?
So I think all of us can mentally agree that this would be a good idea – we should invite the poor, the dysfunctional, the handicapped, those who are not like us, the lame, the un-cool, the stranger into our lives at church and our dinners at home.
Q How many of you will actually do it? Why not?
Because, as Jesus said, we look at our hospitality as a way for us to be served, not to serve other. And that has deeper roots:
1. You are afraid of people, you are so insecure and worried about what people think of you that you hide.
Work on learning how God has accepted you (talk to me about resources), and then practice through hospitality.
2. You say you are an introvert, but that simply means you expend a lot more energy being with people, it is not whether or not you are capable of having someone over to your house. It is hard, not impossible.
3. You are short-sighted, you are only thinking about this moment and this joy.
4. You are just plain selfish (all of us are), you have your time, your money, your house, and you don’t want to share.
5. You are afraid of change, of getting out of your comfort zone, which is a type of selfishness.
6. You are ungrateful for what God has done for you – Biblical hospitality is a grateful response to God who accepted us, the poor, lame, and lonely.
This starts as an act of obedience: Is God really in charge of your life? If he is, then you must obey Jesus and obey your life to “the least of these.”
· Here is the good news: As we obey, we find that obedience brings happiness.
Those who have opened their hearts do not regret it, they find (when they live in balance) that they are richer, not poorer for doing so. But you have to begin with obedience.
Putting it into practice
1. Invite each other over
Decide that you will have someone over for dinner to serve them not be served. Then pray for the right person and opportunity, don’t force things, just see where God leads things.
You don’t need a perfect home or a great meal, just an open heart. And you don’t need some elaborate plan, just treat them like they are part of the family.
Spend your time learning about them. It is a poor act of hospitality if you are just finding a new victim to tell about your favorite subject (which is what?).
· If you need help hosting, talk to the Jevons, they’re experts.
2. Be a good host at your church “home”
I am now talking to those of you who call this your church: If this is your church, than this is your home.
Q Would you ever hold a party and not get your house ready, pull into the driveway after the party was supposed to start?
Q Would you ever invite a person to your house then ignore them?
Yet you do it all the time here:
· You don’t make sure your church home is ready for guests.
· You come in late and don’t have time to interact with people.
· Someone comes in looking lost, you don’t greet them, you don’t help them out; you wait for Cecil or me to do it.
I understand not all of you are extroverts, but saying hi and asking a person their name is not an introvert/extrovert thing, it’s a being polite thing!
Here is how you can be a good host:
· Show up a little early to get things ready and be here to greet visitors – Michel is here at 9:15.
· Park a little further away, leave the good spots for guests.
· When someone who is new, or new to you, comes in, greet them, ask them their name, offer them a cup of coffee.
Here is what separates the committed from the casual attender: You view this church as your church, Sunday as your chance to serve, not just be served.
· There are exceptions when the body needs to be helping you.
In general, we act like our savior and serve without being served. Being good hosts not to get something in return, but because you have been accepted.
This message becomes increasingly important as God has called this church to reach out and engage our culture with the Gospel.
· By offering hospitality you may be offering them eternal life.
· By offering them a cup of coffee, you may be giving them the water of life
Q & A
· Commit to invite one “poor...” to your house.
· Practice being a host at your church.
· Find out more about helping prep church.
Objectives of sermon:
· Motive us to be more hospitable to strangers and invite the “uncool” to our homes.