Posted on Thu, Sep 1, 2016
Luke 14:1, 7-14
August 28, 2016
15th Sunday after Pentecost “May We Serve You?”
Gospel Text: Luke 14:1, 7-14
Jesus Heals the Man with Dropsy
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.
Humility and Hospitality
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.’
What is one of the most stressful details to arrange when planning a wedding reception? WHO to invite, and WHERE do they sit! We hear people planning weddings loosing sleep over this issue! What if I forget someone? Who gets along with whom, and which table is safe to assign them? What if I misspell their names on those little table cards?! It can get pretty humorous for the outsider watching people panic over this relationship puzzle.
But for Jesus, today’s text is not about simple table etiquette, he is always looking for a teaching moment to teach the way God sees and acts in the world. It isn’t so much of Jesus teaching us the way to think and act, Jesus is telling us the way God sees the situation. It is up to us to model our thoughts and minds to God’s ways or not. Therefore, Jesus is always interested in those with ‘ears to hear,” and “eyes to see.” Imagine God as the host; who would God invite to the table, and what order would God choose for them to sit? What are God’s criteria for where people will be assigned to places of honor at Gods’ table?
Jesus begins his lesson, by having fun with the religious leaders, the Pharisees, by healing on the Sabbath. Ironically, he did this while walking to a Pharisees house for a meal. On the way, Jesus healed a man from dropsy, or edema, a terrible skin disease in those days, right before their eyes. Because of his condition, the sick man would have been barred, forbidden from entering any place of worship and probably even being near a priest or Pharisee. I think this is a detail Luke want us, and the early church to notice when we think about who we invite to the Table of the Lord.
While they continued their walk to dinner and just before he healed the man, Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?’ And strangely, 4But they were silent. So Jesus* took him and healed him, and sent him away. This must have been a very awkward moment for the lawyers and Pharisees because they just kept walking together to lunch at the Pharisee’s house.
Not surprising, Luke says, “…they were watching him closely.” Were they watching him closely because they were in amazement? Or did they just not have a response like the ruler of the synagogue in last week’s text, or were they watching him just to catch him making any kind of religious gaffe in which they could attack and discredit him? Sounds very much like a modern political system today. But the real issues for Jesus was, are they ‘teachable?’ Do they have ears that can hear, and eyes that can see?
The main lesson we take from today’s Gospel is that God’s thinking is not like humankind’s thinking.
Regarding how people should be seated at a table remember what I said earlier; table assignments are not a matter of etiquette. Imagine God as the host, who would God invite to the table, and what order would God choose? What are God’s criteria for where people will be assigned to places of honor at Gods’ table?
In those days, there was a strict order understood by all people when entering a dinning room when they reclined around the dinner table. Everyone knew their rank in society, or in their respective group, and they knew the proper order to enter the dining room. To mess this order up would be a huge point of embarrassment to the individual and be obvious to everyone. There is a record of the proper way to enter a dining room according to the Essenes living in Qumran. “The entering procession was strictly established with the priests and the Levites and all the people one after another, each ‘according to the perfection of their spirit’ … that every Israelite may know his place in the Community of God accord to the everlasting design. No man shall move down from his place nor move up from his allotted position.” Question, who judged the “perfection of their spirit?” This was probably the foundation of their understanding and tradition at the table.
It’s not coincidence that Jesus heals a man with a skin ailment on the way to this meal. The motives for most of these laws were to discriminate against anyone with any kind of “blemish” according to the law in Leviticus. The priests barred this “son of Abraham” from any house of prayer, but Jesus healed the man, in order for him to be able to worship, pray and serve as a person with a “righteous, or perfect spirit.”
The law written in Leviticus is very clear, here are some examples, “no one with any blemish, no one who is blind or lame, with a mutilated face or limb ‘too long,’ anyone with a broken foot or hand, a hunchback, or dwarf, or a blemish on their eyes or an itching disease… shall come near to offer the Lord’s offering or off the food of his God…” (Found in Leviticus 21:17-23)
As we have seen over and over, Jesus is making it clear that the command to Love God and neighbor supersedes anything written by a Levitical priest. With Jesus’ birth there was a new Law, the Law of love, mercy and justice. No one would be barred from the Lord’s Table, and Jesus was making this very clear.
What is sad to me is that the lesson Jesus was so clearly teaching 2000 years ago is a lesson we still must teach today. There are still some people today who seem to put Jesus’ authority to the side, and cherry-pick laws of the Old Testament in order to discriminate, cast-out, persecute and certainly remove from the Table of the Lord all kinds of people deemed “unclean” or as “outside the arms of God.” We have all heard how some preachers and religious people use the book of Leviticus to exclude the GLBTQ community from participating at the table, being married, or serving as ministers. For humans the law is easy to lift up and give authority, but according to today’s Gospel, it is the love of God we celebrate and the wide-open arms of grace of Jesus that we celebrate because … THE ONE WHO JESUS IS WELCOMING TO THE TABLE IS YOU AND I.
I pray you didn't think you were excluded from the text! You were the one Jesus healed of the dreaded skin disease, the disease that labeled you an outcast and not welcome at any house of prayer.
You were the one called in from the streets, to sit at the table of honor. You were the one who was considered unwelcome, and not ‘righteous enough’ to sit at the table… until Jesus saw you! As soon as Jesus saw you, He proclaimed in a loud voice YOU ARE MY CHILD! YOU ARE WELCOME! Come! Come to the Table and eat! Come to the Table and Drink. All are welcome!
"Jesus constantly looked for teachable people — people who would look beyond appearances and not make snap judgments. He warmed to those who asked honest questions. And he was grieved and dumbfounded by the educated who were hardhearted, unteachable and dense. He said to them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39).
Jesus was passionate about those with ears to hear. He was attracted to those who willingly admitted how much they didn’t know. People who could lay aside their prejudices and entertain something new were often the recipients of Jesus transforming world. Jesus is still looking for teachable disciples. How teachable are we? Do we hide behind our knowledge and feel uncomfortable being the learner? Will we be the student again and again and again?"
- Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, p. 83
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