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Luke 14:1,7-14. Year C: Trinity 12/Proper 17
141 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. 5 Then he asked them, "If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?" 6 And they had nothing to say. 7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, `Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, `Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 12 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, 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."
1/9/19: Trinity 11 Hebrews 13.1-16
Jesus was in the house of a prominent Pharisee. 3 things happen where Jesus challenges their religion. He makes it very clear that faith without works is dead. First he addresses,
A religion without compassion.
Last week we read about a crippled woman who was set free by Jesus on the Sabbath.
Here, we have a man with swelling who was probably invited to see if Jesus would heal him. This man could have been in pain and very embarrassed at his appearance. He may not have been invited without being used as “bait” to see if Jesus would heal him. Like the freeing of the crippled woman, Jesus points to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who would rescue a child or ox that had fallen into a well, but would condemn Jesus for healing this man.
Jesus consistently went against the rules of the Pharisees, for example in healing people on the Sababath, because these were man made rules that went against the intention of God’s law. If you read Jesus’ teaching about the law in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 you will see that Jesus cares about what is going on inside the person, not what is done outwardly. So Jesus said that someone who is angry with another is no different to a murderer. Someone who looks at another lustfully no different to an adulterer . That believers should speak the truth without having to swear a set formula before. That believers should love their enemies, pray for their persecutors, forgive, and not judge and condemn others.
Jesus taught about a religion without compassion, and then
A religion without humility.
The seats closest to the host were the best ones, so guests looking to build themselves us would vie for position. One commentator said, “If where we sits makes us important, then we are not very important!”
Jesus may have been thinking of Proverbs 25. 6. Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; 7 it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.
The guests of the Pharisee were trying to get the best seats so they could show how special they were and look down upon those they considered to be less important. This is not the way of Jesus.
The Christian faith is built on humility. The humility of Jesus who left the glory of heaven to come to earth, to be born into a stable, become a refugee for fear of being murdered, grow up in a despised town in the North, be gossiped abut as being conceived out of marriage, to be betrayed by a friend, denied by another, rejected by those he had come to help, unjustly accused, falsely convicted, and given the tortuous death sentence of a common criminal.
Philippians 2. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
None of us are good enough for God. We all need to die to our old way of life and be raised to new life by God. Every Christian has died to their old way of life and is called to live as a citizen of heaven, as we saw on 4th August.
Colossians 3.1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 8 You must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Jesus opposed a religion without compassion, a religion without humility and then...
A religion without gain.
Our modern world is very competitive, and it is easy for God's people to become more concerned about profit and loss than they are about sacrifice and service. "What will I get out of it?" may easily become life's most important question.
The Christian faith is about giving. The Bible tells believers to give in response to Gods generosity and to give because God gives to everyone indiscriminately and we should imitate Him. Also, giving shows that we trust in God to provide. The Bible also teaches that those who are in need should be given to.
The Pharisee who invited Jesus, the man with swelling and the other guests to the meal was driven by self-interest. He probably used the man with swelling to tempt Jesus to heal. He probably invited people to further his own position and social standing as the guests were focused on who could get the best seat. Perhaps he hoped that people of better social standing than him would invited him to their next meal!
Jesus challenged the motivation for inviting someone for a meal. Jesus said don’t invite someone for a meal who will help your social status, or give you good food in return for the food you have given them. Instead, 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.’
The poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind would have been hungry, unable to provide food for themselves never mind others. A Christian’s motives must be pure if our service is to honour God and be a blessing to others. Humility shown by hospitality will be honoured by God in heaven.
One way of following Jesus’ teaching is to give charity gifts for Birthdays or Christmas. We often have so much materially we struggle to think of gifts we can be given. We may also give because we know someone else will give to us. We can break out of this by giving a gift that will help someone who is poor. At Messy Church on Friday we are encouraging people to give towards Christian Aid Charity Gifts.
£8 will pay for a pair of chickens, which are going cheap. £13 to train someone to fish. £22 a Nanny Goat, the butt of another joke. £25 for a pair of piglets, to hog the limelight.
As followers of Jesus we are called to be true to our status in and with Christ.
To be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, forgiving, loving and giving.
“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Amy Carmichael.
Why do we do things? What is the motivation behind our actions? If we are honest they are often mixed and complex. For example, "Why do we come to church?".
Habit? We think it is right? To sing, learn, worship God?...
Motivation is behind today's gospel reading.
Jesus is invited to a meal. Why? So the Pharisees can watch him and condemn him. They placed a man with dropsy close to him on the Sabbath tempting Jesus to heal him. Dropsy was an accumulation of fluid in the body, often regarded as a judgment of God. Jesus healed the man to show that compassion comes before rules. We also saw this last week Luke 13:10-17. Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who would have helped an ox rather than have this man healed.
Having changed from accused to accuser Jesus addresses the pride and self-seeking that motivated some guests grab the best seats next to the host. He gives practical advice, suggesting that a guest take one of the inferior places. Then they may have the honour of being invited to move to one of the more important places rather than the humiliation of being relegated to an inferior place. Behind Jesus words is spiritual advice. 11 "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Being a Christian involves a realization that we are not good enough for God, that we are not better than others. That we cannot be independent of Him. All we have and all that we are comes from God. Our very life, our salvation, our health, abilities, energy and so on. Our existence and our place in God's kingdom rely solely upon Him. This does not mean that we are worthless. People are made in the image of God. Christians are children of God. God loves and cares for us and want the best for us. Believers have been bought with the body and blood of Jesus.
In response to who God I and what He does for us we are to put Him first, other people second and ourselves last. Jesus illustrates this by telling his host to invite people for what they will receive, rather than what he will receive. The poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind are to be invited because they needed a banquet more than the self-satisfied Pharisees. Although they would not be able to repay their host by inviting him to a similar meal or by promoting his reputation in the right circles God will see and honour things done for the right motives.
Reaching out to others is something that we are called to do as a church. A body of believers.
Augustine of Hippo wrote of the Christian church being like a hospital for sick people.
J.I. Packer wrote that "The church (is like) a hospital in which nobody is completely well, and anyone can relapse at any time" (Packer, A Quest For Godliness , 65).
In a hospital there are the sick and those being healed. The sick are there awaiting their diagnosis and a treatment that will lead them to health. Those being healed are on their way to being healed, but need to continue with he treatment. Once we know who we are, recipients of God's forgiveness and hospitality, we can, in turn, extend that forgiveness and hospitality to each other, to those who come through our doors, and those who we find ourselves with for the rest of the week..
In this passage we see the contrast between pride and humility, selfishness and service.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes this about Pride: There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it in ourselves the more we dislike it in others.
It is difficult not to condemn, to considers other people better than ourselves, to reach out to those we do not know or feel uncomfortable with. These things can act as defence mechanisms to protect ourselves from being hurt. Or they can protect us from having to face up to what we are truly like.
I would like to suggest two responses to today's gospel.
Not grasping the best but being grateful.
Not giving for what you get out of it, but for how you can bless others.
Don't worry about doing something great. Be great by doing what you can where God has placed you.
Luke 14:1,7-14. Year C: Trinity 12/Proper 17
Sir Alec Guiness once said, "A person who is keen to shake your hand usually has something up his sleeve." He was talking about the way some people's appearance differ from their motives.
Jesus had been invited to a meal by a prominent Pharisee on the Jewish Sabbath, a Saturday. Such an invitation would normally be welcomed because, in this culture, sharing a meal with someone showed acceptance of them. But the Pharisees were motivated by the desire to watch and criticise Jesus. That is why they placed a man suffering from dropsy near to Jesus, in order to see if he would heal the man of the Sabbath.
Jesus healed the man and exposed the hypocrisy and lack of compassion of his accusers who would rather help an animal than a human being.
One of Joshua's school friends is George. He is a bright, polite, attractive boy, good at football and is very popular. There is some competition amongst some of the boys in the class for George's friendship and companionship. So, some of the boys will try to sit next to him at lunch time or in the classroom, or perhaps they will be keen to invite him to their homes. This type of vying for attention occurred at the meal that Jesus had been invited to.
Jesus turns his attention to the motives of the guests as they sat to eat. At such a meal people would recline at couches that were arranged in a U shape, with the host seated at the base of the U. The most favoured guests would sit nearest to the host.
( Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the military hero of World War II and Korea, was highly thought of in Washington and was regarded as a leader. However, he also had a reputation for being a cold fish personally. So his Public Relations people came up with an idea. They would have him review a contingent of veterans. In the middle of the review they would have him suddenly recognize an enlisted man who had served under him during the war.
"It will be a tremendously moving and human moment," the advisers said to MacArthur. "Out of hundreds of men lined up for your inspection, you will suddenly pick out a single individual, call him by name and recall past campaigns." MacArthur agreed to go along with the plan. So they set up the inspection and chose their veteran. The lucky soldier would be unaware that he'd been singled out for the honour. They went through the Army records, found out everything about the fellow and figured out precisely where he would be standing when MacArthur marched through the ranks. To be on the safe side, they arranged for an aide to nudge MacArthur discreetly when he was directly in front of the proper soldier.
It all went off like clockwork. MacArthur saluted the veterans, the veterans saluted MacArthur. The general began his march along the lines of soldiers. At the right moment, the aide gave MacArthur the nudge.
MacArthur halted. He turned and looked at the man standing stiffly at attention in front of him. "Jones!" he boomed. "We were together on Corregidor. You are Corporal Jones. I remember you."
Jones looked startled for a moment. Then he peered at the general with a puzzled expression. Finally, he blurted out somewhat quizzically: "MacArthur?".)
an alternative, shorter illustration is...
A preacher was going up the steps to the pulpit when he walked up the inside of his cassock and promptly fell flat on his face. He started his talk with the words, 'Well pride may come before a fall, but it certainly doesn't follow it either...'
another illustration is, which I think, I will use is... )
A turtle wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. He convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vice-like jaws in the centre. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, "Who in the world thought of that?" Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, "I did -- "
The expression is, 'pride comes before a fall'.
Jesus tells a parable about a wedding feast to illustrate how pride and self-seeking can lead to humiliation. This shows that honour is not seized, but awarded. Jesus commends humility for two reasons.
One is an earthly reason, that grabbing the best seats that someone is not entitled to could lead to humiliation. Whereas sitting at the lowest seat could well result in an invitation by the host to move up, and the esteem this would bring.
The second is an heavenly reason. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." The word exalt means 'to lift up'. First Jesus is referring to those who lift themselves up above others. God will humble them, or bring them down to size, if you like. Yet those who humble themselves will be lifted up to God, by God, through Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit.
D. L. Moody : "God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves."
When Jesus spoke of humility he was not saying that people have to belittle themselves and consider themselves worthless. He meant that people should realise that they fall short of God's perfect will and, therefore, need His mercy. Only His mercy, shown in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, can put people right with God.
in "Murder in the Cathedral" T. S. Eliot imagines Archbishop Thomas Becket final Christmas sermon, "The true martyr," he says, "is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom."
This is what true humility is, putting God first. There is a sense in which every Christian is a martyr because they have died to their old life and now live for Christ.
Those who humble themselves will be exalted, they will be raised up from death by God when Jesus returns. They will be raised to be united with Jesus in glory, something that we have looked at recently,
An elderly man on the beach found a magic lamp. He picked it up and a genie appeared. "Because you have freed me," the genie said, "I will grant you a wish." The man thought for a moment and then responded, "My brother and I had a fight 30 years ago and he hasn't spoken to me since. I wish that he'll finally forgive me."
There was a thunderclap, and the genie declared, "Your wish has been granted. You know," the genie continued, "most men would have asked for wealth or fame. But you only wanted the love of your brother. Is it because you are old and dying?"
"No way!" the man cried. "But my brother is, and he's worth about £/$ 60 million."
For the second time in this passage we are faced with the issue of motivation. Firstly, the guests of the Pharisee wanted the best seats so they could see and be seen.
Secondly we look at why people were invited. Some people would be invited to impress the other guests. Many would be invited because they had already invited the host to their banquet, or because the host hoped to be invited to their next soirée.
Jesus exposes these motives and calls his host and, indeed all his disciples, including us, to act differently. To give hospitality, rather than to exchange it. We are called to reflect the way of God by reaching out generously to those who need help. He has done this to everyone spiritually. He challenges Christians to do this materially.
But what are we , in the twenty-first century supposed to do ? The idea of going out to invite disadvantaged strangers into our homes for a meal would seem foolhardy to most people today. This was brought home to me recently when I read in the Church Times newspaper that clergy match the police in facing the risk of violence. 70% of clergy questioned had suffered verbal abuse in the last two years, twenty percent were threatened with harm, and twelve percent had been physically assaulted.
Notwithstanding this there are still things that we can do to act differently.
We can offer hospitality to those who are outside our usual circle of friends. This applies within or outside the church. Perhaps church members could invite someone who they did not know very well round for a cup of tea or a meal. Some groups in churches, for example single people, can feel excluded and such an action could be a tremendous boost to them.
In his 1922 commentary on this passage Alfred Plummer wrote, 'moral likeness proves parentage'. This means that those who imitate God's love, humility and generosity show that they are truly his children.
John Newton (1725-1807), former slave trader and composer of 'Amazing grace', said "I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ and the brightest evidences that he is indeed our Master."
Sacrificial giving will lead to a blessing. This may be a vague knowledge that someone in need has benefited from our giving. Sometimes this may be experienced in this life. In order to teach his children about Jesus' Kingdom ethics, the Tony Campolo's family decided to give a large amount to charity each Christmas and only give one gift to each other. The rest was sent to a school in Haiti. The children resented it at first, but got used to it. When they were teenagers he took them to Haiti and as they approached the school, dozens of children rushed out to greet them. His son turned to him and said, "Dad, this is the best Christmas gift anyone could ever get."
In a conclusion that mirrors verse 11, Jesus proclaims that "Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
The Bible teaches that those who trust in Jesus will spend eternity in the glorious presence of God. But it also teaches that there are rewards in heaven for those who have been more faithful.
the resurrection of the righteous refers to those who have been pronounced so by God on the basis of Christ's atonement and who have evidenced their faith by their actions. The Bible says that there will also be a resurrection of the unrighteous who will be judged by God and condemned to eternity without Him.
We can summarise this passage by saying that we are to be motivated by putting God and His ways first. We will be rewarded by Him for this in eternity.
Mother Teresa said: "At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received - how much money we have made - how many great things we have done. "We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat...I was naked and you clothed me...I was homeless and you took me in.'
"Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love ... Naked not only for clothing - but naked of human respect and dignity ... Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise."