The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1, 7-14
Jesus Heals the Man with Dropsy
14 On one occasion when Jesus[a] 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.”
Sermon: “Stop Counting and Start Caring!”
Many of you know that I’m a Columbia boy, born and bred in Monroe County. Growing up, our family’s idea of “going out to eat” meant a trip to Millstadt for fish, or to Cahokia for a root beer float at the Dog and Suds.
It wasn’t until I moved out into the wide, wide world that I discovered there were a host of dining niceties about which I had no clue. Things sometimes went awry, as this newly discovered security video of me at an upscale banquet shows.
You can decide for yourself which Stooge I was. Seriously, though, table manners and etiquette are still one of the great social dividers. See how well you do on this basic etiquette quiz.
In the USA, when someone asks you to pass the salt, you should:
- Pass the salt
- Pass the pepper.
- Pass the salt and pepper.
- Tell them to get it themselves.
In America, the salt and pepper are “married,” which means, you want one, you get both.
When sending a dinner invitation, you should include:
- The date, time, and location.
- The date, time, location, and dress code.
- The date, time, location, dress code and RSVP information.
- The date, time, location, dress code, RSVP information and if the guest should bring a dish and may bring a date.
It may seem like a lot of information, but to make sure people are able to attend your party (and to make sure they RSVP correctly), you need all these items.
Who should pay when you’re on a date?
- The man—he always pays.
- The woman—equal rights and all.
- They should go Dutch and split the bill, or itemize who got what.
- The one who set up the date in the first place.
You’re the one that asked the other person out—if you don’t pay, then you’re just going with them somewhere!
To tip or not to tip? That’s the question when dining at a buffet restaurant. Should you:
- Only tip if the wait staff brings you drinks.
- Tip no matter what.
- Don’t tip.
- Only tip if they load up your plate at the buffet for you.
Although you do most of the wait staff’s work at a buffet restaurant, they’re still bringing your drinks and clearing your table…all the while making minimum wage. Help them out!
Jesus lived in a society where status was everything, especially at mealtime. Guests of honor sat close to the host. Those of lesser importance sat further away. People who didn’t receive an invitation really didn’t matter, anyway.
Inviting people to a banquet—whether they were your family, friends, or business associates—put them in your debt. They left the meal “owing you one.”
No one would waste the chance to get a social leg up on the local movers and shakers by inviting people who could do nothing for them. Still, that’s just what Jesus told his Pharisee host to do.
When you give a luncheon or a dinner, don’t invite your friends or your siblings or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they repay you and invite you in return. No, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. God will bless you, because they can’t repay you.
“Do that,” Jesus’ host must have thought, “and everything will unravel. If people ate at the wrong place, there’s no telling what else might fall apart.”
Were they exaggerating, those first century sticklers for order and rigid arrangements? Not so much, our own recent history shows.
On a freezing day back in February 1960, four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at a Woolworth’s segregated lunch counter.
“We don’t serve Negroes here,” the waitress told Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, David Richman, and Ezell Blair, Jr.
The students showed receipts proving they’d bought school supplies at the store for their classes at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. They asked why their money was green in one part of the store, but black in another.
The waitress refused to serve them again and told to leave. Instead, they opened their textbooks and started studying.
The students wore suits and ties. Using their best manners, they kept their seats until closing time.
The four were back the next day and for many days after that, each time bringing more people with them. It didn’t take long before 300 students showed up, determined to integrate the whites only lunch counter.
Over the next several weeks, the protest spread to cities in other southern states. Woolworths desegregated in July 1960. Other stores and restaurants followed suit not long after.
Those protesting segregation suffered embarrassment and abuse. Their strategy, though, paved the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
It all started with four college students sitting where they weren’t supposed to sit.
When Jesus said, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,” he was likewise making a radical, unheard-of suggestion.
It appalled the sophisticated crowd, the ones in black ties using the right forks and sitting in the best seats.
“What on earth is going on at the other end of the table?” they asked. “Cream puffs are flying everywhere, and the rabbi from Nazareth is in the thick of it. Why, the very idea!”
Ignore the pecking order or, worse yet, turn it upside down? Don’t network? Don’t schmooze? Don’t brown nose?
Open our hearts and homes to people who can’t return the favor, people we might not even like, people we can’t impress or earn favors from?
Why on earth should we do that?
We should do it because Jesus tells us to. We should do it because that’s who God is, the Great Reverser of pecking orders and priorities.
We should do it because the game of who is in and who is out never ends, because God knows that our crazed scramble for greatness will lead to nothing but more worry, more suspicion, more loneliness, more hatred, and more devastated lives.
Jesus asks us to break the rules of, “What have you done for me lately?” He says we should value others not because of what they can do for us, but because of who they are—children of God.
We know it won’t happen overnight. But, then again, the first Christians called themselves “People of the Way” because embracing and living the life of God’s kingdom takes time, lots of time.
It’s a journey we can start today, lobbing a creampuff or two in the face of every act, word, person, or power that keeps anyone from finding the place already prepared for her/him at the table of God’s grace and love.