House Rules

Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm 112
Luke 14:1, 7-14

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Caine

 

14:1 “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.”

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.” (Luke 14:1, 7-14, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: God of majestic glory, in humility you have revealed yourself in the incarnation of your Son, Jesus Christ, who took the lowest place among us that we might be raised to the fullness of new life. Teach us to walk the path he prepared for us, so that we might take a place at the table with all who seek the joy of his kingdom. Amen.

 

Today at the 10:30 worship service we will baptize Annie Kircher, the infant daughter of Charlie and Lisa Kircher.  I have been thinking about Annie’s baptism and this text for today.  We will make a commitment to teach her about God as she grows up in the church.   It is our mission to teach her the faith.  And whenever we have a baptism it is also our opportunity to reaffirm our own baptismal vows.  Because it is our mission to teach Annie about God and to encourage her in her faith journey.  Here is a refresher on what is important to know about God.  Here is a cliff notes version for a new comer to understand the “house rules” of God.   House rules are rules that govern a home or an organization.  You know when you are guest in someone’s home you like to know how things work, what are the expectations and rules so you can try to fit in.  This is especially true at the dinner table.  Much of the important teachings from Jesus happen around a meal.

 

There is so much in the Gospel of Luke about sitting at the table and eating together.  It is really quite amazing how many stories are found in the Gospels concerning table fellowship and mealtime behavior.  What we realize in all of these stories is that Jesus is not just talking about what to do when we are gathered to eat.  These stories are about God and what God is up to in our world.

 

Jesus often used these table time get together as opportunities to explain the kingdom of God.  He spoke of  social  boundaries, who  is  honored  and  who  is  not, where  people are to sit, who is to be served, who and what fellowship is all about.   Not only did he explain the Kingdom of Heaven but eating dinner with Jesus could also be very risky.  It seems that something always happens when people sit at a table with him.  Communion is possible.  Community can happen.  Barriers can come down.  God’s kingdom can breakout.

 

One of these stories of Jesus and table fellowship is:  Jesus and the tax collector named Levi.  Levi gives a dinner party, and he invites other tax collectors and sinners and Jesus is also there.  Jesus’ enemies noticed that he was eating with these theological outlaws and they wanted to say something bad about him so they accused him:

 

30 The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”[1]

 

Jesus points out to his critics what his mission and ministry are all about, acceptance, fellowship, and communion with the most unlikely of people— sinners. Jesus came to seek and to save us all.

 

Another story of Jesus and table fellowship is about a rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man had more than enough of everything especially food and the poor man Lazarus just wanted to eat the rich man’s leftovers.  But the rich man did not give him anything to eat.  Jesus’ lesson is that everyone will have food to eat in the kingdom of God.

 

And another story of Jesus and table fellowship is the prodigal son.  When the wayward son comes home his Father throws a party.  Not because the son deserves it but because the Father is so glad to have his missing son home.  Jesus says that God’s table is like this.  We are welcomed not because we deserve it, or because we earn it or because we can repay the one who invites us.   It is not about position or ambition or competition.   It is about God’s grace and forgiveness.

 

These stories of Jesus and table fellowship; eating, banquets, and table manners make our Gospel reading for today all the more interesting.  We are hearing a story about guests at a wedding reception, who are fighting over the best seats.  Jesus was not always kind, gentle, meek, and mild he was at times the kind of dinner guest you hope you never get!  At this particular dinner party, Jesus made any number of remarks that may have made at least a few of the guests want to crawl under the table!   Jesus wasn’t being rude, he was teaching about God’s Kingdom and God’s house rules.

 

We overhear Jesus speaking to them.  He says there is no VIP seating at the Lord’s Table.  There is no hierarchy, some people are not more honored than others. Those who think of themselves as deserving of a special seat — watch out because they will be in for a large serving of humble pie, because in God’s Kingdom there is equality among us all for we are all — sinners.  And all of God’s children sit side-by-side.

 

When we celebrate Communion we gather at our Lord’s Table.  It is our feast table.  As we come to the Lord’s Table, we’re all sinners in need of salvation, beggars needing bread.   We are “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…”  Yet God graciously includes us as guests at God’s Table.  Good communion table manners include coming to the table without thinking too much of ourselves.  Good table manners include coming without looking down on any other guest, for God equally loves all of us.   As we have been forgiven and welcomed by God, then let us forgive and welcome each other.  Jesus says that in God’s eyes, we are all equally needy.  Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, you and me.   None of us will ever be “good enough” to qualify for the best seats in God’s house.  By God’s grace we are invited.

 

Holy Communion/Eucharist is a symbol of God’s great love for us that we remember with great joy.  God’s invitation to His table is an open one.  I imagine that there are those among us today, who do not feel welcome at this table because you know that you do not deserve it.   Some of us come harboring great guilt, some of us come hiding great sin, and others of us come bearing enormous shame.  While others of us come and look around and see all of this brokenness and think to ourselves that we are better than all of this and that we must move to the front of the line.

 

In many ways we all wonder if we belong here at Christ’s table.  But Jesus invites us, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will eat in the Kingdom of God.”   All are invited to Christ’s table, where plenty of seats of honor remain and after all there is no such thing as a bad seat in His house!

 

Let us pray:

[1] Luke 5:29-32, NRSV

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