Sermon Proper 17C

The Rev. John M. Aktins

Gospel of Luke 14:1-14

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. 

7When 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; 9and 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. 10But 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. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12He 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. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

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Every Sunday after church Daddy drove us to Grandma & Granddad Atkins’ home. We shared dinner, conversation, games and laughter with my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and anyone else who wanted to come. All were fed with delicious, country-style food and welcomed with genuine love. The tradition continued until Grandma passed away in 1995.

I look back at those Sunday afternoon gatherings and realize how loved and lucky I was as well as how much those gatherings still influence my life. 

Religious Jews have a custom of inviting family and friends to share Sabbath meals. If out-of-towners attend Sabbath services, it was also Jewish custom to invite them into a synagogue member’s home to share a Sabbath meal.

Sharing a meal, especially during the Sabbath, is a significant expression in Judaism. It is a sacred expression of remembering Abraham’s hospitality to the three heavenly visitors who announced the unimaginable birth of a son to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. 

It was on a Sabbath when a leader of the Pharisees invited Jesus into his home to share a Sabbath meal. Jesus was often scrutinized by the Pharisees. They were a group of devout Jews claiming adherence to every Mosaic law and rabbinical tradition. Unlike other devout Jewish sects, the Pharisees didn’t believe in resurrection to judgement and life. However, Jesus did have a deep respect for the Pharisees. They studied sacred scripture and tried to live righteous lives. But Jesus thought their focus led them astray from the heart of God and the intention of Mosaic law straight into the mouth of self-serving piety. Even so, Jesus had hope that the Pharisees could be open-minded to his message of God’s gracious, welcoming love.

Jesus entered the home of the Pharisee and mingled with the other guests. Jesus knew he was being watched carefully. We’re told Jesus shared with the guests some wise rules of etiquette, after which Jesus gave his host a list of people the man should have invited to his Sabbath meal table.  

I cannot imagine Jesus intentionally being rude to anyone, his host included. At a dinner party, would you tell your host whom they should have invited?

Some stories in the Bible are best not understood literally. What may have been happening in Luke’s community that influenced Luke to include this story in the way it is written?

How did Luke see his interpretation of this story as good news? Maybe some of Luke’s community were like other communities with members thinking themselves better than other people.

For whatever reason, Luke included this story which consequentially holds significance for our busy lives and our Christian community.

The Driscoll Elementary School sign along Marshall Road reads: “It’s not about you, it’s about everyone.” That’s a good message to ingest today, and it’s a message not dissimilar to what, I think, Luke is trying to express in the story of Jesus at this Sabbath meal.

Who are the people easily forgotten when we think about our self? It’s human to want to be with people like yourself. But when we exclude others because they do not represent people like us, then our self-focus confiscates us from the heart of our loving God.

When we deliberately ignore or unintentionally discount the value of others who we think are unpleasantly different from ourselves, we deny our Jesus-given purpose of loving and drawing people of all ilks close to the heart of God.

Luke includes in his list the poor, crippled, lame and blind. Maybe Luke’ good news in this story is simple: when we do not forget others, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and fulfill our purpose.  

Who are the people we easily forget? Who are those we consider a bother or unworthy of our time and attention?

My sister and I were traveling from Princeton, New Jersey to our family farm in Missouri when my old, 1975 Oldsmobile broke down. As I recall, we were on I-70 somewhere within the city limits of Indianapolis. It was a hot, Sunday late-afternoon.

Cars kept flying by – the drivers ignoring us as we sat paralyzed along the side of the road. I didn’t belong to AAA nor did I have a cell phone back in 1983. Finally, after being stranded for over an hour, a white station wagon pulled behind us. A family heading to evening church services kindly interrupted their plans to help get my old Oldsmobile safely back on the road.

Who are the people we easily forget? Who are the people we consider a bother or unworthy of our time and attention? Your list may not match my list. Nonetheless, Jesus asks you and me to remember, value, welcome and include those he loves – even those people on our lists – because, as you know, Jesus loves everyone.