Sunday, August 21, 2016

Go and Do the Same: Make Room - A Sermon


Luke 14:1, 7-14



When I was a child, my mother tried to teach me proper etiquette. She taught me to wait before I began eating until everyone was not only seated at the table but served. She also told me to chew with my mouth closed and not talk with my mouth full. I know there were other rules, but these will suffice for now.  

Where you sit at the Table also can be a matter of proper etiquette. The host sits at the head of the table, and the guest of honor sits at the host’s right hand. The rest of the seating chart is defined by social status. The higher your status the closer you’re seated to the host and the guest of honor. So, if you go to a dinner party, and you think you’re someone special, you’ll want to be seated as close to the host as possible. But it’s not up to you! So you might as well wait to be seated before choosing a seat. You don’t want to make the mistake of choosing the wrong seat, and suffer the humiliation of being moved to the back of the room. So wait for the host to seat you.


That’s the gist of the parable Jesus shared with his fellow guests at the home of a leading Pharisee. The parable follows an awkward moment when a man with dropsy sat down in front of the house. The host and guests watched to see if Jesus would break the rules and heal on the sabbath. That trap story has been omitted from our lectionary reading, but as you can see Jesus survived scrutiny once again. 

After that Jesus sat down and did a bit of people-watching. Do you ever people watch? Who needs to go to the zoo when people at the mall are so interesting?! 

As Jesus watched the guests interact, he noticed how they were jockeying for a good seat at the table. It became clear to him that the guests knew that where you sat signaled your social status. His observations led to a parable about a wedding banquet. The wedding banquet illustrates the nature of God’s realm.

This morning we’re returning to our stewardship emphasis – “Go and Do the Same.” This emphasis serves to remind us that stewardship is related to being a citizen in God’s realm. Stewardship speaks to our commitment to being part of God’s realm, and the messages are rooted in a word Jesus gave to a man who asked about his neighbor. Jesus told a parable about a Samaritan, a person whom Jesus’ audience would have considered to be an “other.” This Samaritan, however, demonstrated what it means to be a neighbor, and therefore a citizen of God’s realm. Jesus said:  “go and do the same.”

Stewardship is directly related to living in the kingdom of God, because how we deal with our finances has spiritual implications. The same is true of our time and how we spend it, as well as the way in which we make use of the spiritual gifts bestowed on us.  In each case, our use of these resources enables us to invest in God’s realm—if we so choose! 

The Gospel writers tended to look at things through the lens of two different but overlapping ages. We must choose which age will define our lives. There’s the old age, which is defined by what Paul calls the “powers and principalities.” In this age, life is defined by social hierarchies and jockeying for position.  As a child my friends and I played “king of the hill.” We learned early in life the importance of being at the top of the hill. If you weren’t at the top, then you did everything you could to knock the king off the hill. That’s not the way of God’s realm.

In the new age that Jesus inaugurates, it is God who reigns. The true nature of this new age is revealed in the second parable.  In this parable, we’re not the guests, we’re the hosts. We have to draw up the invitation list. So who should be on it? 

If you want to throw a successful party that can advance your social standing, then you’ll want to invite important people to your meal. Who you know is important. Maybe that’s why Jesus got invited to the meal that led to these two parables. After all, he was a well-known preacher who was known to perform miracles. Having him over for dinner, even if you intended to embarrass him, could be beneficial to your social standing. We know how this works. If you want to get a crowd to come to your event, you need a head liner who can draw a big crowd. Just think how popular you would be if you could get Usain Bolt to come to your party!

That’s the way of the old age. That’s not the way of God’s realm. In God’s realm, the host should forget about reciprocity and instead invite guests who could never repay. Don’t invite your rich friends and relatives, don’t invite Justin Verlander, just so you can get a return engagement. Instead, invite the poor and the disabled. Invite the kind of people whose presence at your party can’t benefit you. If you adopt the values of God’s realm, you’ll be blessed in the resurrection. 

The ways of the kingdom of God are not easy to embrace. They turn everything upside down. They run counter to everything we’ve been taught to believe. So, when it comes to stewardship, the point isn’t finding ways to gain a benefit for ourselves. The point is sharing God’s gifts in ways that enhance the body of Christ and its mission in the world that God loves. 

In his second volume, Luke describes the way the earliest Christians lived. This was right after Pentecost, which transformed the lives of Jesus’ followers.  One of the things that Luke reveals is that the community pooled their resources so that no one was in need (Acts 2:43-48). That’s what stewardship is about. It involves answering Jesus’ call for solidarity, so that all might be blessed.

In the bulletin insert for today you will read these words from Ron Allen that speak to the way that generosity shapes our lives.
But here is the wonderful logic of God. In the act of giving, you receive. As you put your money, your time, your energy into the movement towards the realm, you experience the qualities of the realm more fully in your own life. I know people for whom life is a continuous wedding celebration.  The practice of genuine generosity can shape our lives in just such a way.
In Luke 14 Jesus speaks to the way in which we experience Table fellowship – both as guest and as host. When we gather at the Lord’s Table we come as Jesus’ guests. But we also serve as hosts. We bring to the Table our gifts, signs of our commitment to the body of Christ. We also receive a gift from this same Table. We receive bread and cup, signs of God’s commitment to the Body of Christ. We don’t bring our offerings to the Table as payment for the meal. We bring them to the Table as signs of thanksgiving for God’s life-giving presence with us.

We come to a Table where Jesus has made room for us, so that we might make room for others to come into our lives. Who is the neighbor, Jesus was asked? He told a parable that gave the answer – the one who showed mercy. Go and do the same by being good stewards of God’s gifts and by making room at the Table for all whom God loves! That’s everybody!!

{Note: the text for the sermon is the lectionary text for the 15th Sunday of Pentecost, but used a week early}

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
Pentecost 14C
August 21, 2016

1 comment:

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