12 Pentecost Proper 17 Yr C Sept 1 2019

12 Pentecost Proper 17 Yr C Sept 1 2019
Sirach 10:12-18, Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14:1, 7-14

Luke, the gospel writer of hospitality, tells us a story about Jesus who is going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees, who we affectionally consider the keepers of the Law, to eat, on the Sabbath, a day that is held in high esteem according to the Law, a day set apart from all other days. In the story that Luke is telling us, Jesus observes how the guests take their places, and in response, Jesus tells a story about an invitation to a very special meal, a wedding banquet, and another rather ordinary meal, a luncheon or dinner. So we have before us, a story within a story, and another story.

A wedding banquet in 1st century Mediterranean culture would have been nothing like what you and I have experienced as a wedding today. It would have gone on for days, and the celebration was public, everyone in the whole village would have come to the celebration at one time or another. And in fact, there would have been multiple meals. After Jesus talks about the wedding, he then goes on to describe meals, hospitality sort of generally, giving an accounting for who should be invited. There are many things going on here.

Imagine yourself as an invited guest. What does that mean for you? Where do you sit? With whom do you sit? Is there ever a time you may think to yourself, surely not saying anything out loud, that person should not be here, that person is not distinguished enough, that person is not good enough, that person is not like me, that person should not be at this table. And Jesus says, "give this person your place." But we hear in the letter to the Hebrews, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Now, I want you to imagine yourself as the one who does the inviting. “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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Remember, Jesus tells this parable when he is at a meal in the house of a leader of the Pharisees. You gotta believe the leader of the Pharisees have an agenda in inviting Jesus over, usually, they want to test him, they want to see what he's made of, they want to find out if he is righteous before the law. And so far, in the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus has failed miserably. He heals on the Sabbath, he eats with sinners and outcasts, and now, he's telling everyone in hearing distance not to invite the important people over for a meal, but invite those who cannot return the invitation. Who do we invite to come eat with us here at Trinity? “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

And lastly, I want you to imagine the invitation itself. This is an invitation that we cannot pay back. Jesus invites each and every one of us to the table, it's not about whether or not we deserve an invitation. Somehow, we are transformed in the eating. Somehow, we cannot leave the table without being changed. But it is not our own doing, it is indeed the love that wins, the love that blesses, that changes us. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

You see, this story within a story from the gospel writer Luke, who is all about hospitality, gives us a picture of God's kingdom. What does the kingdom look like in this story?

Again, in Jesus’ culture, the greatest good was one's honor. Of course, you sat at the head of the table, of course you expected those less than you to sit at the lowest place. Of course, you invited the important people, the people who could do something for you, the people who had something you need. You would not have considered any other way. That's the way the world worked. It's really not so much different today. Jesus came into that context as Jesus comes into our context and says there is a new way, a way of God's kingdom. And in that kingdom, everyone has honor, everyone has status, and that is based on God's love, that is based on being created in God's image. It is not about who you are, it is not based on how much you have, it is not based on anything you can do. In God's kingdom, we are all related, and what we do matters. In God's kingdom it is love that wins and love that blesses.

What do we hear in this story? I hear a story of abundance and of enough. Do not be worried about who comes to the party, there will be enough. In God's kingdom there is enough, share what you have. Jesus is inviting us to stop counting and start giving and blessing. What would it be like to live into the freedom to stop calculating our social prestige and stop worrying about what others think and simply be kind to everyone around us, particularly those who are not often the recipients of kindness? What would it look like at work, at school, and at the places we volunteer or play sports or socialize, to look out for those who seem off to the margin and to invite them into the center by inviting them into our lives, inviting them to the lunch table? Jesus invites us to experience the joy of playing “God’s helper” in handing out the abundant gifts of dignity and worth and value with which we have been blessed. There is joy that comes from blessing others with our regard.

We are called to this hospitality, we are called to this invitation, we are called to build this kingdom, where no one is an outcast, where all of us sinners are welcome. We are called to the table to feed and be fed. As we feed and are fed, we are sent into the world to be the heralds of this kingdom. We are sent into our work, and our school, we are sent into our communities, bearing this new reality. We are sent into the world to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so we entertain angels. By doing so we are the agents of God's kingdom. By doing so we bring God's healing and reconciliation to all who are broken, which is each and every one of us.

We are followers of Jesus. We are invited to the table where there is no preference of place. We are invited to be builders of the kingdom. We are charged to engage every person with mercy and compassion, for by doing so, we entertain angels.


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