Rules of Hospitality?
Rules of Hospitality?
† IHS †
May you realize the blessing of the Father being your host at the Banquet thrown for His Son, and may you welcome all those to the Banquet who your Father rewards you for inviting….
Jesus as Miss Manners? Or a spiritual Strategist?
7 When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: 8 “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? 9 The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!
As we look at these verses this morning, we need to realize its context. Otherwise, we limit the gospel message to simply being a message about proper manners and etiquette. The other way we often misunderstand this passage is that we hear it as a strategic lesson, where Jesus is giving us advice on how to get the best seats at a banquet, whether here on earth, or the banquet that is to come in heaven.
This conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee is not a conversation about manners. The reason Jesus came and dwelt among us and died on the cross is not about getting us to behave with great dignity and knowing which fork to use, or how to sit properly at the dinner table. There is something far more important than that being taught…
It is not about realizing our proper place in society, or trying to strategically deal with a situation so that we find ourselves being glorified and elevated in a situation.
Yet, often this passage is used in those ways. “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom,” some would say.. “This is the way to go about it.” Serve now! be served later! Be the servant of servants, then when you get to heaven, you will have front row seats next to Peter and James and just across throne form Paul and Abraham!
Jesus’ lesson here is a lot deeper when we look at the context of his lesson, at why He was giving this advice…
You see, we like the Pharisees and those fighting for position overlooked not only a man in great need. They overlook his healing as well. In overlooking him, they miss their own healing.
Instead of helping – they were rushing to the best seat…
As all the guests are arriving, and the question of healing on the Sabbath is being discussed, there is a summons to dinner. Well, let’s be honest, it wasn’t quite a discussion, Jesus asked a question, there was silence, He healed the man with severe edema and probably congestive heart failure, and then asked another question… to which they responded with? Well, silence.
The rush to dinner is on, the questions asked to the religious leaders and experts in the scripture disappears, as everyone was scrambling for the best seat.
Unlike other healings, there was no glorifying God, there was no question about where the authority came to do this kind of miracle or to confront the wisest Bible scholars of the day, and all is lost in the rush to the table. It was not just about the food – I mean, they probably were not having bacon wrapped shrimp. It was about who was important, where do I rank in society. The rush to find the right place answers the question of, who am I? The question asked, “What value am I?”
Think about it, have you ever been to a wedding reception and been disappointed by which table you sat at? Or at the Thanksgiving family dinner, when at 38 you were still assigned to the kid’s table?
That is why this is not about some kind of etiquette strategy. It is not – take the bad seat to start and then you will get a better seat! Jesus is challenging, as He has all month long in the gospel – the idea of priorities. This is about the fact that they did not realize the man with severe pain and suffering was there; and they could be there for him. They could have been the ones God chose to care and love him….they failed.
Be like Christ
As Christ shows up at the feast, he recognizes those in need. The obvious is the man with edema, the one swollen up like a balloon, whose pain and suffering was not a pressing concern for the leaders of God’s people. Some commentators even went so far as to suggest that people brought him only to see what Jesus might do, how Jesus would deal with him. Whether Jesus would answer the question they were asking – could Jesus heal on the Sabbath, was there a limit to His position and authority.
The man with the swelling of his hands and feet was not the only one with a problem with something swelling, with something being puffed up. Jesus came to that dinner, not just to minister to the man, but also to minister to the Pharisee and his friends, to serve them and help them to see that in Christ, it is not about where you sit, but instead that you are invited, that you are called, that you have a place at the feast.
That is the point! The model that Jesus sets for us.
When Jesus talks of inviting those who cannot pay, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, He is preparing to walk that talk, to do the very thing He has asked us to do.
For we were the spiritually bankrupt, we were the ones broken and damaged by our sin and the sin of the world; we are the ones blinded to God’s presence by that same damage. Into our lives, as He did with the Pharisees, Jesus comes and invites us to feast with Him, knowing we could never repay His kindness. In this meal, He brings to us healing, brings us peace, and welcomes us, even though we could never deserve it!
He asks us to consider doing that very thing that He has done! The same thing for His taking a seat at the back, a seat of a servant. That is the model He is for us as well! We hear that because He did take the lowest seat, that He Humbled himself and became a servant, even as He served our needs to the point of dying on the cross, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is our Lord.
As I said above – this passage isn’t about etiquette, or about strategies to get ahead in the Kingdom of God. It is about being Christ-like, about serving people as He has, about keeping priorities straight – and the priorities always have names.
We have on our church cards, and on other things the phrase – Concordia – where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal. This passage is an example of that very thought – as we are encouraged to be like Christ, to see what is going on around us, to look for those that need healing.
We cannot possibly do that unless we first realize that He has come to heal us… that He has taken the lowest place.
We help others heal, for In Christ we have encountered healing!
We forgive because in Christ, we have been forgiven.
We joyfully bring people who do not deserve to be in God’s presence, because we do not deserve to be there either, but Jesus has brought us into the presence of the Father.
We can bring peace into lives that are oppressed by fear, anxiety, and trauma, because we endure these things for Jesus has given us that very peace…
As He invites us to celebrate His taking the back seat, as He invites us to His table, to take a seat with God our Father…. To know we are loved…
You are invited to invite others… to share in this place, in this blessing, in this celebration of love….in this feast…
For the Lord is with you… and He loves you.
- “The Rude Guest” (Luke 14:1, 7-14) by Fr. Joel Sulse, OFM (santuariodesanantonio.wordpress.com)