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Weekly Bible Study Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 22

Year C, Colour = Green


Introduction

We all know people who are very focussed on getting what they want and who are prepared to trample over others in the process. Jesus recognised such people and he had harsh criticism for those who wanted to hold positions of power over others.

When Jesus went to dinner at the home of one of the religious leaders, he used the opportunity to speak out publicly and criticise those who rushed to take the best seats at the table. Jesus said that those who behaved like this would find no reward, but those who learned humility would be recognised by God.

Jesus wanted his followers to copy his example, he had few possessions, he gave up his authority and became a servant.

It is a lesson for us all, Jesus stands human reason on its head. If we want to be truly happy, if we wish to be fulfilled and know that our contribution to life is worthwhile, then we have to learn to put put others first and be prepared to think less about ourselves.

The advice which Jesus gives to those who would walk the path to fulfilment is very different from what you will hear elsewhere.


Opening Verse of Scripture  Philippians Chapter 1

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Redeemer God, you heard the cry of your people and sent Moses your servant to lead them out of slavery. Free us from the tyranny of sin and death and, by the leading of your Spirit, bring us to our promised land; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Methodist Worship

God of all creation you call all peoples of the earth into your kingdom. Grant that we, with young and old of all nations, may boldly confess Jesus Christ as Lord; to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and praise, now and for ever.  Amen. Methodist Worship

Almighty God, whose only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence: give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common Worship

Merciful God, your Son came to save us and bore our sins on the cross: may we trust in your mercy and know your love, rejoicing in the righteousness that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Almighty God, you called your Church to witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: help us so to proclaim the good news of
your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. Common Worship

Almighty God, you search us and know us: may we rely on you in strength and rest on you in weakness, now and in all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading  Jeremiah Chapter 2:4-13

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’ And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. “Therefore I still contend with you, says the Lord, and with your children’s children I will contend. For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Proverbs 25:6-7

Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.

Second Reading  Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name . And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 

This is the full reading without verses missing

Heb 13 v 1 - 16
Keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.  Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.  So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.  Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.  We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise— the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Gospel Reading Luke 14:1,7-14

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honoured in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

 

Post Communion Prayer

God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna, the living bread from heaven; let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place where hunger and thirst are no more; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Commentary

Status has always been important in different societies and it is evidenced in different ways. In antiquity how guests were seated at banquets was really important because it demonstrated how important you were. In 1 Corinthians we read about the problems that the early Christians had when they gathered together. Their church service was essentially a gathering in the home of the more wealthy Christians. They would do so in the context of a sacred meal like the Last Supper which was modelled on the Jewish Passover. This was real food and not just token symbols of bread and wine, but clearly Paul was aware of the issues he writes -

I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.

We know a lot about the seating arrangements of the time and seating by rank is well attested in Palestinian Jewish society, including in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In was customary to sit the affluent guests of comparable high social class in the special triclinium (the best room), whilst the others further down the pecking order were seated in plain view of this room in the atrium, where couches would be provided for perhaps 40 people. The guests in this larger area would be served poorer quality wine and inferior food. This social division was clearly something which was being brought into the meetings of the early Christians and they copied the cultural and racial divisions in their gatherings along the lines seen in wider society. Paul had no time for this division and he saw that it was contrary to the gospel for some to be treated more honourably than others. To do so simply showed the church reflecting the status values of the world around them.

These words today by Jesus would have been an important influence on people like Paul who wanted to ensure that the church was radically different from society. Jesus valued people equally and not according to the different ranks and values given them by virtue of birth, wealth or office.
Jesus uses a principle found in Proverbs 25
‘Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men;
it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.’

In fact the passage is rich in the ideas expressed in the Old Testament in places like

Isaiah 2:12 The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),
Ezekiel 21:26 The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.

However as is customary Jesus takes it way beyond that which was expected. He tells his followers that when giving a dinner they should not look to invite people of high social status or even of equal status they should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. In so doing they would find much more than social importance, they would be blessed. It is difficult for us to imagine how revolutionary this kind of teaching was. Helping the poor was one thing, but helping the crippled, lame and blind was extreme. This was not an age where people with disabilities were regarded and their needs with special privileges like blue badges. They were disabled for a reason and it showed God’s lack of approval for them, indeed some communities such as at Qumran specifically excluded them from their premises.

It is in understanding this background that we are able to appreciate the upside down, messianic inversion of the new kingdom of Jesus, in which the first shall be last and the last first. The despised and significant might be excluded from Qumran and other religious and social communities but in God’s family these people have an importance which in concealed by their current misfortune.

This is all very important for us as a church, because the temptation is always there to fall into the trap of valuing people differently. Jesus tells those who were looking for social advancement that they should be inviting to their table people who were considered sinners. How would we feel about inviting sinners into our homes, do we welcome people who display different behaviours than we feel comfortable with? There is an important lesson that we should never feel superior to others, never look down upon those who are less fortunate than ourselves, never accuse them of their own downfall. Charles Royden

Meditation

In Jesus’ society meals were very powerful means of communication who was who and how important they were in the community.  Meals, and where people sat or reclined for them, affirmed and gave legitimacy to a person’s role and status in their community.  For this reason, most meals were attended by people of the same social rank. The fact that the ruler of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine at his house indicates that the Pharisees accepted Jesus as a social equal.  Typically too, if a person was invited to a meal they would be expected to reciprocate the invitation.  Sometime people even refused invitations as they felt unable to offer the same level of hospitality as their potential host.  Jesus turns this concept upside down, and rather than inviting those who were perceived as equals in society, He suggests that those who should be invited to dine should specifically be those who can’t reciprocate and those who are at the bottom of the social pile.  A focus on what is in it for others rather than what is in it for themselves.  A questioning of motives and a challenge to self interest, self satisfaction and aggrandisement.
 

Hymns

  1. Praise to the Lord, the almighty
  2. Seek ye first
  3. Make me a channel of your peace
  4. For the healing of the nations, (Tune Westminster Abbey, Purcell)

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

O God, whose son Jesus Christ our Lord showed the world His majesty and His humility, keep us ever focused on you so that when we are tempted to show our own majesty we are instead stirred to demonstrate our humility; so that the glory of He whom we represent can be shown in all the world. Amen

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in our asking; have compassion on our weakness, and give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

As we sit at our tables and eat, remind us of those who have little to eat. As we are tempted to exalt ourselves, remind us of the humility of Christ. As we are tempted to ignore those who are not like ourselves, remind us that Christ ignores no-one and all are invited to His heavenly banquet. Amen.

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace to those who are humble, Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. 

Lord, teach us that your Son died to save us, not from suffering but from ourselves; not from injustice, but from being unjust; and not from dying but so that we might die to ourselves; and this we ask through the same Christ our Lord. Amen George Macdonald 1824-1905

O blessed Jesus, immortal and victorious, by the sorrow you suffered when all the powers of your heart failed you, have mercy on us and help us in our days of darkness and in our hours of weakness, that we do not lose hold of you either in this life, or in the life of the world to come; and this we ask for your own name's sake. Amen
St Bridget of Sweden, 1303-1373

Gracious God, whose only desire it is that men and women will come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south and will sit down together at the feast of your Kingdom; have mercy on those of Abrahamic faith, whether they are Jews, Christians or Muslims, and grant that they may behold in you the one God and Father of all, and see in each other only those created in your own image and likeness; and that thus beholding and seeing they may turn aside from all evil and violence and, with one mind, undertake that ministry of reconciliation which you have committed to them; for to you belongs all honour, all glory and praise, now and for ever. Amen
Norman Wallwork
 

Additional Resources

Opening Verse of Scripture, Hebrews Chapter 13:15

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Collect Prayer for the Day-Before we read we pray

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Bible Reading, Jeremiah Chapter 2:4-13

Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: "What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?' I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, 'Where is the LORD?' Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. "Therefore I bring charges against you again," declares the LORD. "And I will bring charges against your children's children. Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD. "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. 

Second Bible Reading, Luke Chapter 14:1, 7-14

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honoured in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Post Communion Prayer

God of all mercy, in this eucharist you have set aside our sins and given us your healing: grant that we who are made whole in Christ may bring that healing to this broken world, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Meditation

True godliness is an apparently reckless investment in the parts of the world that beg for attention in real need, but that show no potential of paying back dividends. Yet, Jesus promises that God sees and that God will pay the interest on an investment.

Commentary

 

Hebrews is in some ways a bit of a mystery letter.  No one is sure who wrote it (almost certainly not Paul as it’s not his style or content!) and it isn’t in the form of a first century letter at all, it appears to be more of a treatise than anything else.  The writer is articulate in Greek and knows the Old Testament extremely well.  The author’s Old Testament quotes are in Greek, rather than Hebrew, so it looks like he was a Greek speaking, Hellenistic, Jew writing to fellow Greek speaking Jews or Jewish Christians regarding the relationship of the Christian faith to Judaism. 

It appears that some among them were thinking of turning back to Judaism and their former ways and the letter is a forceful reminder that in Christ they have a far better and eternal option before them. The achievements of Christ and all that He symbolises and signifies are for greater than the old system of sacrifice and priesthood.  Moreover, in Christ they have the ultimate realisation of all that they have ever stood for. To turn from Him is to turn back to an inferior substitute, back to failure and ultimately, back to hopelessness. 

Hebrews is quite an early piece of writing, probably written before the fall of the Temple and Jerusalem to the Romans in AD70, as otherwise those events would have been mentioned in the letter, especially as the book of Hebrews makes specific references to Priests and sacrifices. Given its focus, content and apparent audience, some have seen Hebrews as the counterpart to Paul’s letter to the Romans.  In today’s Bible reading, which comes at the end of the book of Hebrews, the writer is underlining that God is concerned with the entirety of our way of life, how we live and use our homes, our we treat our relationships, how we respond to others in need, in fact everything that we say, do and believe.

The concept of how we see and relate to others is picked up in the gospel reading.  Many at the meal might have been expected to be at the head of the table, a position of status and importance. Rather than assume positions of importance Jesus talks about humility and respect for others, a theme which links the two readings together. Just as the readers of the book of Hebrews, we too are encouraged to live humble and God fearing lives, putting others before ourselves.

When so much of society is geared around social standing, both at the time of Jesus and in current times, allowing ourselves to be open to being humble servants can be difficult, and yet it seems to be at the very heart of the gospel message. To put others first, to consider those with no social standing to be ahead of us in the pecking order of life seems counter intuitive. Our lives are bombarded with stimuli which suggest exactly the opposite. Adverts in our papers, magazines and on TV encourage us to put ourselves first, to look after number one, to surround ourselves with those things and people who will make our life easier and show that we have made it in some way or other. To have the possessions and lifestyle and outward appearance that seek to show we are just a little superior to those around us.  Not so much a “keeping up with the Jones’” but with “the Jones’ keeping up with us.” 

Jesus will have none of this. His example is of a humble servant who possesses little of worldly value, but everything of heavenly worth.  And He challenges his followers to do likewise. There is also a hidden twist perhaps peculiar to Luke, the only gentile of the gospel writers. In the eternal scheme of things, Israel, as God’s chosen people, may have expected to be at the head of the table. In the setting of a prominent Jewish Pharisees home Jesus would seem to be saying this might not be the case.  He even seems to be quoting the Hebrew scriptures to prove His point. Who God chooses to be at the head of His table at His heavenly banquet is His choice and His choice alone. Together with the Jews, we may be surprised to see who God chooses to be at the head of His table. We may even be surprised who we see in heaven. In this passage, yet again, we see Jesus challenging the normal rules of society. God’s Kingdom does not conform to those rules.  God’s Kingdom breaks through the norms of prejudice and self interest.  Jesus calls us to do the same, to put others first, to be focused on our eternal and lasting reward rather than immediate but transient gains and status we can achieve in the short term.  Just perhaps the dinner party for Jesus was a set up. Perhaps the Pharisees and others wanted to see where Jesus would position Himself in their society. He duly obliged, but not in the way they expected and in the event it was they themselves where were socially exposed. Jesus graphically demonstrated that in God’s Kingdom there is no hierarchy or status, all are truly equal in the sight of God, however unexpected that might seem.   Rev Dr Sam Cappleman

Commentary

Jesus was criticized for his lifestyle, he was considered to be a heavy drinker and a glutton. It seems that he was only too willing to accept dinner invitations, even if they were occasions used by his enemies to trap him. For Jesus meals were an important occasion and they were about much more than devouring food. The meal was an occasion for talking and fellowship, and important things were said by Jesus in this public gathering. This was a society without radio television or newspapers and meals were often large occasions with many people listening and reporting what took place.

On the occasion reported in Luke today, Jesus is invited to dinner with a leader of the Pharisees. All eyes would be upon Jesus especially by those who wanted him to make a mistake.

It would be understandable if Jesus had declined such an invitation but he does not, he is prepared to meet with everybody, even to eat in the company of those who wanted to trap him.

Indeed, not only does Jesus turn up, he uses the occasion to heal on the Sabbath and takes the opportunity to tell a parable about the Kingdom.

It is not in the reading today but we are told in verses 2-7 that there was a man at the gathering who had dropsy, he would have swelling and be suffering from his condition. He might have been deliberately placed by the opponents of Jesus, as a challenge to see how Jesus would act. Would the man be healed by Jesus, or would Jesus respect the Sabbath? Notwithstanding the medical condition of the man it would be entirely reasonable for Jesus to make an appointment for the man to come back the following day, to avoid healing on the Sabbath. Instead Jesus faces his opponents head on and performs a healing, rules are not more important than compassion.

It is then afterwards that Jesus taught a parable which is part of our Gospel reading today. The thrust of the teaching is as follows,

"all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." 

Perhaps at the meal Jesus noticed people jostling and trying to take the best seats. We know that Jesus frowned upon people who liked to glorify themselves and he had particularly strong words for the Pharisees. Remember this passage from Matthew Chapter 23:1 

‘Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'

Jesus had harsh words for those who held high positions and who sought elevation of their position over others. Christians should be people who are voluntarily humble and modest. If we seek pride  of place and vainly pursue our own ambition, then eventually we are likely to find ourselves subject to embarrassment and shame. This is an important lesson in life.  But the teaching of Jesus is more far reaching, if we behave in such a way we will anger God and bring upon ourselves his judgement. God does not favour the proud, rather he brings them low and exalts the humble and the meek. Anything we consider ourselves to possess worth boasting of is not ours by personal merit, it is a gift and grace of God.

Then Jesus went on to speak about who we should invite to dinner. Jesus is saying that in God’s Kingdom the rules of order and importance are very different. Christians should be concerned with those whom society does not esteem, because God cares deeply for those who are treated badly. If we care for those who are unloved and uncared for then In doing such a thing we will ourselves find blessing.  At the time of Jesus the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind were not groups that people should be concerned with. This was because they were treated badly and thought to be a lower class of person. The crippled, lame and blind were forbidden to serve as priests because of their physical imperfections (Lev 21:17-23). 

To a certain extent this is always the way in which the poor are thought of, but each generation has other groups which are marginalized. The words of Jesus are challenging because his words are not about who we say prayers for, or who we donate money towards. Jesus demands action at a most fundamental level, who we eat with.

Jesus is not against hospitality towards our families and friends, but he is making very clear the point that those who do good to their relations and friends but are tight fisted to the poor, are certainly not praiseworthy, for they are not exercising love, but thinking only of themselves.

Caring for others has nothing to do with mutual return, liberality which is given in the pursuit of personal gain is something to be ashamed of. Such deeds have their own reward and will not be congratulated or rewarded by God. Rather, they are blessed who give without hope of any earthly reward, it is they who carry out God’s work.   

God calls Christians to participate in an the values and principles of the Kingdom. When we do so we are blessed by God, not in a material, but a spiritual way. We store up riches in heaven, even if we are broke on earth! We should seek to please God, not other people. "

Charles Royden  

 

Commentary

The passage from Luke today appears at first glance to read like something we find on the back of a lifestyle section from a Sunday newspaper. Jesus reads like an early John Morgan giving the kind of advice which we would discover in Debretts guide to manners. So what is Jesus saying in the story from Luke today? Is he really speaking about our strategy for eating at tables? The implication of the teaching appears to be that when we are invited to a dinner, if we want to impress, we should not seek out the best place. If we want to look good, impress our friends and enjoy the esteem of our companions at the table we should go humbly to the last place, knowing all along that we will be called up higher by the host! (Crafty) This is a very strange gospel passage indeed. Jesus seems to be suggesting a strategy that has nothing to do with the reign of God; but more to do with making an impression at social events. What's going on here?

Jesus has been invited to the house of a prominent Pharisee. It is the Sabbath and it was the practice to invite guests for a meal at the conclusion of the synagogue service. The atmosphere is charged, people are "observing him carefully." Jesus has noticed how the other guests are manoeuvring for choice seats, the places of honour. Jesus uses this earthly meal table to stress that real places of honour are to be given by God; we don't have to strive for honour ourselves. When the reign of God comes in its fullness, God will bestow honour on us at the banquet table. We, in the meantime don't have to be anxious, or greedy for honour from God. Instead, we can concentrate our energies on tending to the humbler tasks involved in serving God. Hearing Jesus' invitation to this banquet, the truly humble disciple puts aside strivings for high position and any claim of one's own social standing. Places at the table are given as a gift by God. They will all be good seats, places of honour.

Jesus turns to the host with a challenge "Why do you entertain guests? Are you trying to gain points with influential people?" Rather, he tells them, they should be hospitable to the poor and outcasts who can't pay back. We don't need to be paid back or honoured, not if we believe in the One in whose presence we stand. We are already invited as special guests to the banquet God is preparing for us. Our footing is secure, we stand honoured by a most gracious "host". Jesus is really saying to the guests at the banquet, 'remember where you stand, and in whose presence.' If we are conscious of the God of this banquet and the esteem with which we are already regarded, this might embolden us to speak out more forcibly when injustice is done to ourselves or to others. For we know where we stand and in whose word we have placed our trust.

Humility This passage has been used to speak of humility but we must be very careful. We must not use the teaching of Jesus to reinforce old and possibly repressive notions. Humility may be the least understood and most maligned of Christian virtues. People have kept themselves in miserable, even abusive situations, in the name of humility; "humbly" accepting their lot in life. While those with vested interests, have extolled this virtue, not for themselves, but for others to observe who should, "know their place." What we may need in our church today is less false humility and more truly humble people who know their gracious God and speak and act boldly out of their gospel convictions.

Jesus speaks about the guest list and who is on it. He has already identified with social unfortunates and outcasts. His message is sent to the highways and byways to call them in to the table he is preparing for them. They will sit with him at the banquet as honoured guests. His disciples must understand that they, and anyone who acknowledges their poverty and need before God, are the special recipients of God's honour. If disciples really understand this message, they too will invite to the table of reconciliation and equality the very same honoured guests-the blind, poor and those held captive by sin. We want to be sure we have not erected social barriers that keep some from joining us. People should feel comfortable in the church of Christ even if they come from a different economic status, are divorced, gay or single parents or are less well educated.

In these teaching in Luke's gospel Jesus breaks through the barriers society and religion have constructed. Luke keeps reminding us that at this stage of the narrative Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem and along the way he is showing his disciples who God is and how they are to live a life that reflects this hospitable God. To enable us to do so, he will die because of these teachings and his death will make this new life possible in us. The Reverend Charles Royden

Prayer

O most loving Shepherd, in the deepest of all waters we will trust you. In the darkest of all valleys we will rejoice in your presence. In the worst of our days we shall rest at peace in your arms. In the most troubled of our nights we shall be comforted by your saints. Amen. Archibald Campbell Tait, 1811-1882

We give them back to thee, dear Lord, who gavest them to us. Yet as thou didst not lose them in giving, so we have not lost them by their return. For what is thine is ours always, if we are thine. A Quaker prayer

God of the ages and our parents, thank you for rest and the freshness of morning: before we see any human face, you show us your glory. Cleanse and keep us from all evil this day. Help us to shine among the poor as the morning sun, and inspire our thought with love like the sun at noon. Strengthen us to translate your Word into deeds. Open our eyes to see you in the natural world; open our ears to hear your loving voice; open our mouths to proclaim your salvation; open our hands to uplift the downtrodden; and open our hearts to be in fellowship with you always. Let us so walk in your light that the glory and honour will always be yours. Amen D Soundararadan, Church of South India, student at the United College of the Ascension

Creator God, as we consider the works of your hands, help us to cherish the gift of life; as we learn more of life's beginning, teach us also to be mindful of its end and fill each day with your glory. Amen Ermal Kirby, Chair of London NE District

Hymns (Hymns and Psalms)

  1. Praise to the holiest
  2. Lord the light of your love
  3. Make me a channel of your peace
  4. Jesus is Lord
  5. The King of love my shepherd
  6. Praise to the Lord
  7. Kum ba ya
  8. O Christ the healer (Tune Heronsgate)
  9. Father who in Jesus
  10. Praise to the Lord, the almighty
  11. Seek ye first
  12. Who would true Valour see
  13. Glorious things of thee are spoken

 

Sermon (The parable of Manners)