Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

KINGDOM TABLE MANNERS
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 17–Sunday Between August 28 and September 3 Inclusive)
analysis by Al Jabs


1On 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.”


DIAGNOSIS: Reciprocal Relations

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Choosing the Best Places
Careful observations abound in this text. Those at a dinner gathering in the home of a prominent Pharisee are “watching him [Jesus] closely.” But Jesus is also observing the behavior of the guests and the host of the dinner gathering. His critical remarks may not be in keeping with proper etiquette, but they do expose the truth about worldly social-ladder climbing. The guests, the host, and ourselves are constantly looking out for our own seats (maybe even covering them), with rare thought to who gets stepped on in the process and the inequalities we create. But people hurt one another through this process. Differences concerning class status, gender, and race are all around us as evidence of our choices for best places.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Seeking Status
Thinly veiled is our value in status-seeking. Reciprocity is a game that gets played to make ourselves look good. Even Jesus’ encouragement to choose lower seats can easily be misapplied by our desire to make ourselves look good by acting humbly. In our attempts to help ourselves first, we cannot help ourselves out of the dilemma of obtaining status we do not have. If everything is earned (and that certainly is the structural reality of reciprocity), then we are caught in the heart-felt value of looking out for ourselves.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Disgraced
The critical nature of the reciprocity structure, also evidenced in our daily dealings, is that we may get booted out of our place, and forced to take a lower seat. The divine coercion, also at work in the reciprocity structure, is even more severe in its final judgment. Because of our disgraceful gains, we are finally lowered in our status as human beings and face the magnitude of embarrassment in death.

PROGNOSIS: Relating through the Resurrection

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Honored
The Master, Jesus, himself came to serve. He broke bread with those at table with him. He did not value people on the basis of their prestige or status, but recognized that all were low on the divine ladder. Instead of giving us what we deserved, Jesus gives us honor through his own assumption of our low status.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Raised Righteous
The lowest seat belongs to Jesus, and there is no going up to a higher seat except by way of the cross. He who was crucified is now risen to the right hand of God. But his crucifixion frees us to daily die to our own attempts to push ourselves up the ladder, and to be raised in the status of the righteousness which is Jesus’ costly-but-free gift for us.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Looking for Those in the Lowest Seats
Our sights are turned away from ourselves and toward others. There are countless persons who are relegated to low seats in the reciprocal structure in which we live. W.E.B. DuBois, a great African-American writer, in 1902 (Souls of Black Folk), stated that the color problem is the greatest problem facing America. Cornell West (Race Matters) would agree. But racial inequalities, together with all other social inequalities, are subsumed under the new way of honoring people in Christ–daily dying to our sin, rising in the promise of Christ, and looking out for all who are low in order that they may be raised up.

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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