Sermon for Aug. 28, 2016
Preaching text: Luke 14
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “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; and 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. But 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. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He 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. 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.”
Wore a dirndl for the children’s sermon and discussed what immigrants are.
Ok, so lots of us, our immigrant ancestors (grandparents, great grandparents, etc.) gave up their traditional outfits so you’ll not see women sporting dirndls and men lederhosen. However, there are more than just a few German-isms that have integrated— become part of our US culture. One that I noticed here in Milwaukee is the use of the word “by”. And I’m not talking about this sermon was written by me. I am talking about sentences like, “after worship let’s go by my house”. “Go stand by the door”. We use “by” instead of “to” or “next to” or “near”. Which is quite similar to the German dative preposition “bei”.
I guess that’s one of the immigrant gifts to us. That is what integration looks like. It is a two way street—give and take. Kind of like, “quid pro quo”. This for that, and that is how the world works. The English would use this quid to buy that—thingie ma-jiggy. Quid pro quo, the words are even ancient—so old that perhaps Jesus even heard them from the Latin speaking Romans who ruled his homeland. Quid pro quo—this for that. Give us your taxes, give us your land and we will give you Roman soldiers, law, etc.
Knowing this, perhaps we can read this passage from the gospel of Luke as more than Jesus giving us a lesson in etiquette—where to sit (recline) at a dinner party, who to invite to your party, oh and don’t forget to put that napkin on your lap.
I am pretty sure that Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed on the cross for using the wrong fork or for teaching people how to be humble and un-assuming.
Even here, there is something going on something revolutionary, something threatening. Even here Jesus is giving us an alternative world view. This time Jesus is upending the very basic order of society and basis of relationships both individual, familial, local and national. In the ancient world with it’s patriarchal system, everything from dinners, friendships to marriage and politics it was (and still is today) based on quid pro quo. It is so central, so powerful and pervasive system of living that we are still using the ancient Latin words. Quid pro quo. That’s how society functioned. I do this for you (invite you to dinner) and you owe me.
But here comes Jesus once again upsetting the apple cart. Turning the world upside down. Not only criticizing the way things are, but also giving us another way. Jesus says when you have food, just feed people—and not your friends. Following Jesus, our worth is not based upon what we can buy, but who we are by—who we stand next to and with. We feed the hungry, care for the sick and elderly, sit with the lonely, welcome the immigrant and refugee. In Jesus new world order, relationships and society itself isn’t built on quid pro quo. With Jesus, the only extreme vetting going on is getting to know people, sitting with them, sharing a meal—meeting them where they are, and sitting down right by them.
And that’s what Jesus is still doing today. Because this table isn’t mine, it isn’t yours, it isn’t Village’s, and Jesus says gather round, you tired, you who are yearning to be free, we are all wretched, we are all someone’s refuse. But in this place, God does not refuse any of us. Jesus welcomes us all, feeds us all, frees us all. Jesus comes to be right by you, right by me. Amen.