In amongst the TV that my daughter sometimes watches, there’s one that truly boggles my brain. People go round people’s houses for dinner, and then the people who have been fed and watered clearly to the best of the host or hostesses’ ability are then rude about it! I watched one part of this, and I was like, bad manners are now a TV program?
But that isn’t a million miles from what Jesus was up to today!
Imagine being invited for dinner and then really lecturing them on how they decide to seat people. Especially when they have seated you at the seat of the most honour.
As much as that program riles me, it’s fair to Jesus is quite rude to his host today, and my sermon today is to maybe look at why.
In Jesus’s time, the Pharisees held dinners for visiting itinerant preachers that moved from town to town. This was just such an occasion that Jesus was invited to. The seating for said dinners was very much ordered by your standing in the community; the higher honour, the better seat, however quite often, people used to try and move up the social ladder or be seen too by moving themselves up in the order of seating.
In an Honour based society, the more honour you could have been seen to accrue, the better for you.
Loss of honour meant shame, and the word shame entomology can be directly routed back to being forced into a lower place around the table.
This jostling for position is probably what Jesus was watching going on when he spoke up
So we have to ask ourselves what’s got Jesus upset enough to be so forthright and blimmin rude really.
how we work that out really goes to the heart of how we use the bible as a guide for our lives. What’s a rule, what’s a paradigm, what’s an ethic, what is moral? It’s work we should do because Confusing those leads to all sorts of trouble. Treating a paradigm or a metaphor as a rule leads to literalism, and that’s a path to madness.
In simple terms,
Jesus isn’t after you changing where you sit.
Physical seating only matters, in this case, if certain seats are seen as having more honour. So if the seats at the front of the church are seen as more honourable then the seats at the back are the place to be. But if it doesn’t matter to you, then it doesn’t matter.
I say this as someone standing at the top of the church has moved from a special seat. I’ll be honest with you, it bothers me greatly until I came to the realization that people do have to hear what we say up here and be able to follow the service and that’s best done in a place where people can see us.
Today’s story has many layers, and seating really disguises
what Jesus is actually on about today.
The story is about who we invite to the table, and who indeed invited by Jesus and whom we should invite to whatever we consider as places of honour, the best seats, the greatest places, those who we show off as worthy or merit and honour
The occasion in the story is a feast, and soon we are all to be invited up here to Jesus’s feast, and as a church in this story, we have been shown here as to whom should be invited.
Because The most crucial thing Jesus is asking us here today is this question, the question we should go away from today with
Who does Jesus want us to ask “Friend, move up to a better place.'”
It’s kind of the story of Luke, really, Luke is the gospel where Gentiles are invited to the feast. Gentiles were considered by Jesus’s audience to be unclean, beyond redemption, sinful and breaking rules that God cannot forgive.
They were withheld from religious rites that religious law stated god does not want at his table, and those who’s sin debars them due to their breaking of certain theological or religious norms that meant they cannot be accommodated.
When Peter questioned the inclusion of gentiles god said to him do not declare anything unclean that I have called clean.
This brings us to the central point
Who is beyond Jesus’s grace is the central question being asked here.
Todays story shows us that , nobody is beyond grace, nobody is beyond his love. Everyone is invited to the table indeed to the places of honour, because of Grace, which is why god has declared us clean.
Grace is why Jesus came, Grace is the central idea of every word in the bible. It’s the drop that encapsulates the meaning of the ocean . The roots of the word Grace mean Rejoice I am Glad.
Grace is for those that are declared beyond the pale!
So to drill right down to it the story today is actually becomes about us.
Those whom that are considered unclean by us, lower than us untouchable, aberrant, who are so far from what we consider acceptable that we don’t want them in that door.
What I would really love from today is if you go out of here and think about who and why you might choose to stop from some religious rite, baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, marriage whatever.
Think about that and then realise. whoever you think of as beyond grace, Jesus is today saying these are whom you should invite to the places of honour, and whom Jesus calls friend as well as you.
I’ll try and illuminate that story by a couple of stories
I read a story recently, and a lady of the night was asked to come to church and her response was “why would I go there it would only make me feel worse!. That’s the reverse of Grace.
A bishop and a curate once were going to see a man who’s wife had left him after he had cheated on her. The Bishop asked the curate, could you ever imagine doing something so awful?
The curate said no of course not.
The Bishop said, you better stay behind then.
Nobody is beyond grace, nobody is more or less broken than one another and all are called friend, and invited to his table.
That is what Jesus is saying today, nobody is beyond his grace.