Sunday, August 28, 2022
When Jesus enters the house of the Pharisee for a Sabbath dinner, he watches – Now he is also being carefully watched by others, of course, too –
He notices how the people choose their seats at the table.
In the Greco-Roman world, people were seated according to their place in society – (still true)
But there are always people who think they know where they fit – and are ready to demonstrate it by moving up close to the host – toward the head table.
And Jesus speaks to them, first –
Humility was not a Roman virtue, of course – so he upsets some of them by suggesting that their presumption might be misplaced – sit lower – wait to be invited up higher –
But then – he turns to the host himself – He is the one who sets the “rules” of this particular game – or at least he enforces and assume the value of the Roman social norms around him –
First remember – these are Jews – this is not supposed to BE their “game.” But it is. They have conformed to the world around them – even at the most sacred place of social interactions – the table –
So he says to him: Jew to Jew – believer in God to believer in God – What you really ought to do is what God does: invite the poor and the lame – the blind and the helpless who cannot repay you.
His advice to the host undermines the very system that upholds the social rules of honor and dishonor – WHO is to be honored – WHO isn’t worthy of honor.
Jesus upends the very idea that social payment and repayment should govern in God’s kingdom – His understanding is that it should not –
It is those who cannot repay who should be top of your guest list –
Guests have to follow the social norms you set – but YOU should be upsetting the social norms of the Empire – which does not reflect the values of God’s kingdom –
And he goes on to tell this story – (read)
But why is this an obligation for Jews?
And why does Luke think it continues to apply to Christians?
Now we return to Jeremiah – read –
Remember that there is only one story in the entire Bible – It is the story of the Exodus – It is the story that demonstrates that GOD rescues, chooses as his own, elevates the weak, the helpless, the poor, the nobodies of the world – and makes them a kingdom and priests to serve our God – That is what the New Testament understands Jesus’ life and death and resurrection to be as well – a rescue mission – an act of God coming down into Egypt and raising us up out of it – by GOD’s choice – not ours –
THAT is who God is. And so – that is who we are also called to be – if we are his.
That is why he rebukes – gently, of course – but seriously – anybody who wants to claim the highest seat – AND the host who supports such a system of distinctions –
The host needs to remember who HE is, too – one of those who was brought up out of slavery in Egypt – into freedom –
When we don’t extend that same freedom to others, we have exchanged our God for another – and that is always tragic – don’t do it.