Your place at the table

A sermon preached on the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 17 Year C, RCL)
at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, University City, San Diego


Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

(Link to Sermon audio here)

Sermon Outline

  • Baseball game – Somerset Patriots vs. Lancaster Barnstormers
  • Whenever I had been to a baseball game before I thought I had got the gist of what was happening, plus I have always enjoyed the atmosphere.
  • Sat with Director of Sales and Director of Marketing – both from Boston and Red Sox fans.
  • As the game progressed, listening to these very extroverted and loud Red Sox fans it was clear I had no clue what was really going on.
  • Before my eyes there was a completely different story unfolding, one that involved coaches waving their hands, team tactics, pitcher and catcher interaction.
  • If I left the ballpark with just the headline final score I would have missed the completeness of the whole event.
  • It was like being the Captain of the Titanic. The part of the Iceberg that I could see above the water was just a small part, the much larger real danger was unseen below the water.
  • Many of the teaching stories of Jesus are like this.
  • Not least the gospel reading of today.
  • If we take the reading at face value we get a great lesson in how we should be humble and it is from the position of humbleness that we are truly open to receive God’s gifts, gifts that will exalt us, and make us eternally rich in blessings.
  • We can unpack the lesson a little further and see that this is not really about who sits where in a meal, or about not doing things in order to receive something back. We can see that Jesus was painting an eschatological picture of what God’s eternal kingdom is like, how things will be when God’s kingdom is fulfilled.   How the meal that Jesus is invited to is in fact the heavenly banquet that feeds each and every one of us not only at that end time but also today, and every day of our lives.
  • But I want us to dig a little deeper. I invite you to wrestle with the text.
  • Rob Bell – Velvet Elvis. Bible is a living document that must be reinterpreted each and every time that we read it.
  • If we take it as a historical document and it becomes static in time then it becomes more and more irrelevant with each and every day that passes.
  • What is the bible? It is a collection of different books, books recording history, books of poetry, books of law, books of prophesy and so much more.
  • But it was written in a specific time and times change.
  • That does not mean the bible becomes irrelevant.
  • It means we need to reinterpret the lessons of the bible for our lives today.
  • This is not new.
  • Unless you are the author of a particular bible text you are an interpreter and all you can do is interpret the text.
  • Example Love thy neighbor (Mark 12:31) – what is love, who is thy neighbor, who decides what an exception is. We are interpreting all of the time.
  • We need to wrestle with the text.
  • Each and every story in the bible has a lesson plan and we need to discern what the lesson plans are and then apply those lesson plans to our lives today.
  • This does not limit the bible – it expands it, it causes an explosion of possibilities because each time that we read a text it can tell us something new because each time we read the bible we bring a new situation to the reading.
  • When we say that we teach the bible – that really means that we wrestle with the text and reinterpret it for today.
  • So where does that leave us with today’s gospel reading? Lets do a little bit of wrestling.
  • Let’s try and put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes. What would have been important, what would have been significant.
  • On 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.
  • We miss the fact that Jesus went for a meal at the leader of the Pharisees. That group of people who were constantly trying he trip him up – and they were watching him closely.
  • Why did Jesus do this? Why did he go there and teach his lesson.  Couldn’t he have done it in a safer place?
  • Why did he choose to go and interact with the very people who were trying to trip him up. Who were constantly arguing with him?
  • Because that is where his message needed to be heard.
  • So when we interpret that bible reading today, for us, what does it say to us.
  • We need to be at the table. Both in the world, in the community and in our own lives.
  • We must engage those who do not always agree with us.
  • That table is our relationships, it is the things that effect our lives, it is issues of social justice.
  • There are those who say that as Christians we should keep ourselves to ourselves.
  • Not be active in the world around us.
  • But that is not the model of Jesus.
  • Jesus went to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath.
  • If we wrestle with this text then it becomes just as much an instruction to engage in the world and with the world with all that is good and bad than it is about humility, the banquet of God’s heavenly kingdom or anything else.
  • Where and what is your table? Are you scared to go there?
  • May be it is a family situation that you would prefer to avoid, maybe it is speaking out for the vulnerable of our society, maybe it is speaking the truth that we know people do not want to hear.
  • But Jesus calls us, he invites us to take our place at that table.
  • In our epistle, the letter to the Hebrews, which really is more of a sermon than it is a letter we are reminded that God will never leave or forsake us, and with confidence we can say “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”.
  • Jesus this morning is teaching us that we need to take our place at the table, not matter how uncomfortable that may be.
  • The bible is alive, it is speaking afresh new to us today.
  • Will we go with Jesus to the house of the leader of the Pharisees, share in a meal with them, and do the work of sharing Christ’s gospel. Jesus warns us that there may be no earthly reward, for a true invitation is given with no expectation of repayment.  The reward comes from God, who invites us to His table, and always as the guest of honor.

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