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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 14:1–14

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. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.

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.” (NRSV)

After years of attending wedding receptions for church members, one scene remains etched in my mind’s eye. We had been directed to a center table, which should have raised questions for me: pastors are more often seated with a challenging member of the extended family closer to the margins of the celebration. As it turned out, there had been a mistake, and several members of the large wedding party walked up. We were quickly moved to a table near the periphery of the party. People observed our table transfer, making it a most embarrassing moment.

Centuries have not altered key social customs. Jesus wisely seized this scene to illustrate a repeated teaching on humility as a needed countercultural response to the prevailing self-exaltation of any age.

Then Jesus continues, this time meddling with another enduring custom. Most of us just try to keep track of who has entertained us, seeking to reciprocate. Instead, our Lord reshapes our agenda for hospitality. We are to look to those on the margins and invite them, instead of the more predictable parties, to our social gatherings.

A scene from weekly Coffee Hours at Fourth Church comes to mind. Amidst the bustle of conversation among the mix of members, friends, and visitors following worship, neighbors are present as well. Neighbors on the streets who find safe haven at Fourth Church perch on the pews in Anderson Hall, enjoying coffee, cookies, and the occasional conversation. I give thanks for this modest evidence that we continue to be lured by this challenging teaching of the Lord of life.

Welcoming God, I thank you for needed reminders of your call to live humbly as your people. Stretch our understandings of whom you would have us include in the ever-widening circle of faith and practice following Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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