The Kingdom of God is like a place of honor that is given to all regardless of social status, wealth, or education. The Kingdom of God is like a gift freely given. It cannot be earned. It cannot be bought. The Kingdom of God is like the first time we were all accepted for who we are, not for what we can do for others.
August 28, 2022
“Lessons from the Gospel of Luke”
Places of Honor
Luke 14: 1, 7-14
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Luke 14: 1, 7-14
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.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 and sisters 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.”
Places of Honor Luke 14: 1, 7-14
We continue in the Gospel of Luke and we pick up where we ended last Sunday. We heard the good news last week that we are free and then this week, Jesus gives us a course on table manners. It seems like an odd combination but according to Luke’s Gospel theology, a clear sign of living out God’s Kingdom is the “acceptance [and recognition] of others as equals by breaking bread together.”
So in Luke’s mind, the good news that we have been freed because God’s Kingdom is happening now is lived out by gathering around the Table. Because we are freed, because we are forgiven, because we are loved as children of God, we are called to break bread together. As disciples of Christ, we are called to practice acceptance. As followers of Jesus, we are called to share God’s love. As ones who know and have experienced a different way to be in relationship with one another, we are called to practice Good Table Manners in all things and through all things.
These Good Table Manners go beyond what our parents taught us. They go beyond which fork to use. They go beyond “No elbows on the table”. They go beyond “Don’t talk with our mouths full.” For us as people of faith, these Good Table manners are the basic principles of God’s Kingdom. They are grounded in the experience of love, hope, and grace which we experienced when we first heard the good news that we were claimed and named by our God who loves us more than we will ever know.. These Good Table Manners are an invitation to become the people that God created us to be. These Good Table manners are the foundation of our faith. These good table manners which are described in our text this morning are Luke’s way of telling us how we as Jesus’ disciples can join in the work of bringing about God’s Kingdom here on earth.
In our Scripture today, as readers we are told that Jesus tells the guests a parable. Immediately, our “Kingdom” antennas go up. We know that this is usually followed up by the phrase…the Kingdom of God is like….but in this instance, that phrase is not said. Instead our text becomes a lived out parable, a how to be parable. Instead our text shows us that “what starts out…as a breach of etiquette for a number of guests ends up with a prediction about a radical change.”
In our text, when Jesus reminds the guests to find the lowest place to sit, he is not giving them a new way to get a head or another empty way to appear humble. That would go against the very nature of God’s Kingdom. Jesus is simply saying that the Kingdom of God is like a place of honor that is given to all regardless of social status, wealth, or education. The Kingdom of God is like a gift freely given. It cannot be earned. It cannot be bought. The Kingdom of God is like the first time we were all accepted for who we are, not for what we can do for others.
By taking the lowest place, through this very act, we as people of faith show that as children of God, forgiven, we know that we are called to share God’s grace with all of God’s children. The same grace that was first shared with us, the same grace that we can never repay, the same grace that was given as a gift, no strings attached, we extend to others in all things and through all things. As people of faith, we know we didn’t earn this grace because of our titles, degrees, wealth, and position in life. We were given this grace simply because we are God’s Beloved, named and claimed as God’s own.
Jesus drives this point home even farther, when he reminds us that the Kingdom of God is like a huge banquet that is filled with all of God’s children, regardless of the labels and boundaries that we use to keep others out. The Kingdom of God is like a fabulous dinner party that we were surprised when we realized that we were invited. The Kingdom of God is like an all you can eat buffet with free drink refills, with decadent desserts and all of God’s creation is invited to attend.
As Jesus tells this Kingdom parable, we are reminded that now as children of God, we are called to look at our lives, our relationships now through the lens of God’s Kingdom. This means practicing our best table manners such as remembering that the last will be first and the first will be last, such as remembering that God’s table is opened for all of God’s children, such as remembering that because we have been freed and given the gift of God’s grace, we no longer need to define our self-worth by this world’s standards or places of honor.
At the heart of Jesus’ etiquette advice, he is reminding us as children of God, that we are called to practice good table manners, to be gracious hosts, not just for our friends and family, but for all children of God because we have been welcomed by our gracious host, our God who loves us more than we will ever know.
We live out these Good Table Manners by not simply sending food, by not simply sending a check to the poor but by inviting them to our tables. We live out our faith by not simply acknowledging the injustices in our society but by being a voice for the voiceless. We live out these Good Table Manners by not simply having communion every Sunday but by believing in and practicing an open table in our church that welcomes all, no boundaries, no fences, no who’s in and who is out, no places that are better than others because all the places are places of honor.
As Disciples of Christ, We practice good table manners by remembering it is the Lord’s Table which brings us together as people of faith. That this life-forming moment when Christ broke the bread and gave it to his disciples is for all people of God. That this most meaningful moment when Christ blessed the cup and gave it to his disciples is for all of God’s children is not limited to a select few, it is not limited to ones that think like us or act like us. This gift is given to all of God’s creation.
When we as disciples of Christ practice good table manners, we live out a life changing understanding of what it means to welcome all to God’s Table. Jesus welcomed all of his disciples to the table. Jesus did not exclude anyone from his table. He welcomed all: sinners tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, the lame, the wealthy, the poor, the righteous, and the stranger. And that is what the Kingdom of God is like. And that is what Good Table Manners are supposed to be: the opportunity to come to the table and say the words that are the most meaningful and the most life-forming for us as Christians. I am a child of God, forgiven, loved and freed. I am God’s Beloved, named and claimed. And I embrace the image of God, the light of God which is reflected in you and through you.
The Kingdom of God is like a gathering of God’s people, living out the hope, celebrating the vision of God’s Peaceable Kingdom coming to fruition here on Earth just as it is in Heaven. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, August 28, 2022 – Places of Honor Luke 14: 1, 7-14.
This sermon is also available as a podcast.