Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Humble Service - September 1, 2013 - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17) - Text: Luke 14:1-14
God gives and we are given to and as we heard last week, our purpose in life is to be love by God and to be given to by Him. God gives life at conception. God gives new life, faith and eternal life through the waters of Holy Baptism. God gives gifts, talents and abilities, even our vocations and careers. And our response of faith is to live our lives as living sacrifices, to serve God by serving others. This morning by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God, which is His usual way of working in our lives, we will hear Jesus teach us concerning our humble acts of service to Him in our serving others.
Our text begins with verse one, explaining that Jesus was invited to the home of a Pharisee, we read, “1One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6And they could not reply to these things” (v. 1-6). Interestingly enough, as we read in this opening verse, we are told that the Pharisees were watching Jesus carefully. They were watching, waiting, even hoping that He might “slip up” so that they might somehow catch Him and be able to accuse Him of something, anything. Because Jesus is omniscient, that is because He is all knowing, perhaps His knowing they were watching Him is why He intentionally questions them concerning healing on the Sabbath and because of their refusal to answer, He does heal the man and then uses their smugness and lack of an answer to teach them which He does through the parable.
Now, remember, we were told in verse one that the Pharisees were watching Jesus. We pick up at verse seven of our text, “7Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9and he who invited you both will come and say to you, “Give your place to this person,” and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you’” (v. 7-10). In verse one we were told that the Pharisees were watching Jesus and now in verse seven we are told that it is Jesus who was observing those around Him.
And what is Jesus noticing? He is noticing that the people who were invited to the party were coming in and taking the seats of honor. Now, there is nothing wrong with taking the seat of honor, especially if you were invited to sit in the seat of honor. After noticing what was going on, Jesus tells a parable to explain what He is noticing and what might happen.
In the parable we are told how someone might be invited to a party and thinking they are the honored guest they might take the seat of honor. However, if this one is not the honored guest, then the host of the party will come to them and asked them to move down to a lower seat and in so doing they would be humiliated, or humbled. In the same way, the one taking the lower seat, would be asked to move up to a higher seat, even to the seat of honor and in so doing they will be honored in front of everyone.
Jesus ends this parable with a statement of truth, verse eleven, “11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (v. 11). Certainly we understand these words in our world today. How often it is that we might think we are the honored guest and take the seat of honor only to be humbled and perhaps humiliated when we are asked to take a lower seat. And how often are we honored when we show a real humility about ourselves and take a lower seat only to be asked to move up to the seat of honor. How true it is that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I cannot say if Jesus intended to quote the Proverb lesson for today or not, but His word certainly do sound like they come from our Old Testament lesson. Of course, we understand that Jesus is God and is the author of the Old Testament as well, so perhaps He did have in mind this verse from Proverbs when He told His parable. Above all, please make note that Jesus’ words are not just for the Pharisees He is addressing. His words are to us today. I will say that I know from personal experience that His words are true, if we exalt ourselves we will be humbled, and if we humble ourselves we will be exalted. And remember that the ultimate exalting and humbling will be done on the day of Judgement.
But our text is not complete. Jesus continues by speaking to the host of the gathering, we pick up at verse twelve. “12He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (v. 12-14).
True charity is not simply inviting those who you know will invite you over and in so doing repay you. True charity, true Christian charity, true charity in God’s eyes is not what most of us do, most of the time. And let me say that does not mean that there is anything wrong with having friends over, even if you know that they will invite you back over to their house on another occasion. It is certainly God pleasing to share in fellowship of food and company of fellow Christians, family and friends. Yet, our text is speaking about true Christian charity which is not simply inviting those who repay you by inviting you back over to their place. True Christian charity is inviting those who cannot repay.
And the great thing about true Christian charity is the fact that it has a reward, not on earth, but in heaven. As we exchange having family and friends over and going over to their homes, that is its own reward. Yet, true Christian charity of giving to those who cannot repay has its reward in heaven.
Not only is there a connection to our Old Testament reading for this morning, but there is also a connect to our epistle lesson for this morning. The Hebrews connection is that Paul urges us to have a similar attitude of service to others. “1Let brotherly love continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (v. 1-3).
It all begins with faith which reflects in our attitude, which reflects in our actions, and finally which reflects in our works of service. James reminds us that “faith without works is dead.” Yet, the heart of works is faith which motivates such works. And Jesus here reminds us that our works come from a humble attitude of putting others first.
So, we ask, what does this mean? or what lessons might we learn today? Certainly the greatest lesson we can learn is the lesson of Jesus’ own life. Jesus humbled Himself. He gave up the glory that was His in heaven. And think about it, as God, He certainly was enjoying great glory in heaven, yet He gave up His glory in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood, to become one of us. Jesus shows His humility in the fact that His first crib was a manger, a feeding trough for animals. He further shows His humility in that He did not come to be served, but to serve. His greatest show of humility was to humble Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross for our sins.
Jesus shows true charity in giving His life for us, knowing that we cannot repay and that is precisely why He gave His life because He knew we could not repay. By the giving of His life, Jesus gives us forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness we have life and salvation. And now, here in our text Jesus also gives us instruction in faith, that is that faith shows itself in humility. Faith shows itself in putting others first, in giving and especially in giving when we know we cannot be repaid.
Faith shows itself in service and in works of service. These are not works which we do in order to attempt to repay Jesus for all He has done, nor to try to minimize the fact that we owe Him our very lives, but these are works of service done in response to all that He has done, does and continues to do for us.
At Christmas time, do we give gifts or do we normally exchange presents? Perhaps this might be something to think about now, before Christmas gets here. I would suggest that our normal way of doing things at Christmas is that we gather at someone’s home and we exchange presents. And this we do to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. How would we like it if everyone came to our birthday party to celebrate our birthday and exchanged presents and we received nothing? And please understand, I believe exchanging presents can be a great expression of love as well. That is not the point I am trying to make, nor the point Jesus is trying to make. The point is that exchanging present for present, invite for invite, meal for meal, is not really charity. Real charity is giving with out expecting and without receiving in return. Real charity is what Jesus gives to us, His life for ours.
So, in response of faith and in response to all our Lord has done for us and given to us, might I suggest that this Christmas, since it is still early and you have plenty of time to prepare. This Christmas, along with our usual exchange of presents, perhaps we might think of something to do that is more fitting of Jesus’ words in our text. Something, such as giving a gift to someone we know will not be able to repay us, perhaps even doing it anonymously so there would be no guilt or less guilt on the part of the recipient. Perhaps even giving a gift to the Lord in some fashion or another. And as we make this unusual gift, might we remind ourselves to do it in humility, without telling anyone, so that our reward is indeed not on this earth, but in heaven.
God gives and we are given to and as we heard last week, our purpose in life is to be love by God and to be given to by Him. God gives life at conception. God gives new life, faith and eternal life through the waters of Holy Baptism. God gives forgiveness of sins through His Word and His Holy Supper. And God gives to us and stirs in us our response of faith is to live our lives as living sacrifices, to serve God by serving others. God has indeed done great things for us and certainly He expects nothing in return from us. Instead of our meeting His expectation, of giving Him nothing in return, my prayer for each of you is that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we might live our lives of faith in humble service to Him and others, and as we do so we are boldly professing our faith saying, “To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake.” Amen.