Readings: Hebrews 13: 1-8, Luke 14: 1, 7-15
This morning as we look at the reading from Luke’s gospel, it challenges us to think of three things in our lives. 1. As Christians we are being tested and watched even if we don’t realise it. 2. We should be humble and put others first. 3. We should think about our giving, both of our time, our gifts, and our money.
It can be difficult to see the relevance of some aspects of Jesus’ teaching at times. Who has lunch where your place at the table indicates your importance? We can easily miss the fact that Jesus is challenging the whole social order of his time in this passage. But that challenge is still very relevant now.
The list that Jesus gives of who to invite to the feast is not an exclusive one – it is simply those who would be considered undesirable to associate with in his time. The lame and blind would have been thought to have been given their afflictions as a punishment for some terrible sin. But in our society we could add others to the list of those that society tends to shun for all sorts of reasons. Illegal immigrants, youths in hoodies, those with mental illness, people who are homeless and ask for change or sell the Big Issue.
In many ways, we live as much now as then in a culture that requires a certain level of wealth or physical ability to participate. And it’s not just about accessibility either which is a buzz word of our times. Jesus makes it clear that he is talking about actively going out of our way to find these people and include them.
Let’s unpack Luke 14: 1-6.
Jesus had been invited to dinner on the Sabbath by a prominent Pharisee and we are told that he was being carefully watched. This was probably to see if he would go ahead and heal someone which of course he did.
But this says something to us because if we are true followers of Jesus and we live out our faith, we can be sure that people will be watching us firstly to catch us out if we step out of line, and secondly to see if we have something that they might want in their own life.
It just so happened that there was a man there who suffered from dropsy. This disease causes the arms and legs to swell because of excessive fluids in various parts of the body and can be symptomatic of more serious problems. It was regarded by some rabbis as resulting from immorality.
Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’ But they remained silent so Jesus went ahead and healed the man and then sent him away.
Jesus then watched the invited guests choosing their places at the table and he told them a parable.
Jesus said, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour for person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’
Then humiliated you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts them self will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’
Today’s passage from Hebrews 13 is about families, friendship, hospitality, morality, marriage and generosity among other things. There are certainly some challenges. Firstly it starts with making sure that we love one another as Christian brothers and sisters. Do we love each other in this church and in all the churches in Exmouth?
Secondly, we are to welcome strangers into our homes because some who did welcomed angels without knowing it. In a pandemic this of course is difficult and it doesn’t mean that we should leave our front doors open. But it does mean that hospitality is very important in the Christian life.
Thirdly, we must remember those is prison as though we were in prison with them. The book called, ‘The Heavenly Man’ is about a house church pastor called Brother Yun from the Henan Province in China, who has suffered prolonged torture and imprisonment for his faith. The book challenges any complacency about the ongoing situation in China, where international economic investment ignores the brutal fact that religious persecution is still a daily reality for millions of people.
Fourthly, marriage is still the way that God intends couples to live. It is a public commitment to one another. The Christian marriage with a devoted couple sharing their lives and their faith in the living God is the framework for a happy family.
Fifthly, keep your lives free from the love of money and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never leave you: I will never abandon you.’
We can all remember people who have helped and encouraged us. We can think of them as Jesus guiding us along because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
He has died for us and has risen again and is alive now. We can trust him with our lives and trust his words.
Revd Jim Thorneycroft