the one about coming to the table...
September 2, 2019, 12:00 AM

Sermon from September 1, 2019

Text: Luke 14: 1, 7-14

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our risen Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Who here likes to eat? I know I do. I love to eat, and as much as I don’t want to, I continually counteract the progress I make from working out. I’ll have to continue to work on that. Our Lord Jesus loves to eat as well. Especially in Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus at the table with good friends surrounded by good food and good drink.

Jesus’ ministry throughout Luke’s gospel centers a lot around food. He is usually sharing a story, imparting knowledge, or observing people from his seat at the table. In our reading this morning we find Jesus in this frequent position. We read that he is gathered at the house of a Pharisee. At first glance this might make us a little bit surprised. Jesus is eating with who? He is eating with one of them? The same ones who try to entrap and ensnare him into tricky situations so they might have evidence to ‘get rid’ of him?

Yeah, Jesus is eating with ‘one of them’ Pharisees. This is pretty big deal, because you see Jesus is all about inviting folks to the table. All sorts of different people are welcome at the table with Jesus. And as Jesus welcomes all to the table around him, he usually uses it as an opportunity to impart some knowledge or new way of experiencing life and living out the Gospel that he proclaims. Perhaps this is something we can learn today as we live in a country and world that always seems at one another’s throats.

You see, those invitations sent out for celebrations at that time were pretty similar to how we invite others today to our celebrations. Something that I am keenly aware of as we begin thinking about what to do for Ashleigh’s 9th birthday party.

Who do you invite? Do we know them that well? Do we really want all these people to come? 

Even as a young boy growing up, there was always that part of the invitation process where you sent out invitations in hopes that everyone would come to your celebration and that in turn, you would be invited to their celebrations too. It is one of the earliest ways and times where we find out if we’re part of the ‘in crowd’ in our social circles. On that note, let’s just say my daughters are way more popular than I ever was.

Or you go to a party – birthday, wedding, retirement, or some other celebration – and you place yourself next to or close to the ‘honoree’ and discover that you’re not really wanted there at all. You’re asked, politely or pointedly, if you could ‘trade places’ with another. Talk about shame and embarrassment!  So, Jesus here is giving good and shrewd advice in how to keep that sort of thing from happening to you. His advice would be in any big wig’s playbook in how to ‘work a room’ to your advantage as you make contacts to further yourself and your lot in life.

Stay low – put yourself in a situation where people will pull you out into the more honored areas of life. Humble yourself; let others lift you up instead of you lifting yourself up. All of this Jesus gets from our lesson from Proverbs this morning.

But, then Jesus goes on to add a little more into the mix. Now, normally in an invitation to a celebration – you invite ‘the usual’ crowd that everyone invites. We fall into the ‘game’ of whose who, who’s here, and who’s absent as we go to and host celebrations. But, Jesus turns this notion on its head and says don’t just invite those people – the well-known, your family, your rich neighbors – but, instead invite the lowly.

The poor. The crippled. The lame. The blind. Invite the ones who the world has said are un-invitable. Invite the people no one else invites. Of course, inviting ‘those sorts’ of people into our celebrations – as the world sees it – damages our street cred and respectability. When the lame, the nerds, the strange, the different are invited your status immediately takes a dive and you’re no longer a part of the ‘in crowd.’ You’re no longer an ‘A-lister’ (if you even ever were). It’s social suicide they’ll say! Talk to any teenager about who and who not to invite to their parties. They’ll tell you what’ll happen to their social standing at school.

But, Jesus isn’t paying attention to any of that. For Jesus – he points to a far greater reward. A reward of resurrection. A life lived to and for God. A life lived where all are welcome to the table.

As I read this story, I couldn’t help but notice what anniversary quietly went by. On an August 28th in Washington DC over 50 years ago, a man stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and asked the country to – essentially – invite one another to the table.

You see, when we’re gathered at the table lines are broken down. Sharing food with one another helps us overcome those differences and barriers that the world has helped us erect to block us off from one another. Sharing a meal with one another is an intimate experience. Whether it is in candlelight as you stare across at the one you love in front of you or mop up the blended goop back into the mouth of an infant with a spoon, or even sitting with the guy on the street and sharing your meal.

For you see, sharing a meal with another puts you on equal level. It says to the other – I honor and cherish you as an individual; as a fellow child of God. It is where true talks of peace can occur. It is where we can begin to see one another as parts of a whole instead of as pieces separate from one other. It is at the table – a table of brotherhood as Dr. Martin Luther King put it – where our dreams and hopes can be lived out. Where all are known and viewed as equals. Not because of who they are, but because of whose we are.

I am equally reminded of how we need to be more in table fellowship as a world with one another. As we continue to live in a world that is always at odds with one another. Where we push people away if they don’t agree with our views 100% completely. Where we hurl hurtful, shameful, and regrettable words at a person or a group of people simply because they aren’t ‘one of us.’ How many today would give another person with an ‘opposing view’ the time of day, let a lone share a meal with them?

For we all are children of God. We all have been created out of love by our God of mercy, acceptance, and grace.

The same God who today invites all of us to this table. This table where all are welcome – no matter who you are or where you come from. No matter what you’ve done or what you think. No matter if you’re skeptical or full on follower of the One. Christ invites you into table fellowship with him. In fact, Jesus goes so far to invite himself into your life. Coming to you to show you how worthy and ‘whole’ you truly are.

Coming to this table, Jesus reaches out and pulls you here to eat of this bread and drink of this wine. Reminding us all that this is for all of us. That we all are invited to this table where we remember what Christ as done for us and then are fed and sent to live out that in our lives. Where we then are called to invite others to our tables. Where we gather in fellowship not just with those who others invite, but also inviting those that don’t usually get even a simple hello from the world.

Where we are called to invite others into our lives, not just our dinner tables. Where we share our lives with one another. We serve in love, we gather in grace, where we see one another for who and whose we are.

We continue to live into and for that dream that Martin Luther King described which was first lifted up by our Lord Jesus Christ. We continue to pray that those in conflict around the world and in our country can look across the table at one another and pass bread and not trade verbal insults.

All are welcome to this table. All are welcome in this place. All are welcome in this life of faith. No exceptions. Seriously. Amen.


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