28 August 2022
Year C (Proper 17)
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa,
New Zealand and Polynesia
Holy Cross Church, Sanford
Church of the Holy Apostles, Satellite Beach
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
God’s table is circular, embodied with mutual hospitality and humility.
In the early 1900’s, a young boy of 6, began studying the behavior of a flock of
chickens outside his Oslo, Norway summer cottage. Many years later after
observing, caring, and mapping the flock’s behavioral patter the young man
concluded in the animal and the human world a powerful hierarchy of rank and
status is created and maintained among the groups.
The Pecking Order. Now most of us have seen the “Pecking order” alive and
well in our children’s or grandchildren’s or neighbor children’s behavior. Children
tend to battle to be the first in line, butt others out of line and run for the best spot
right next the birthday boy or girl and of course next to the cake.
Most children, myself included, despise being the last one chosen for a sports or
academic team or social club, the least popular. And so children, especially
adolescents learn to size themselves and one another up; checking others’ physical
appearances, assessing the social status and power of family, friends, and rivals
and being pulled, by an insidious psychological force to survive and thrive
physically and socially in the Pecking order based upon power and prestige and
status. Now lest we point our finger only at our children, let’s not forget the power
struggles we ourselves, or other adults we know or read about, may still engage in
searching for the shortest line at Publix checkout, elbowing our way to the front of
an airline boarding group, insisting on being first in a Black Friday store line.
Like our animal kingdom friends, we have neurochemical brain transmitters which
trigger our emotions and alert us to changes in our social position, changes which
encourage upward or threaten downward mobility. We have both an inner drive
and a societal pressure directing us toward upward mobility to break records, get to
the top and focus on our fame and fortune.
But, Jesus calls us to the radically different way of downward mobility, to be like
Jesus emptying ourselves of our own selfish desires, practicing humility and
hospitality, choosing the last seat at the table. Inviting all the community to the
table as the way to the Kingdom and everlasting life. This is our common Christian
In our Gospel lesson today Jesus has accepted a radical invitation to eat the
Sabbath meal at the home of a leader of the Pharisees. The Pharisees have invited
Jesus not to be hospitable but rather to watch him closely to procure more
evidence. Evidence to charge him with heresy, but Jesus too was watching,
watching the guests to teach them and to teach us, as he often does at meals, not
only to provide rich spiritual food for their souls but also to model right
relationship, how to live in community and in communion with one another.
Jesus saw the guests, the guests, “those who are invited, elbowing each other,
arriving with expectations of where they should sit, jockeying for the best seat in
the house next to the wedding banquet host.
Now wedding banquets were not to be a time for people to struggle to re-position
themselves at God’s table as if they were in a worldly pecking order. A Wedding
banquet is a metaphor for heaven, God’s kingdom both growing here among us on
earth and in heaven. A community filled with hope, joyous love, and harmony
among us all. So, Jesus tells them a parable, a story whose meaning expands
beyond the current situation and characters to teach us about God’s Kingdom on
earth and above. Jesus teaches them, and us, that first and foremost we are all
God’s guest. Even when we serve as hosts at our own parties our deeper identity is
as God’s guest, a guest God invites to celebrate the love and grace of Christ around
our table and at THE Table. The altar of God’s love.
And at God’s table the etiquette is different than our worldly pecking order. As
Jesus reminds us God chooses our seats and invites us to prepare from a place of
humility, to come with room in our hearts for God’s surprises and grace. We are to
live with great humility not assuming or taking a specific seat but rather giving up
our seat for the lowest seat to humble, rather than exalt, ourselves.
What does it mean to be humble? As Pastor David Wilkerson once wrote (Revival
on Broadway, 1996), a humble person is not one who thinks little of him or herself,
hangs his or her head, and says, “I’m nothing.” Rather he or she is the one who
depends wholly upon the Lord for everything in every circumstance.
Humility which is derived from the word earth hummus reminds us that we are
human beings first and last, created and formed in God’s image, equipped, called,
and led by God to serve and called to see ourselves subordinate to our the all-
knowing, ever-present, and all powerful God.
Humility reminds us of our place and purpose as human beings butt does not focus
on weakness or meekness. Being humble does not mean being a spiritual doormat,
humility draws us into a relationship of mutual love with God, others, and
ourselves in which we do not allow verbal or physical abuse or demeaning or
diminishment of others or ourselves.
Humility is being spiritually modest recognizing who we are and giving credit to
our creator, acknowledging it is with God’s grace and mercy we live and move and
have our very being.
I’ve heard it said that as soon as we see ourselves as Humble, poof, our humility
evaporates and our arrogant pride floods in. I know for me when I get into my
pecking order, hierarchical mindset and I think my ministry and my life is all up to
me and I forget that God is the source of all glory and I need to thank God I am
just like the people of Israel Jeremiah warned so long ago. And I am like a football
player who after scoring a touchdown dances in the end-zone and forgets in his joy
to point toward heaven and get down on one knee in prayer to thank God!
Pride---my preoccupation with what I have done, can, and must do without even
consulting or thanking God is the enemy of humility. But as we grow in humility
we focus more on God and away from ourselves and grow in compassion toward
all other human beings remembering our common humanity: We all bleed red ….
We are no more deserving or graced or better than any other human being.
And that brings us to Jesus’s second teaching, this time for his host. As hosts we
have the power and the spiritual calling to invite other people, especially the
marginalized, to Christ’s table. Human beings from whom we do not expect a
repayment but who can teach us from their own place of poverty and downward
mobility about the blessings of living without affluence, without the stuff and toys
and complicated lives that keep us from a closer walk with God.
We are to invite people on the margins to our table, people with whom we expect
nothing in return. The poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind to give them a
good seat of equality at Jesus table, the circle of mercy and grace.
We are to trust God’s seating chart, believing that God will provide fellowship,
love, and connection among us because the Holy Spirit weaves all of us together.
While we may be the hosts, all of us, hosts and guests alike are his guests.
The compassionate life,” says Henri Nouwen,
“is the life of downward mobility . . .
the descending way of Jesus.
It is the way toward the poor,
the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners,
the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying,
the tortured, the homeless—toward all who ask for compassion”
And this week I ask you to gaze out at that large open green field that this church
owns and Imagine God’s big circular table set up there, a table of humility and
hospitality, set with people who have so much to teach us and with whom we
expect nothing in return. Whom are we called to invite? What is God calling us to
build on that sacred ground? How are we called to share God’s glory. With
humility and hospitality as God’s guests?