“You will be blessed because they cannot repay you…” (Luke 14:14a)
The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) skips over Luke 14: 2-6 where Jesus heals a man with dropsy (general swelling in the limbs often caused by congenital heart failure) on the Sabbath. To me; omitting this part of the story does this whole banquet scene a disservice.
Jesus heals on the Sabbath which has already evoked controversy (Luke 13:10-17) in Luke’s storytelling and lurks in the backdrop of this healing and teaching. Jesus tells a parable about taking the lower seat rather than the place of honor, and then insists that when a person hots a party they should invite, “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:13). In context, Jesus just did that very act in front of the banquet guests (who happen to be religious leaders) by healing this man a the onset. The parable serves to reinforce the action.
Looking back to an early part of Luke’s presentation of Jesus; Jesus’ ministry began at the synagogue where he proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this is scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-19, 21). Jesus is putting into action this message and mission in real time. And just like the people threw Jesus out of his hometown after proclaiming that message, on the way to Jerusalem the opposition mounting against Jesus is growing. It should not come as a surprise when the church meets the world’s opposition to this same message in our own time.
Check the invitations.
Jesus calls us to invite to the party those who don’t belong; those who don’t deserve to be there; those who cannot possibly repay that welcome and hospitality. Those who are hurt or suffering or unclean or unable to contribute based on societal norms and opportunities. Inviting them into community is the way to live good news.
The parable sandwiched in-between the healing of the man with dropsy and Jesus’ teaching to invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind approaches the party in reverse. As a guest entering a gathering in the shame and honor culture in which Jesus lived; he instructs his followers to take the lower place of honor rather than the higher one. it is better to serve than be served. Humility is a greater virtue than honor due. Come as one as the recipient of grace and hospitality rather than what is deserved or earned. Yet humility is not passivity, and taking a lower place should not bring pride or boasting. It is looking to others to receive them in their full humanity.
Check your invite.
The gospel reminds us that none of us deserve to be at the party; yet it is Jesus who invites, welcomes, embraces and heals us all. Enter the good news that you are welcome and have a place – not by your own doing but by Christ alone.
Live by graciousness and humility; engage the world with generosity and thanksgiving; treat others with the same mercy, peace and love that God extends to you. These are the things that let you in the door and brought you to the table. Check your invite and the invitations.
-Why do we gravitate toward things like exclusivity, celebrity and elitism?
-How does following Jesus show us another way to live?
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