Jesus is invited to a banquet in the home of a Pharisee, and he uses this invitation as a teaching moment, a ‘show and tell’ time for his disciples. Jesus says: “Notice how people are coming in and picking their seats. It represents positioning for power, recognition and respect, and it reflects a pecking order of ‘who’s who’. Jesus says: “When you are invited to a banquet or important party, don’t do what these people are doing. Don’t pick out the seats that may be noticeable as more prestigious than other seats. Pick out the seats that are out of the spotlight, and that aren’t considered cool. Because if you sit in the coolest seats, the guest master or master of ceremonies might have to embarrass you, in front of others no less, that the place you have chosen is not appropriate and you need to sit in the rear, along the back wall with all the other nobodies. (Luke 14:1, 7-14)
Have you ever sat down in a public place and been told that you cannot sit there? That ever happen to you? I remember going to a diner on 10th Avenue in New York City, a diner one street North of General Theological Seminary, in Chelsea, where we lived at the time. We went in for breakfast, and a waiter said to seat ourselves. We sat down and were studying a menu, when the manager told us: “You can’t sit there. That table is set up for four people, not two. You need to sit at a smaller table”. At first I thought this was rude, but then I remembered that this is NYC, and it was rude and a little humorous.
Jesus says: “Sit in a lowly place, and when the guest master comes in, he may ask you to join him at a better place up front. It’s always better to be recognized and shown respect than to be recognized and embarrassed. This is the backdrop for Jesus teaching about another dinner party. This is the story and contrasts of two dinners. The first portrays important looking people coming in and picking out the finest seats available, people with pompous attitudes, qualifying themselves on the pecking order of how more important they are than others. Then there is the other dinner that is in total contrast to this dinner party they are currently observing.
Jesus continues: “When you throw a party, don’t invite those who can pay you back or those who you can benefit from their coming. No, when you throw a dinner party, invite those who cannot pay you back, those that you cannot expect “quid pro quo”, the poor, the lame, the blind, those that cannot possibly be expected to give anything back to you. Invite those that know they are not in any kind of an “pecking order of importance”. Because your reward, your true riches are in that purse that Jesus tells us to carry, that purse of riches that will never wear out. “Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys”. (Luke 12:33) The true riches in your purse have nothing to do with building up your personal wealth, or your self-importance.
What does Jesus mean when he says, “Carry a purse that will never wear out”. We talked about it last week, but again we are concentrating on true riches, being rich in God. If you want to be rich in God, follow the teachings of the words of Jesus and the lifestyle he models. We are encouraged to invite people to our dinner party, and to show everyone invited, love and respect. There you have your reward. That’s what Jesus means when he says: “Carry a purse that will never wear out”. Your purse is to be filled with the true riches of God, to be rich in God is to be rich in giving of ourselves, our time, our resources and our talents. (Luke 12:34)
The two dinner parties represent two worldviews, the one view that is selfish and declares that if there’s nothing you can add to this banquet, and if there is nothing I can get out of it by inviting you, no quid pro quo, then there’s not any point of inviting you to my dinner. And, if I do invite you, then you better back up my invitation by sitting at the right seat. If you sit up front, then by golly, you better earn it.
The idea that this meal that Jesus is invited to is on the Sabbath, just makes the juxtaposition of the two Sabbath meals so much more obvious. In our second reading from Hebrews we are instructed with these words: “Do not neglect to do good, and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God”. (Hebrews 13:16) This is what it means to carry purses that will never wear out. (Luke 12:33) We should be hospitable to every person invited, and perhaps we will invite an angel. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it”. (Hebrews 13:2)
Jesus message is this: Feed the poor, invite the lame, the crippled, the blind and those that have no way to pay you back, “quid pro quo”. Jesus goes even further in his teaching. He tells us that when we minister to the poor, when we clothe the needy, when we visit the sick and those in prison, when we care for the broken and those that are suffering, we are ministering and caring for Him. When we do not feed the poor, and invite the needy to share in our Sabbath meal, then we are not inviting Jesus to the Sabbath meal either. (Matthew 25)
Who should I invite to the Sabbath meal? I invite you. Please come. You are all invited to participate in this great Sabbath dinner, the rich, the poor, the 99 percent and the 1 percent, housed, unhoused, educated, non-educated. When I worked in sales in my previous career, most of my customers were owners of small or medium sized companies. I began to notice that some of these small business owners had post-graduate degrees, but many had no little or no education beyond High School. Some came from prestigious families with money, but others made it on their own, the hard way. Education and financial backing is not required to start and run a successful business. Everyone is invited to enter into the economic fray, just as all of us are invited to come to the Sabbath banquet, the Lords Table.
So, my brothers and sisters, I invite you and Jesus invites us all to share in this Sabbath meal. The great banquet is yet to come, but in some respects it’s already here. When we come to the Table of the Lord for Holy Eucharist, we are partaking of a meal that points us to the banquet that is to come. We partake now, but we will also partake in full later. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (1 Corinthians 13:12, Message)
The Psalmist says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good”. (Psalm 34:8)
WHO SHOULD I INVITE TO THE SABBATH MEAL? I INVITE YOU. PLEASE COME
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen