Scripture: Luke 14:1, 7-14
Let us pray:
Guide our minds, our hearts, and our very lives, O Redeeming One, that we might find guidance in these, your holy words; in your name we pray, Amen.
Several things come to mind in reading the Lukan passage for today. First, there is a saying among one of the First Nation Peoples that goes something like this: “Become like the water.” There are several layers of meaning in that. First, water seeks the lowest level, so following a course that never lets you rise above yourself would be a course of wisdom. Second, water is life-sustaining. Let’s let that sink in for a moment while we are reminded of other meanings our Judeo-Christian tradition has adopted (pour last of water into Baptismal font, sprinkle over the congregation).
In Biblical culture, avoiding shame and seeking honor were of paramount importance. In this instance, the establishment, i.e. the Pharisees and those in power, have unfortunately dug some pretty deep ruts, and Jesus needs to reset their course aright.
Pharisees rule Israel in all ways but political independence at this point; with their brand of the faith institutionalized to their satisfaction, they have devolved, as do most advanced cultural states, by employing a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” system. Thus, they only invite those for whom they may curry favor or for those they know will return the invitation.
But I wonder, is this the way of God? Isn’t there something in the Good Book about caring for the needy, for orphans and widows? What has happened here? Apparently, all guests present need a refresher course on being God’s people. Jesus is speaking of humility in a slightly different vein.
From within the cultural understanding of honor/shame, Jesus teaches just what to do, reminding some how best to be on the receiving end of honor and others of a deeper faithful response, chiding them for their loss of God’s vision and mandates. Beyond that, however, there are double meanings from the Rabbi.
To the guest, he teaches: “Go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.” Then Jesus does something unexpected. He leaves the factual mundane explanation for the guest on how to navigate the system of honor/shame in a supper invitation, and moves on to a heavenly metaphor: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
If that doesn’t cement the lesson, then he turns to the host and teaches another facet of the lesson: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” He takes that lesson a step farther into the Heavenly realm as well. He goes on to say, “…you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
On one hand, the humble will be exalted; on the other, those who serve the humble will be repaid at the resurrection. Quite a lesson, no? If we seek humility both in our receiving and in our service, we will be lifted up.
What about the second application of “becoming like the water?” Water is the sustenance of life – what is it about you that exemplifies that which is life-giving? How do you bring to life all that God has implanted within you? Is there something that you have, or something that you hold within your being capable of giving life to others? This year especially, tied up with all the political posturing of the lifeless propaganda of the American elite, how might you, as a true son or daughter of God, represent God’s heavenly kingdom on earth, extending means of grace – life itself, if you will – to those who are in need?
Depending on who you identify with the most in today’s story, Jesus teaches to either take the lowest place, where you might be given more honor by being lifted up to a higher place by our heavenly host, or to invite those for whom there is no way to receive repayment for the love of God you extend, enlivening them with true spiritual goodness. Either way, if we tune our hearts and beings to “become like the water,” we are giving ourselves over to a life of humility, knowing full well that we are both representatives of the Servant of servants and instruments of God’s love and glory – the hands and feet of Christ, the Lowly One, the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is our Lord. Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection
How does your experience of the culture prevent you from fully embracing the call to serve with humility? How can you seek out the stranger in your community? When have you realized that you were dong God’s work, only after the fact?
Household Prayer: Morning
God, in the freshness of the new day, help us to retain clarity of vision so that we might seek the honor of your kingdom rather than the honor of the world. Sustain us through the day so that we might return filled by the grace of your Spirit. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
God of compassion, help us to release the regrets of the day into your care. Refresh us in our sleep that we may rise in the morning confident in your love and strengthened in our faith. Amen.