The Gospel reading today is similar to the setting of last week’s in that it is on a Sabbath.
A Pharisee has invited Jesus to a meal on the Sabbath and it would not be wrong to think that this particular Pharisee is of high standing, possibly even a member of the Sanhedrin who, with his friends, may have been attempting to trap Jesus into committing some form blasphemy or wrongdoing in front of witnesses.
Jesus has already embarrassed everyone earlier on when he healed a man, which brought about a period of silence and now he proceeds to embarrass them further. It is no longer Jesus who is being tested, but Jesus who is observing the behaviour of everyone at the meal. He has become not a guest, but a teacher and by divine right he rebukes them.
We need to remember that in the culture of Jesus’ time the Pharisees were seen as the good people who set the example for the rest of society, unfortunately, some had begun to be corrupted by power and used the laws to their own advantage.
Jesus, as we know, ate with all kinds of people, sinners and tax collectors and of course, he was homeless.
He tried at every opportunity to demonstrate the Kingdom of God and to spread the Good News through his actions, his teachings and through his disciples and he would often use food as a symbol of universal need. He observed everything and everyone.
During the rush to sit down at table, Jesus possibly observed someone who had taken a high position and was subsequently asked to move down the table, possibly even lower than they would have been had they not exalted themselves.
He then proceeds to deliver a parable about a guest at a wedding feast explaining the importance of humility and the expectations of the host, choosing those who will reciprocate, rather than those who cannot. “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Humility and table fellowship.
Humility is not always easy to define. Some people are naturally humble – others find it difficult to be humble.
Table fellowship is that relationship of being able to sit comfortably with others, usually family.
Something that, unfortunately, is disappearing from our society, but we tend to have protocols at special meals. I’m sure many of us have attended weddings and there are usually place cards on the table, if not, there may be a list displaying where everyone is expected to sit, this eliminates the possibility of embarrassing situations such as the one Jesus speaks about. We accept our humility and position at the table, as after the meal everyone is equal.
Table fellowship, something Luke mentions more than the other Gospels, is something that unfortunately, is diminishing. Sitting around the family table is not often done. Children in particular are more likely to sit in front of a TV or games console with their tea on their lap or on a small table.
I remember, as a child, everyone gathering for Sunday tea and you were expected to be in on time.
It was a time of being together, chatting (at the appropriate time, of course) and sharing thoughts and ideas and after the meal we would all help with clearing away. Everyone was equal.
I would imagine that many of the Olympic gold medallists will be returning to their homes and will be having that special meal and, of course, there is to be a parade through Manchester in October for Team GB, but what about those who didn’t achieve medals, shouldn’t they be honoured as well?
The fact they even qualified for the Olympics should be a celebration in itself. They have trained for many years to reach the peak of their fitness, something I couldn’t even dream about let alone attempt!
The humble and the meek – have they not given their time and talents and gained a place at the table?
In this short passage, Jesus is saying so much about humility, table fellowship and the need to include those who would not normally be included, who would be described as social outcasts.
Jesus says, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.”
As a church, we have social gatherings. We had our “Posh Afternoon Tea” to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, with Dorothy as our Queen. Many of us enjoyed the Staycation week, revolving around food and fellowship, we have Teapot Time, we raise money for charities and of course, we have the Porch Boxes, but is there anything else we can do for those who can’t afford to attend our social gatherings, for those who have nothing?
How can we retain our humility.
Humility can be a bit of a two edged sword. To humble oneself with a direct view to exaltation is to tread the wrong path, however true humility can best be explained by the actions of those who are humble, for example Thomas Hardy (no relation as far as I know) was so famous that any newspaper would have gladly paid him large sums of money for his work, but when he sometimes submitted a poem he always included a self, stamped, addressed envelope for the return of his manuscript if it was not accepted.
Even in his greatness, he was humble enough to think his work might be rejected.
In November 2015 – Greater Together Manchester, a joint venture between the Diocese of Manchester and Church Urban Fund, brought together a group of 6 churches to provide overnight shelter to homeless men who would otherwise have been sleeping rough from January to March this year.
This I feel is the type of service Jesus expects of us to reach out to those most in need.
To be humble enough to invite those who we would otherwise ignore as God invites us to his table at every Eucharist.
Jesus standing at the top of that table was I feel using this parable as a metaphor as an example of universal need and humility.
I can image him standing looking across the table and seeing an image of the heavenly feast where everyone is sitting including the poor, the crippled, lame and blind.
As we come into God’s house, we are invited to that banquet, where everyone is equal, where no-one is better than anyone else as we humbly allow his Holy Spirit to work in us so we can spread the Good News through our actions and service to those in most need.
Mother Teresa, a humble woman said, “If you can’t feed 100 people, feed just one and never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
Let us pray and I am using a prayer for Vincent de Paul, a French Roman Catholic priest, who like Mother Teresa dedicated himself to serving the poor. He was renowned for his compassion, humility and generosity and is known as the “Great Apostle of Charity” and the prayer is on the yellow sheet, “Our Daily Bread – September 16” that Carol has produced:
Merciful God, whose servant Vincent de Paul, by his ministry of preaching and pastoral care, brought your love to the sick and the poor; give to all your people a heart of compassion that by word and action they may serve you in serving others in their need.
Christine Hardy, Reader. ©