An excerpt of a sermon preached on February 14, 2016 based on Luke 14
Lesson two at the table today is humility as its own reward. That phrase about the reward at the resurrection of the righteous is rather off putting. We do not invite people we would not ordinarily fraternize with to get an eventual recognition. We invite others because it is the right thing to do. When we engage in humility, hearing another’s story before we blurt out our own. -Receiving the needs of an other before we make our own known helps us get all of our relationships right. Jesus exhibits this servant leadership. Humility led relationships are righteous. Righteous means right relationship. A right relationship in bible stories always assumes God to be fully present and we behave accordingly. When we behave accordingly, righteousness is resurrected and we feel part of a cosmic plan. That is our reward. Does that phrase sound better?
Humility has other attributes. There is no such thing in a ballgame anymore, but used to be a place called the cheap seats. The place where you had gentile conversations not just about the game at hand, but the nature of our existence together, rooting for the same team, hoping for the same thing, yearning for the next great pitch or great hit. There was never any talk about who had the better view in the cheap seats. If the talk in the seats were to drift toward the theological, we might comment on how the slow curve ball of the opposition is pride. The pitch of pride is something we can not resist swinging at. We all want to be proud about something. But that slow curve makes us miss and we go down swinging. Pride is a gateway sin that opens the door to other sins from simple snobbery, through fear of the other not like us and all the way to genocide. The slow curve ball, thrown at us by a tempter, starts us spiraling into self absorption that fills us up so much we cant see clearly, or hear accurately and we we think we are better than the cheap seats. In the condition of the sickness of swelling, or self absorption, that Jesus healed, there is no greed because there is never too much. We get proud eyes and through proud eyes, there are no lies, we know whats whats, who s in and whose out. Even small amounts of pride can make us strike out alone. I have a friend that works in television as a sports caster. We were standing in line at a local food place when a woman walked up to us and said that he looked familiar. He let her look for a moment and when she was still thinking, he said, probably have seen me on TV. the woman said, “no... that cant be it. Oh well.” Not a sin, really, but he took himself out of her conversation. Bigger egos than necessary get in the way of relationship building and get in the way of knowing God’s ways better. We have stunted spiritual growth, when we have to feed our ego. We pick through the teachings and consume the ones that best fit our needs rather than what God’s hopes for all humanity.
That was the issue with the second story of a meal in Jesus teaching. So many excuses why we don’t participate fully in sharing God’s gracious love. Many of the excuses we use to not participate fully in welcome and help and mercy is self afflicted. so focused on our own sense of direction, we miss opportunities to intersect and interact with people in need, or who are simply different than we are. It is not bad to develop our own significant sense of self, we just can’t let that get in the way of hearing Christ’s invitation to participate in sharing God, more than being us.
Our hope in Lent is that we grow, not by giving up, but giving more of who we are as God’s beloved, giving more of the love that God shares, giving more of the mercy God extends. To not just say grace before meals, but to be grace to others in every shared experience of God’s presence with us, to us and through us.