Jesus’ Table Talk – Part 3 – Sermon – Rev. Alex Moir – 20 June 2021

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Call to Worship

“Come to me, all whose work is hard, whose load is heavy; and I will give you relief.  Bend your necks to my yoke, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and your souls will find relief.  For my yoke is good to bear, and my load is light.” 

— Matthew 11:28-30

Prayer

It is with some measure of relief, our gracious Father, that we gather in Your presence this day, for these are the members of our spiritual family whose story of faith we share.  But we come together, as well, because of the challenging circumstances of life … and Your promise to meet us in those places.  In the name of Jesus, we praise You for Your constant care … amen.   

Song

Today's Message: Jesus’ Table Talk – Part 3

Scripture Reading: Luke 14:1-14

Jesus at a Pharisee’s House

1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

With today’s message we find ourselves at a familiar place.  Jesus has again accepted a dinner invitation, this time at the house of a “prominent” member of the Jewish religious leadership.  If you remember last week when He was having dinner at the home of a tax collector, you begin to realize that Jesus truly gets around.  Perhaps it’s due to the fact that, as an itinerant (or travelling) teacher, He doesn’t’ turn down a meal but it’s probably for a better reason.  As the Son of God and Saviour of the world Jesus is on mission to share the good news of accessibility to the Father … and as we’ve suggested before, the setting of an evening meal allows for deeper sharing and greater transparency.

As we look at this passage there appears to be two problems that Jesus addresses.  The first (v. 1-6) has to do with what we might identify under the category, “People Behaving Badly.”  This is a banquet being thrown by a religious leader but in v. 1 we read that there is another reason for this get-together … to keep an eye on Jesus (“he was being carefully watched”, v. 1).  We must feel sorry for these “spies” of Judaism … not only are they going to jeopardize their digestion (more “watching” than eating may be going on) but they are missing out on a marvelous opportunity.  This meal is being attended by “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” as John the Baptist stated in the gospel of John.  Should Jesus be successful in His “work” a new covenant will be launched which will usher in an unprecedented surge in “faith” activity.  Their offense at Jesus’ challenge to their power is blinding them to the possibilities that His ministry contains.

But the real problem that we want to address with this message is set out for us in the second part of this passage, in verses 7-14.  It has to do with what Jesus “noticed” in verse 7 … we might call it “People Behaving Badly – Part II!”  It seems that there was a fair bit of frantic activity associated with finding a place at dinner.  Just as in our dinner parties or banquets some places were more sought after than others, identified by the Lord as “places of honour”.  It may remind us of how we sometimes behave when we want to avail ourselves of special opportunities in life.  It’s been a long time, due to the COVID situation, since we’ve scrambled for a place at a Black Friday sale or stood in line (maybe overnight) for tickets to a concert or sporting event.  But Jesus anticipates a worse problem than just missing out on a good deal on a TV or failing to see the Eagles last (or so they promise) tour.  Hear the words of Jesus’ parable:

When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour,
for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.
If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you,
“Give this man your seat.”
Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important seat.

— Luke 14:8-9

As Jesus indicates there may be something worse than having the table by the kitchen or lavatory … social embarrassment is one of life’s experiences we try at all costs to avoid.  It is why at most of our significant social occasions there is a seating chart.  To be told that “yes, these seats are saved” is an unfortunate way to begin the evening!

Jesus suggests two solutions to the problem at hand … and the first one involves an application of one of his most famous teachings:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat and drink;
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more important than food,
and the body more important than clothes?
For the pagans run after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

— Matthew 6:25;32

“Your heavenly Father knows …” are words that, if true, can help cease the senseless striving that is so much a part of contemporary life.  In the context of today’s story, we might say, “your heavenly Father knows” that you need friendship and to be connected to others, which is what the scrambling for “prominent places” at the dinner party was all about.  On a much more base level, “the Father knows” that we have material needs as well … but they shouldn’t dominate our thoughts and consume our energy.  Our Father has designed life in such a way that if we are faithful to Him and serving His cause, our basic needs will be supplied.  Knowing this sets us free to spend our best time coming alongside the Father to help usher in the Kingdom, rather than worrying if we can get to the store in time to purchase the latest gadget.  It is the beginning of a truth that we will read about later in the New Testament; “the peace of God that passes understanding” …

But there is a second “secret” that Jesus reveals to us in this passage that involves not just what to do to find seating at a banquet but how to live life generally.  Again, we hear the words of Jesus from this morning’s passage:

“But when you are invited,
take the lowest place …”

— Luke 14:10a

This is good advice from Jesus, removing the “social embarrassment factor” on such occasions as well as keeping us out of the unseemly pushing and shoving that can sometimes happen in these situations.  But that’s not all that Jesus is talking about.  Through over 40 years of pastoral ministry Linda and I have had our share of social gatherings to attend, in which we have learned to apply a general “rule of thumb”.  Whenever we enter a room with a plateful of food and looking for somewhere to sit, we try to find a place beside someone who looks as lost and alone as we sometimes feel.  Not only does this remove some degree of anxiety but it is based on a fervent belief that the Father of Lights is always willing to use servants acting in humility in these kinds of situations.  As we “break bread” in these contexts interesting connections are made … and sometimes the sharing of personal information allows for real ministry to begin.

As I study this story, it causes me to remember one of my favourite people who was part of a church I served as pastor.  Her name was Darlene and she was one of the most quiet and gentle people in our church … but as I made my way across that congregation I noticed her influence in many people’s lives.  I remember more than one family who ended up at our church because Darlene had invited them … usually at some social event out in the community!  Many people had been blessed by Darlene’s hospitality, especially when there was a bereavement situation.  It also seemed that whenever there was a child-care need, she rushed in to provide help.  She served our congregation humbly and effectively in a number of roles.  “Saint Darlene” was a living embodiment of what Jesus teaches in verse 11 of our text … “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and she who humbles herself will be exalted.”

But our lesson doesn’t end here.  There is one more piece of wisdom the Master has to share with us, and it starts with the words, “When you give a luncheon or dinner …” (v. 12).  But it goes beyond the odd time when we organize a dinner party.  What if it has to do with our church gathering?  In truth, we hold a time of “feeding” each Sunday here at worship, when we “break the bread of life.”  These worship services are open to everyone, no matter what your socio-economic background, your race, even your faith happens to be.  Much is being made about what the “post-Covid” church is going to look like.  We’ve talked a lot about the people who might not be returning but I haven’t heard or read much about the new ones we might be expecting.  I am assuming that the Spirit has been working during this unprecedented crisis and that there are folks who’ve come to the understanding that they need to make changes in their lives.  This attempt to change might begin with Christian worship, which is still totally accessible to all … we even have a sign outside that states the time of our weekly worship gathering!

So, what do we do when these folks come to our “banquet” and are quite happy to take the places of “least honour?”  We need to be careful not to “pounce” on them … but we should take great care to be very “notice-full” in our pre and post-worship gatherings.  We may have to leave the comfort of the friends with whom we are visiting … something we have missed over these past few months.  All it takes is a simple request to be excused … and then to approach our visitors.  We need to introduce ourselves and get their names … and, most importantly, try to remember that name should they return.  This will do more than impress our guests … it might suggest to them that you are attentive to detail and that you might be trusted with other, perhaps more painful, details in their lives.  It could be that a new bond will be created … and some wanderer will begin the first few steps on their way home!  A lot happens around the table … especially when the bread of life is being served!

Prayer

How grateful we are this day, gracious Father, for Jesus’ awareness of what was happening around Him.  Because of this we imagine how He might notice the details of each life, and even ours … so we feel free to make our approach, having been encouraged to “cast our cares upon him” because of Your reputation for being a loving Father.

As we have heard this episode in the continuing saga of Jesus’ remarkable ministry, we are reminded of our tendency to be looking for the wrong things in life.  We confess that there are occasions when we forget Your great will for humankind and, instead, focus on our own comfort first.  We are so grateful for Your power to forgive and restore, and we pray that You will do so in our lives when we fail to notice the Spirit’s movements in new ways.

Finally, our faithful Father we mark, with relief, how this health situation that has affected the entire world is beginning to subside.  As we celebrate a “return” to living as we know it, grant us the graciousness to remember those individuals, businesses and institutions where the effect of the virus will continue for some time.  We know that we are closer to spiritual maturity when our joy is tempered by the suffering of others.  May we experience this wonderful blessing of life that comes from Your hand.  We do pray in the strong name of Jesus who, with His words, life and death, taught us to so act … amen.

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Benediction

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. 

— Zechariah 4:6