Monday, September 27, 2010

Yesterday's Sermon

Don't ask me why I forgot to post this yesterday. . .

Trinity 17 – September 26,th 2010 – Luke 14:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Pride. Pride can be a horribly bad thing for a person. It’s pride that keeps a man from asking directions when he is lost. It’s pride that keeps so many silly feuds and spats going long after they should have been resolved and mended. It’s pride that makes a one person avoid another, instead of simply being able to give the simple, polite apology that is needed, keeps one from forgiving someone else. Pride can ruin relationships, bring sorrow and misery and loneliness. We know this – sadly we’ve probably been bitten by pride in our own lives. That’s bad enough, but what is worse is when we are acting prideful in front of everyone else, and that pride is undercut from us, and we are knocked down a peg, and brought to shame. This is what we see in our Gospel lesson this morning.

So, our Lord is dining with the Pharisees, and they have basically brought Jesus there, in their own pride, to watch Him, to keep an eye on Him, to see if He is going to misbehave. This is a very prideful approach – if I were to invite you to an event just to chastise you, ask you a question just so I could mock your ignorance, it would be the height of pride. But, while these Pharisees had been eying Christ, He had been watching them as well. We hear, “Now He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they chose the places of honor.” What’s the old line – the hunter became the hunted? Here they were expecting to critique Christ, and He is going to critique them instead. And Jesus notices something – that these people end up jockeying for position, that they in their pride are very concerned about receiving their proper due, of having people laud them and notice them – they want to been seen as being one of the good folks.

So Jesus speaks. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.” Imagine walking into a wedding reception, and just sauntering up to the head table, taking a seat, and then, when things are filling up, and almost everyone is there, having the father-in-law come and say, “Hey buddy, you’re at the head table, get on out of here so the bridal party can sit there.” Can you imagine the shame that this would be – everyone looking, watching, waiting for the bride and groom, and then there you go, traipsing along to the back corner of the room trying to find an open seat. Now, of course, this isn’t speaking to mere seating in a dinner, but to all aspects of your life. Whatever it is that you brag, that you boast about – you can always be taken down a peg. And that is humiliating, that is shameful, that is hard.

But, of course, there is the other side of this coin as well. The parable continues, “But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you.” So let us say you act with humility, act in an unassuming fashion, that you don’t try to draw attention to yourself. And then, the Groom sees you, smiles, comes and greets you, pulls you up front so you can meet his bride. Wouldn’t that be so much better? In fact, wouldn’t that do a whole lot more for your image, if you were being image conscious? I’d rather be suddenly and unexpectedly praised instead of publicly humiliated. So again, if you act with a little humility, it will be better for you, better for your fame, your friendships, your reputation, just how you get along in the world. For as our Lord says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So. Is that it? Shall we just call it quits 5 minutes or so into the sermon having gotten our handy party tip of the week? No, for the point of this text isn’t merely the practical benefits of humility for ones social standing. No, there is a theological point here. Consider when Jesus tells this parable. What happens at this very same dinner immediately before this? “One Sabbath, when He went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching Him carefully. And behold, there was a man before Him who had dropsy.” So, there Jesus is, invited to dinner, and there is a man who needs to be healed. And remember, the Pharisees are watching Him. This is no accident that this man wanders in, this is a test, this is the Pharisees in pride desiring to complain about Jesus. If He heals the man, they can complain. If He doesn’t, they can treat Him as weak and powerless. And what of the man with dropsy – a gross, nasty, painful disease? What would he be doing in all this, other than just standing awkwardly, knowing he doesn’t fit in, doesn’t belong at this party of the hoity-toity and well to do? How awkward for him, how cruel. So, what will Jesus do? First thing, He turns the tables on the Pharisees. “Jesus responded to the lawyers and the Pharisees saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’” This is fantastic – Jesus sees that this is a set-up, and so He throws the ball back into their court. Alright fellas, you are so smart and so wise, tell Me what I should do. And they remain silent, otherwise they walk into the trap that they had set. And so then, “Then He took him and healed him and sent him away.” And then Jesus has pity on this man, and He heals him, gives him that wonderful blessing, and then sends him back to his own friends and family. Just sort of simple and matter of fact – because the whole situation is just sort of matter of fact. “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” Duh. You help people. You care. You show love – that’s what you are to do. Don’t work and be greedy on the Sabbath, don’t focus on gain, but be generous with your love. And the Pharisees are brought to shame, and in their pride, they are cast down.

This is part of the lesson – that when we act in pride, God will lop us off at the knees. God will humble the person who exalts himself. If you want to with your actions make a big deal of yourself, if you want to act the proud fool, God will eventually demonstrate that you are merely a fool with nothing to be proud over. However, there is the beautiful part of this. What about the times where you realize that you are sort of lowly and helpless? What about the times when you are downcast, downtrodden? That is when Christ Jesus will come and will lift you up with His most precious Gospel. The man with dropsy, that is the picture of who you are Are you ill with temptation, are you sick to death of your sin? Christ Jesus speaks a Word of life and forgiveness to you. The sin that clings to you, that is forgiven. The taint that infests you, it has been washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism. Christ didn’t come to deal simply with social problems and physical troubles, but He came to win eternal life for those made weak and lowly by their sin. And how does Jesus win you this salvation? Does He come sauntering into the world displaying princely might and saying, “Alright you scum, listen up cause there’s a new sheriff in town”? No. Jesus saves those who are humbled by their sin by humbling Himself, by being born of a virgin in a meager stall, of being raised in a simple family, by living a live of holiness that never aggrandized, never gained Himself anything, by riding into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey, by remaining humble as insults and accusations are hurled at Him, by remaining humble as He is mocked, as the crown of thorns is placed upon His head, as the nails are driven in to His hands and He is left to hang and die naked on a cross. This is how Christ humbly comes to save you who are humbled by sin.

And then, on the third day, our Lord rises to life. The Father sees His humility, His humble and perfect obedience to the Father’s will, and Christ Jesus is raised to life and elevated and glorified. After His resurrection, there is no more suffering, there is no more humiliation. He reigns in glory now. And here is the beautiful thing. He invites you to the eternal wedding feast – the eternal celebration of the love that Christ Jesus has for His bride, the Church. That wedding language wasn’t an accident. And Christ Jesus sees you, sees you here in His Church. If you are haughty, if you are proud, too busy to tend to the things of God… eh, nothing for you. But you here, you who take the place of humility, who gather here and confess your sins, what does Christ Jesus say to you? Your sins are forgiven. You are even raised unto everlasting life in the new heavens and the new earth. Our Lord says to you, “Friend, come up higher, come here to My table and join with Me in My Supper, My precious Body and Blood, given and shed for you.” He calls you up to these great things. This is His great love for you.

And so, my dear friends, abandon and forsake pride. It does you no good in life, in your relationships, but only brings pain, disappointment, isolation, and embarrassment. But more than that, do not let your pride keep you from confessing your sin, for Christ Jesus has died to give you forgiveness, and in His love He promises that you who by faith in Him know that you are humble will be exalted by Him forever. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and Holy Ghost +

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