Table Manners

This morning we welcome Bishop Mark among us for the first time, and we look forward to him preaching for us.  Bishop, we are glad you have come to lead us in this Diocese, and we extend a very warm welcome to you today from All Saints’ Parish.

Hospitality and sharing food are core issues for Christian community, and in Luke’s Gospel we often find Jesus sharing meals with people; with tax collectors and sinners, friends like Mary and Martha, and even with Pharisees. Yet at today’s banquet, Jesus is a very uncomfortable and not particularly well-mannered guest, who challenges his host’s house rules and even his guest list.

It must have seemed like a great idea at the time.  The Pharisees invite Jesus over for dinner thinking that they can use it as an opportunity to debate theology with him, and perhaps humble this self-styled teacher a little.  But as the guests start to settle in, putting their chairs up against the table, marking their places so they could secure their spots at the dinner, Jesus arrives and challenges their self-interested behaviour.  He then tackles his host, a leading Pharisee, about the guest list that prioritised his rich and powerful friends.

The kingdom banquet God invites us too doesn’t prioritise the rich and powerful.  It’s not about who has the best seat at the table, or who will be the most important and the most recognised.  In God’s kingdom, the best places go to the humble, to those who understand that they’re no better than others, and to the marginalised, the homeless person, the refugee or the stranger.

The implications of this story, and of other parables that Jesus told, are that the kingdom of heaven is like a banquet, a great celebration, where the best places are taken by the poor, the weak and the powerless.  The kingdom of heaven is a place where the wealthy, the famous and the powerful are seated in the lesser seats.  The kingdom of heaven is a place where the first will be last and the last first.  Here, in this ‘place’, all our carefully constructed norms and patterns of living, all our priorities will be turned on their head.

In peace, Mother Lynda

Gospel Reading: Luke 14:1-14