Sermons 2007
"Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Proper 17C 2007 Luke 14:1,7-14

The gospel reminds us of one of the stories last Sunday, the one in which the woman wanted her church to be isolated from the realities of the world outside. She wanted only beauty and serenity and comfort for her worship. And she wanted heaven to be the same but even more so.

No doubt the leader of the Pharisees who had invited Jesus to Sabbath dinner wanted the same thing for his dinner party. I imagine that Sabbath dinner in the Palestine of Jesus’ day was analogous to the Sunday dinners that we remember from our youth. Maybe it’s like that in many places, where brunch out hasn’t replaced it. Those Sunday dinners were often a time when families and friends gathered around the table and the cook of the house always tried to make it special. It usually involved chicken in some form or another, rice and gravy, green beans, fresh baked biscuits or corn bread, and a homemade dessert. And, of course, gallons of sweet iced tea. There was plenty of everything. Afterward the adults would sit around and talk for a while and the children went outside to play. It was a time of strengthening bonds within families and friendship circles.

Occasionally outsiders were invited in. Sometimes they became part of the Sunday dinner circle, but not often. Sunday dinners tended to be exclusive rather than inclusive, Only those who fit into or added to the circle’s comfort zone were included permanently. The occasional outsider, the different person at the table, tended to reinforce the comfort zone by the uncertainty of his or her presence. Usually the dinner circle was unconscious of its attitude and behavior.

Those Sunday dinners and their social circles were often the mechanism by which someone who was likely to become a permanent member could be introduced to its members and its folkways. How many of us remember bringing an intended spouse home for dinner? The outsider, the newcomer, soon to be an insider if all went well, may well have felt like a specimen under the microscope. Some never made it into the comfort zone of the dinner circle.

Jesus was not interested in the comfort zone of the group gathered around the table that day in Palestine almost two thousand years ago. He too was under the microscope – Saint Luke tells us that they were watching him closely. He would not have been invited again for Sunday dinner down home. In fact he might well have been invited outside and asked to leave. It certainly would have been uncomfortable for the dinner circle.

After all, what host wants to be lectured on table manners in their own house? But that isn’t the point Jesus was making. He was trying to shake the Pharisee leader and his friends out of their smug arrogance and certitude. Jesus wanted the dinner guests to realize who was the true host and what it was all about.

Consider this: When God is throwing a party, you never know who will be there or whom you will sit next to. The financier will be seated next to the panhandler he always passed on his way to work. The store owner will be next to the person he just fired, and the doctor will be put next to the woman who just sued him for malpractice. Rush Limbaugh may be beside the unwed mother on welfare. Pat Robertson and Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria might have to sit with a gay man between them and lesbian women on their other sides.

All the "right" people will be there -- that is everyone who responded to God's invitation. They will have nothing at all in common except that they answered our Lord’s call to come to the table. And seated next to the host -- Jesus -- in the places of honor are not the dignitaries, the celebrities, the distinguished people of position and prominence, but rather the poor, the hurting, the outcast -- people who have distinguished themselves only by their need. And all of us would be outside their comfort zone.

It will be like no other dinner party we have ever been to. And we would be foolish not to RSVP, Yes Lord, I am coming. (1)


1. Martin Copenhaver, “How to throw a party”, Library of Distinctive Sermons, vol. 2, Multnomah Press, p. 48, (adapted.)