Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Peace be with you!
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for equality – for black children to be given the same opportunities as white children. In the 1960s, African Americans were demeaned and oppressed by racism and institutional injustice in countless ways. They could not share public places with white Americans. They were forced to use designated bathrooms, required to sit in back of the city buses, and required to attend different schools than white children. They were not allowed to vote. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ’s successful practices of non-violent activism to bring about social justice, 50 years ago this week, Dr. King led the great March on Washington and gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King worked until his dying day to obtain equality for African Americans.
Jesus is having a meal at the Pharisees’ leader’s house on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1). Jesus watches the Jewish leaders take the seats of honor before he tells a parable (Luke 14:7). Jesus tells his listeners, “When you go to a wedding banquet, you should sit in the lowest place (Luke 14:10) and not in the place of honor (Luke 14:8). After all, taking the seat of honor puts your host in the position of having to ask you to move to a less prominent place and your haughtiness may lead to disgrace (Luke 14:9). However, when you sit in less prominent seats, the host has the opportunity to invite you to sit in the place of honor, which gives your name honor among the other guests (Luke 14:10). Humility leads to honor.
In the Jewish culture, it was important to have powerful and distinguished roles in society. Being invited to the Pharisees’ leader’s house for the Sabbath meal and sitting in the seat of honor signified you as a prominent member of society. No one wanted to be asked by the host to move to a less prominent seat, yet all of leaders expected and chose prominent seats. These leaders thought highly of themselves and did not expect the host to reserve the place of honor for anyone else; they expected it. Jesus challenges the norm of the Jewish culture by asking prominent leaders to take less significant seats. This way the host can give the place of honor to who he chooses, reducing the opportunity of being for public shame. Rather than expecting honor you should take the less prominent seats and have the host choose to honor you. Honor should be given – not expected.
Then Jesus turns to the host and says, “When you make your guest list for a dinner party, you are accustomed to inviting friends and family, prominent leaders, people who are rich, and others who have had you to their house as a way to return the honor. However, you should invite the poor, the disabled, the blind, and the homeless when you have a party. These individuals cannot return the favor, but you will be rewarded in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 14:12-14).
When we tend to the needs of those who are less fortunate, we invest in eternal life in God’s Kingdom. We become less conscious of what people think of us and more aware of the needs of others. We tend to the needs of others in our community. When we put aside our need to have the world honor us, God offers us the Kingdom of God as our inheritance.
The fact God invites us into his kingdom is truly amazing. We are sinners who have lost our way and are needy. We have no business in the Kingdom of God with our greedy, sinful, and guilty ways. We are not godly as God imagined us to be. Yet through Jesus Christ, we are made new again and are invited into the Kingdom of God, because he loves us so much. If God is inviting a brunch of sinners to his banquet, how can we not invite the poor, the disabled, the blind, and the homeless to our parties? If God is not worried what the angels think of him, why are we so worried about what others think about us? Radical change always forces us out of our comfort zones.
Like Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr. was calling for radical inclusion in the American society. Dr. King did not concern himself with having the right friends or the right public connections. Rather Dr. King concerned himself with what Jesus taught the disciples: love your neighbor. Like Jesus, Dr. King put himself in harm’s way and died for what he believed in. Radical change does not come about without sacrifices. Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. were both killed for standing for radical change in the justice system. How are we standing for justice in our world today?
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for radically changing the social system in our world through the great men and women of history. Help us to continue to fight for Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of equality. Remind us to continue to welcome into our communities those who are different from us. Lead us to share your blessings and mercy with others. Thank you for inviting us into your kingdom. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant located here.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Who do you invite to parties?
2. What kind of host are you?
3. What kind of expectations do you have as a guest and as a host?