What a party!

29 August 2010
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17C (RCL)

Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

Not so sure what to do with the passage from Jeremiah. I wonder what it means to have changed gods. Have we done it? I’m sure there are plenty of people who would say that the US has gone off the beam — we took down the 10 Commandments from courthouses, no prayer in school, that sort of thing. But I wonder if we, the church, have ever fallen into the trap of changing gods. Baal was the god of fertility (along with his mother/consort Asherah). He made the fields and flocks produce (as well as human society). Have we ever fallen into the seductive trap of measuring the “success” of the church in ways that are in fact detrimental to the life of the Church?

But I’m much more interested in the passages from Hebrews and Luke. Hospitality — that’s sounds a lot more fun. Hebrews reminds us to keep our eyes open. Who are the angels among us? Luke, as so often, sets the teaching of Jesus at a banquet. Banquets were pretty much the way society organized itself in the time Luke was writing. Who invited whom, where you reclined at different tables, all told you who you were. So, making sure not to think so highly of yourself — that was pretty standard advice for banquet goers, nothing shocking or novel here. But invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind? That’s unusual. These people could not have brought honor to their host, and they certainly couldn’t have returned the invitation. So, Jesus says, you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.

Usually, we read that to mean that God will repay us for the kindnesses we do for those “less fortunate” than ourselves. But, really, the implication is that those folks will be our hosts at the great party at the resurrection of the just. They are the just. And, they will know how to throw a party. The people who are coming to the exercise class at Advent (the old and crippled, some of them) have a great time while they are here, and insist that we put out the donation basket — they want to be able to repay, even a little. The definition of poverty is not having anything anyone else would want, not being able to offer anything to the community at large. Jesus reminds us that these folks would throw a party if they could, and will, when they can. And that’s the party we want to make sure we’re invited to.

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