August 28, 2022 – Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Our summer series of guest preachers continues this week with Rev. Deb Stanbury of ARISE Ministry holding forth from the pulpit, though we don’t have a virtual worship service to offer. Don’t despair! You can always enjoy our services for the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost from 202o or from 2021. Or, check out our entire worship services archive.
Yours in Christ,
Update Monday, August 29, 2022
Good news! We have Rev. Stanbury’s sermon text which we’ve posted below. And to give it context, we’ve included the scripture passage on which it is based too. We hope you enjoy.
Rev. Deb Stanbury
A movie about seating arrangements at a wedding was released around the same time as my sister was figuring out seating arrangements for her own wedding. This movie, “Table 19” centers around a group of strangers seated together at a wedding. The guests are trying to figure out if “Table 19” is a good table, when Eloise sits down, she is the bride’s oldest friend.
Some take this as confirmation of being seated at a good table. We find out that Eloise was to be the maid of honour until she was dumped by the bride’s brother. She had helped with the seating arrangements and “Table 19” is the table for misfits, whose presence at the wedding is according to the mother of the bride, inconsequential.
The group of misfits at “Table 19” get into some mischief, form unlikely bonds, find belonging with one another, and are transformed into family.
Truly, it seems amongst the most stressful and anxiety inducing parts of the wedding planning and celebration is the seating arrangements. It is stressful for the couple planning the wedding; and it can feel awkward searching for your name and then the reassurance that somebody else you know is seated with you.
Our passage from Luke’s Gospel suggests this negotiation around where to sit at a wedding wasn’t less awkward or stressful in Jesus’ context. Without the aid of perfectly scripted place cards, there’s likely a lot more awkward and embarrassing moments around this. Jesus’ advice is to find Table 19 and sit there, it is better for your host to find you there and invite you to a more honourable place, than be demoted to a place of less honour.
Jesus gives this advice gathered around the meal table of the Leader of the Pharisees surrounded by lawyers, Pharisees, and the wealthy elite. On the way to the dinner, which is occurring on the Sabbath they encounter a man with dropsy. Jesus poses a question, “is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” These lawyers and lawmakers are silent, and Jesus heals the man.
They come to the home of the Leader of the Pharisees. The guests gather around the dinner table, where Jesus is the invited guest of honour. Jesus observes how the guests are negotiating who will sit where.
Jesus offers, when you are invited to a wedding, “do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished has been invited, and you are asked to move.” This may be a window into the ways Mary has taught Jesus about table manners and etiquette.
Jesus ends what seems like a lesson on manners by saying, “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” For this isn’t a lesson on manners and etiquette at all, it is a parable, a narrative of a common, everyday type of situation, that points beyond itself. The lesson is about humility and generous hospitality, not manners.
Then Jesus tells the host, “When you host a meal, do not invite your friends or relatives or rich neighbours, in case they would invite you in return and repay the favour.”
“But when you host a banquet,” Jesus says, “invite those who are poor and marginalized, those with physical infirmities, those who are blind and disenfranchised.” Invite those who cannot repay you, the ones who do not get invited anywhere. Invite those whose presence some might deem, “inconsequential.” It matters more than you realize. You will be blessed and repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
What does it mean to be repaid by God? What are our expectations of what this means or looks like?
Jesus then emphasizes this point, with the Parable of the Great Dinner. A man holds a banquet, the invited guests decline, and his servants are asked to go into the roads and lanes, and compel people, – the marginalized, the outcasts, the strangers and misfits to come in.
A few years ago, I participated in a workshop on public art as an invitation to justice and in particular art in worship. This was part of a larger conference with the theme of being, “At the Table.”
In our workshop, we posed questions like: whose seat at the table is missing? At this conference? In our churches? In wider society and decision-making processes? And what might their seat look like?
Then using chairs as a medium, we went about creating visual answers to these questions. A chair was made with an eviction notice and empty food bowl, it spoke of hunger and food scarcity. The question too many are faced with about whether to pay for rent or pay for food? What happens when circumstances change, and you can’t pay for either?
Barbed wire was wrapped around a chair, behind the bars backing the chair, were faces in black and brown skin tones, invoking questions about the prison industrial complex and justice.
There was a chair that invited conversations about how we treat the earth. A chair that asked us to think about how we create barriers for gender non-conforming people particularly through the use of binary language in our hymns and liturgy.
Another chair featured a headrest and braille, it asked the question, “who is your table built for?” Calling us to recognize the ways there are some very real physical barriers around the table, our tables as not accessible to all.
Another chair made visible, the invisibility of the exploitation of children and their presence in the sex trade.
How would you answer these questions? What would the chair you create look like? Who is missing around your table? How have you invited those who are marginalized to the table?
This congregation’s support of ARISE Ministry has been a form of invitation. Your financial contributions lead to hope being offered, helping relationships being formed, and belonging being found. Your support creates a seat at the table and offers hospitality, and we are so grateful.
In the time before COVID, ARISE Ministry was hosting a monthly meal with soup and bread around our table. We’d collect yogurt containers and send home leftovers. If people arrived late in the afternoon, after the meal had ended, soup was reheated. It was my favourite day of the month.
It did not matter how much was going on or if I had stayed up late or woken up early to bake bread or peel carrots. I went away feeling filled, repaid in ways I could not quite put into words every time. I have missed these meals, and the blessing in them.
The hospitality extended in sharing a meal together, connects us. It matters so much, especially for those who might not ever be able to repay it.
Earlier this summer, I shared a meal with a group that had been meeting fairly regularly online through COVID but had not all been together face-to-face for a meal. An elderly widower in the group had tears in his eyes, thanking our host, it had felt like a long time since he had been invited to sit at a table and enjoy a home cooked meal.
Brendan Byrne writes of these parables on hospitality that they shed “so much light on Luke’s understanding of the mission of Jesus and the vision of God it implies. The “banquet” image accurately conveys what the “kingdom of God” is all about — not power and domination, like the kingdoms of this world — but gifting and honouring human beings with the super-abundant hospitality of God.”
Jesus’ mission is about love, and generous hospitality is central. The image that best conveys what the kingdom of God is about, is the image of a banquet.
So “let mutual love continue and do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…”
One of my favourite songs, is “Crowded Table” by the Highwomen; its lyrics say,
I want a house with a crowded table
And a place by the fire for everyone
Let us take on the world while we’re young and able
And bring us back together when the day is done
The door is always open
Your picture’s on my wall
Everyone’s a little broken
And everyone belongs…
I love these lyrics because they are for me what our passage from Luke and my understanding of God’s kingdom and this mission of “super-abundant hospitality” looks like. Coming to church is not about having faith and life all figured out. It is about presence not perfection. Being present with and for one another and being aware of the presence of God with us.
At our best, Church is a place where the doors are always open. Where the pictures of our community, past and present, and those who have joined the communion of saints present with us, are on the wall. A place where we acknowledge that we’re all a little broken, and in that discover the ways we belong together.
Let’s extend the table, pull up more chairs, invite people in, and participate in God’s mission of “super-abundant hospitality.”
To God be all the glory. Amen.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2022-08-29 23:00 – Added Scripture and Sermon.