Today’s Bible reading
Then when Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. He said to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, because a person more distinguished than you may have been invited by your host. So the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place.’ Then, ashamed, you will begin to move to the least important place. But when you are invited, go and take the least important place, so that when your host approaches he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up here to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” — Luke 14:7-14
More thoughts for meditation
In this time of quarantine, this teaching takes on another level of complexity. How can we speak about being guests and hosts right now when nobody is throwing parties? While we are in quarantine together, it will be good to reflect on the implications of Jesus’s reversal of social assumptions while praying about our posture towards our neighbor and our own assumptions.
A cultural connection we still somewhat maintain is the “order” of seating at our weddings. For many around the world, seating is still assigned, and often the people with more honor are seated closer to the wedding party. When Jesus told this parable it was because he was currently at a dinner party. Look at verse 7 “when Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.” Jesus was certainly not afraid of stepping on toes–or taking charge of a party and redirecting everybody’s focus. Jesus is contrasting what represented societal norms, at least the norms of the people in the room, with the society of God’s people, of which he is the head.
Suggestions for action
Jesus is addressing two major groups–the guests and the hosts. As a guest in God’s world how does this teaching affect our posture? What does it look like to seek the lowest “seat” of honor as a posture for a disciple? Let this question sink into your heart. Is this teaching offensive for you? Why does Jesus encourage a posture that assumes last rather than first?
As a host, Jesus audaciously tells us to have a party and not just invite our friends and family. What is he getting at here? Are the two roles of being a guest and being a host connected at all? How can this teaching be applied for us in our contexts? Comment in the section below if some creative ideas to meet our culture with the teachings Jesus offers here. Answer the question: how can we host a party prioritizing the poor?
Imagine: Take a few minutes and imagine yourself at a wedding. There are hundreds of guests all mingling in a ballroom or outside in a large courtyard. Everybody from your neighborhood is there. As the guests begin to take their seats, you notice instead of signs that tell you where to sit, you have to rely on the social capital and connection you have within your neighborhood. Where do you sit? As you scan the available seating arrangements you see friends and neighbors taking their seats, some are gathered at the front jockeying for seats close to the wedding party. Then you see Jesus. Where is he sitting? Imagine walking over to him and asking him for help in finding a seat.
Pray using our breath prayer for this week: Breathe in saying, “Holy Spirit” and breathe out saying, “open my heart to your love.”
I love the idea of asking Jesus for help in finding a seat. In situations like these I usually make my decision based on how I am feeling. If I’m tired or not strong emotionally I’ll look for a friend. If I’m feeling loved and full of energy I’ll look for someone who is sitting alone Generally I have pretty loud SHOULDS inside my head. I SHOULD go sit with the person who is alone . I should call my neighbor. I would love to check in with Jesus, truly my closest friend, get love, support and direction from Him, and then go call my neighbor or maybe not. I would love to take the time to listen and let the spirit lead.
My first reading of this teaching reminds me of Ched Myers’ quote that Jesus saying “the poor will always be with you” is less about the inevitability of poverty and more about the social location of the church. I’m convicted that any attempt on my part to “help the poor” comes from within the safety of my relative economic security amid a suburban neighborhood. I’m reminded of the need for proximity- to Jesus, to one another as the church, and to the materially “poor” who have so much to teach we rich about relying on God for our daily bread, among other things.
Taking a second look at the passage though, I notice that Jesus’ instructions to guests start with “when you are invited…to a wedding feast,” and his instructions to hosts talk about “when you host an elaborate meal…” I’m aware of how far removed we are from Jesus’ cultural context and I wonder about the frequency of such “elaborate meals” in Jesus’ context vs. ours. Nonetheless, it brings to mind Holy Week and the performative nature of our remembrance of Jesus’ march to the cross. Each night we tried to get into Jesus’ shoes a bit, or at least those of his first disciples, to walk with him. This teaching about elaborate meals/wedding feasts then strikes me as a sort of Jubilee re-enactment. Just as God’s people were called to periodically “reset” their economic and social status when inequality crept in, this wedding feast teaching seems like a performance of that idea. If you would walk in to an elaborate meal expecting a place of honor at the table, maybe because you had “earned” it in some way according to the socioeconomic calculus of the world, take the most humble seat instead. If you have the resources to give an elaborate meal, invite those who have “lost” the capitalistic “game,” again according to the socioeconomic calculus of the world. If inequality has crept into your spheres of influence, reset everything and start over.
I still don’t quite know how to do this in my life, but I sure want to try.
It is part of our suffering love to keep wanting to try, right?
Yes, I think so. Jesus leads us into suffering love by suffering first and most (even death on a cross!). It seems like we follow best when our following looks like his leading.