Be My Guest
Luke 14:1(2-6), 7-14
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
1 One sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. [2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?” 4 But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?” 6 And they could not reply to this.] 7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Luke 14 Banquet, Hyatt Moore, 2015
Be our guest! Be our guest!
Put our service to the test.
Tie your napkin 'round your neck, [cherie]
and we'll provide the rest.
Soup du jour
Hot hors d'oeuvres
Why, we only live to serve
Try the grey stuff
Don't believe me? Ask the dishes
Be our guest! Be our guest!
It would be hard to find someone who has not seen the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast.” It was released as a children’s animated film in 1991, made into a Broadway musical in 1994, and then into a live action film in 2017. What began as a curse, ended as a blessing. The prince turned away an old lady who appeared at his banquet, a hag, who cast a spell on him, transforming him into a wild beast. All his servants were turned into furniture, clocks, candles, and dishes, until he broke the curse by finding true love. Where would such a beast be able to find true love. Of course, it begins with hospitality. Love is preceded by hospitality.
Like the main character so many of us live a simple life, who wish that someone would come into our lives and provide kindness, generosity, and love. Where do we see such beauty being served these days? Maybe a lot of it is just fantasy. Maybe it is what we conjure in our heads. To think that one day, there will be a prince, a king, who will sweep us off our feet and bring us to a royal, high place of honor. There, we dream of being lavished with an abundance of music, food, drink, dancing, and laughter. This is where our imagination ends, and reality begins. In most ways, we may not have been dealt such a hand. Not everyone can be served. I guess, most people have to be servants before they can be served and there simply have to be more “haves” than “have nots.”
We would like to think, it could be different. Imagine, if you will, this common situation. You go to a restaurant and are greeted by the hostess. They show you your table, give you menus, tell you what specials are offered tonight and ask you if you want anything to drink, possibly hors d'oeuvres. Do you appreciate your waiter or waitress? Maybe you tie your napkin around your neck, but do you put their service to the test? “Why, we only live to serve” is lip service. Do they really want us to put their service to the test? How can anyone live to serve and be as happy as those dishes seem to be in the movie. I imagine after a ten-hour day, those waitresses and waiters, get home, take off their shoes and socks. Rub their sore feet. Count their earnings and realize they must do it all over again tomorrow because there are still more bills to pay. Underneath the service is the plot. You serve because you have to.
Restaurants usually take a day off on weekday, not a weekend. How nice to have a day off. This is of course, for those who can work. We have seen there are those who are served and there are those who serve them, but there is a third type. There is the person who cannot serve due to ailment. They may be sick, they may be impaired, or they may even be degenerate. Whoever they are, nobody really wants them in the restaurant. Nobody wants them invited to the banquet. Nobody wants them at the table. It’s rare, but they might just show up on the occasion.
That is what happened in the Gospel today. A large wedding banquet was held by a ruler. He was a member of the Pharisees, the ruling political-religious class. This was a ruler, and these were people of the first type. They were the ones used to being served. Follow the level of hypocrisy here. It was a Sabbath, a day no Jew was allowed to be working. It was against God’s command, when he said to Moses, “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Remember, just last week Jesus healed a woman with a deformed back, who could barely walk for eighteen years. They criticized him then, for healing her on the Sabbath as that act was considered work. Here, another Sabbath instance, and Jesus is getting in trouble again.
It gets better. Jesus is one of the guests, most likely because his name and deeds have traveled to where the Pharisees are unnerved by his presence. They don’t like what they are hearing of this miracle man. They invited him to the banquet to wine and to dine him. They said, “Come, be our guest. Be our guest. Put our service to the test.” If this was a wedding banquet, it was a big deal. The guest list had to be a premium spot. As Jesus tells in his parable, you invite those who will one day serve you. You invite your friends and family, your kinsmen and your rich neighbors, this was one of the Rulers of this class of people, and there were many there who would one day pay him back. Jesus was no different a guest in his eyes and he knows the trap is sprung. He knows the grey stuff is not delicious. He should know, He asked the dishes.
Then, at the banquet, not certain how he got past all the servers, the guards and so forth, along enters a man with “dropsy” to the event. Isn’t that odd. A man who can barely walk, with great pain in his feet, happens to get inside the banquet. He comes near Jesus. Out of all the guests, and we must assume there were many, this degenerate man happens to go to Jesus. Jesus, known for healing the lepers, blind, and paralyzed was confronted with this situation. Accused of violating the commandments of not working on the Sabbath a week ago, it was like somebody was trying to prove Jesus will be a repeat offender. It is the time before everyone is called to sit, the servers are prepared to usher in food, beverage, and entertainment…remember, on the Sabbath. Hold on to that detail; And now we have a tense moment. What will Jesus do? He looks at his enemies, all of them, and he asks a question, to which they had no answer. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” These were not only political and religious leaders, but they were also lawyers. If he demonstrated anything that resembles work this could be the smoking gun to accuse him. This holy occasion would be the scandal of the day when they hear an invited guest did actual work at his big event on the Sabbath. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Maybe they expected him to lay hands on him. That’s work. Maybe they expected he would go into a lengthy prayer, anoint him with oil, chant the psalm, or something, but he did not. As they were silent, a miracle for lawyers to begin with, he healed the man. He actually did it!
Not only was he able to silence those who hated him, he glorified those who were exploited by them. The parable, he uses goes further about the seating chart. At a wedding reception, everyone knows the place of honor is nearest the bride and groom and their parents. The table furthest away, is not. Where do you think Jesus’ place card would be at this royal occasion? It had to be the lowest. The place that could have been mistaken for the servant’s table. It is here, where Jesus said we should assume belongs to us in the kingdom of heaven and his kingdom on earth. The honored guest was the man who had dropsy. He was escorted to the place of honor by Jesus to the Father in the act of healing. All the others embodied the Beast. Those who have so much power and lord it overall, who are so blessed to serve them, will be dethroned. The lowly will be exalted, and the exalted will be lowered, he went on to say. At this banquet, every corrupt member of the ruling class was there. He provided a miracle, which was evidence of God’s generosity, hospitality, and beauty. The Beauty is always greater than the Beast who demands love rather than to serve love.
If more people in the world learn what it means to serve others who are the lowest, maybe we will see the human condition rise to a better place. We will never be able to serve God more than He has served us. We are lowly and He is mighty, yet Jesus came to serve. If we attend to God’s people, to love and to serve, then maybe we can break the curse of Adam. Let us live by the example of Christ, who heals each of us when we turn to Him, not only for love, but for life. He wants to raise you up, to care for you and to heal you, but maybe you have to tie your own napkin round your neck, so He can take care of the rest. There is nothing He can’t do. Turn your life over to Him as you can almost hear Him say, “Be my guest, be my guest. Put my service to the test.”
 Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, “Be our Guest” in Disney’s movie, Beauty, and the Beast, 1991.
 Luke 14:1-14