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Sit Down

Luke 14:1(2-6), 7-14

The Rev. Jon Roberts

29 August

2010

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

1 One sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. 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?” And they could not reply to this.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “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; 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. 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. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

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Jesus Sits by the Seashore and Preaches, James Tissot (1836-1902)

Sit down, sit down with Jesus.
On this day He will sit with you.
When you pull up a seat, it's simple.
Be humble, be good, and be true.[1]

Last week we were called to stand; to stand up for Jesus. After all, one day He will stand for you. Today we are called to sit down; to sit down with Him at the table. It's a starting point. We started this morning with a collect, a prayer in which we asked God to graft within us a true religion. A true religion begins in a lowly place. We are invited to start there.

One morning you go to the mailbox. You open the little door and take out what is inside. You quickly deduce what is junk mail and what are bills. Neither of which interest you. Then there is a letter, with a handwritten address from a very important person you know in the community. Inside is an invitation and you have been asked to attend a dinner party at their house. In your head you check the date and with great pleasure you promptly submit your rsvp. Before the event you think about what you're going to wear.

On the night of the event, you show up on time and knock on the door. A servant greets you and asks to take your coat, your belongings, and promises to put them in the next room. You look around and see a group of people who you'd like to join. After you go in, appetizers go round, and you mix and mingle. While in this group you discover one person is starting up the conversation and they have an agenda, a central theme they feel is important. They begin by saying, "If the person next door to you gets sick, and they have to go to the hospital on a Sunday, would it be right for a doctor to take care of them?" Here's another. "If you are on the road and you get a flat, would it be right to change it, or leave it and just call somebody to pick you up?" The central theme for discussion is "Is it right to work on a Sunday?"

You know, there used to be a time in America when everyone stopped working on the Sabbath. It was widely held in our highly Protestant nation. Not so anymore. It wasn't that long ago that grocery stores and gas stations closed on a Saturday night and did not to open again until Monday morning. It was rare to get a hold of a doctor on the Sabbath unless it was a real emergency, and your broken-down car could wait by the roadside. That's how it used to be. Not so anymore. Not so. After the trail of fond remembrances and the appetizers thin out, there is a brief pause as people say to themselves, "What a shame." "Not so" says one in the crowd who challenges the mainstream. He gives his reasons why and once more there is a pause. There is a welcomed sigh of relief however when the servant announces dinner is ready. The thought is put away and everyone is attuned to the appetite. Everyone goes into the dining room and waits to be seated. The one who was the conversation starter in the group goes immediately to the chair at the right side of the host's seat and sits down. This was a huge social faux pas, and it revealed their prideful nature. How embarrassing it was when the host interrupts, "I'm sorry but that place is reserved for somebody else." "You're going to have to move." Do you know anyone like that?

In our Gospel today, who was the honored guest to sit beside the host?[2] Jesus happened to wonder this himself as he too was invited over for dinner that night. He not only heard the dinner conversation, but He was also the one they asked the questions. There was a mix of religious ethics blended with national politics. They thought Jesus would join along. He sat down with them to discuss such things with parable at hand. He joined them but took them somewhere they didn't expect. He led them to a place of humility. If faith is said to be passive, then humility is active. Jesus actively took the opportunity to teach the Sabbath as intended, a faithful time to glorify God.

The virtue of our faith is the action of our belief. When a doctor heals a person, he brings glory to God. It was God who taught us everything we know about medicine. When a person stops to help a person by the side of the road, changing their flat and getting them on their way, they glorify God. It is God who provides protection for those in need. There is no violation of the Sabbath if the people who serve are doing it out of humility. Humility is an active virtue and must be maintained to help those who are poor in spirit. To help and to serve one must maintain a similar posture. They must be low down, sitting down their pride preferably. The Presbyterian, George Buttrick said, "Books give lists of virtues, but there is only one virtue: the lowly acknowledgment of God. Books give lists of major sins, but there is only one sin: self-worship, our attempt to set ourselves at the center of the world. Lowliness springs from gratitude; Lowliness springs from reverence; Lowliness springs from knowledge of sins forgiven; Such lowliness God honors".[3]
Is it right to work on a Sunday? This question comes up again. After reading over the Ten Commandments once more, I discovered that it says, "Keep the Sabbath Holy." It does not say, "Take the day off." When we come together, we centralize the importance of Jesus Christ, passively by faith and actively in humility. Each one of you is here because you understand the virtue of humility and how it begins with first acknowledging there is a God who is the host of Heaven and who governs the world. He has set the table with precision, and He has sent His messenger, His son, Jesus to invite us over for dinner. It is at the Eucharist where we dine on his body and his blood with great humility. We do not rush into it and claim we deserve it. The opposite is the case as we feel unworthy when we partake.

Let this be a day you approach God in a lowly place in order that true religion springs forth humbly confessing that Jesus is Lord. Sit down, sit down with Jesus. On this day He will sit with you. When you pull up a seat it's simple. Be humble, be good, and be true. Come, sit down.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Luke 14:1-14
[3] George Buttrick, The Interpreter's Bible: Vol. 8, Cokesbury: NY, 1946, p.253.

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