Monday, August 22, 2016

A Seat at the Table – 28 August 2016 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost/ Lectionary 22/ Proper 17

Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus' words were not merely practical advice about humility, but a parable providing insight into the great differences between divine and human values.

It is unsurprising to see people scrambling and competing for honor, wealth and power. . . Jesus rejected such jockeying for position then and does so again in this story. It is important to note that Jesus is not offering an alternative means of competition for his followers. Competing to be the most humble would still be focusing on self. Instead, Jesus invites the listener to recognize that the character of God is self-giving love.

The one who follows Jesus in his way of revealing the divine will not be concerned about how he or she is regarded by others. The follower of Jesus will be concerned instead with the needs of the neighbor and how those needs can be served. A life of loving service grows from the ground of humility, not self-promotion or pride. Jesus emphasizes this teaching concerning humility with a pronouncement of reversal. Although in human relations those who put themselves forward are usually rewarded, it is not so in relation to God.

In verse 12 Luke prepares the reader to recognize that what follows is a new but related teaching. Jesus speaks to the host concerning expectations of reciprocity. Just as he criticized the behavior of guests scrambling for the most honored place, he also rejects every sort of social arrangement that is driven by concern for self. Instead of seeking relationships that are mutually beneficial, the one who is in tune with God's way of self-giving love will serve those in need. . . It is better to use one's wealth to serve those in need than it is to serve one's own ambitions, social or otherwise. These temporal relationships offer only a temporal good; compassion for those in need yields an eternal benefit. – Aaron J. Couch

Proverbs 25:6-7

Chapters 25 through 29 of Proverbs are identified as “other proverbs of Solomon that the officials of King Hezekiah of Judah copied.” It is not difficult to imagine how these sayings might have given practical guidance for young men in the royal court. Verses 6–7 encourage a circumspect demeanor in the presence of the very powerful. This advice anticipates the theme of humility in the gospel text. It is misleading, though, insofar as it prepares the listener to hear Jesus' teaching as a similar sort of helpful counsel. – Aaron J. Couch

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Chapter 13 begins with a series of exhortations concerning faithful living. To follow this way of life (mutual love, hospitality, marital fidelity, contentment) is to attain the holiness that is pleasing to God (12:14). The author appeals to memory of leaders and to Jesus' reliability, perhaps using a creedal statement known by the letter's recipients. The purpose of this appeal (to resist strange innovative teachings) is obscured by the lectionary's selection of verses. The reading concludes with the author's summary exhortation. A believer's faithful conduct, both in word and deed, is a sacrifice of praise and is pleasing to God. – Aaron J. Couch

Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.

Homily Service 40, no. 10 (2007): 5-14.

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