Luke 14:1, 7-14
Notice just who was watching whom here… While those heavily religious people were watching Jesus as He came to their house for dinner – and watching not to learn from Him but to trap Him – He was also watching them. It’s His watching of them which leads to this parable about humility and pride. We can imagine their reaction: WHAT? Surely that’s not how it works!
And it doesn’t make sense! This whole ‘Christian thing’ – our living our lives in the way that Jesus forged and restored for us all to be living – who could blame those Pharisees for being discombobulated!
I love Will Willimon’s comment on this passage, that ‘if we are going to sign on with Jesus, we’d better be ready to have our world upended. Because Jesus looks at things differently than we look at things. …and as we follow, that’s how we are going to be given to see it all as well! Differently! Jesus calls people to follow a topsy-turvy ethic that stands the world’s wisdom on its head. Jesus calls people to follow him down a narrow way that is a showcase for a way of life that is not the world’s way’.
To people like us who – like those Pharisees – are all so easily and instinctively consumed by our own self-interest and whatever feeds our greedy ambitions, Jesus Christ introduces a whole different economy of thinking and living! We need to make peace with that!
For as long as we only see things from our vantage point – only ever looking out for what we believe is good for us – well, whatever Jesus teaches and models will always seem naïve and kind of childish! But notice what happens as we allow ourselves to move from that to this other perspective! For as long as we are grasping only for our own gain – always wanting to be the ones to win, the ones in charge, always wanting to hold on to all the power and privilege we can, what Jesus teaches will NOT make sense and will NEVER be good news! But as we come to be aligned with whom God has already made us to be in Jesus Christ so we will come increasingly to notice and to identify with those who are not so privileged, those who are marginalized and ignored, and then, well, here is the greatest hope! Because, as Jesus says: …all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
What we’re talking about may not be logical or even rational, but that we can get everywhere else! What we’re talking about is God’s economy, something quite different from what we may instinctively know! The key is ‘LOVE’.
Not the nasty narcissistic self-obsessed thing of self-promotion, but GOD’S LOVE!
We’re speaking about a love that even through us comes increasingly to look like God’s character! …a love that ‘looks’ like God!
…THIS IS US AT OUR BEST! We’re talking about that compelling impulse that gets us to act ENTIRELY for the good and benefit of ‘the other…’
Remember St Therese of Liseaux and her ‘little way’ where she described ‘Love’ as something which is motivated entirely by our letting go of ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ and instead strains to be expressed in what’s good for the other? Perfection is more about what she is able to give (to God in & through people, places, circumstances…) than about what she may try to grasp!
That’s what God’s love looks like! Giving! For God so loved the world that God gave…
It’s the love-emptying of self, for the good of us, and all creation…(Phil. 2:6-7). As we look at it all from our worldly perspective, it makes no sense. Yet, this is exactly what Christ reveals to us of our God. As we follow Christ we actually do get to see it… We actually do get to be it… We actually do get to live it. And that’s when it does begin to make sense!
I love Sarah Brightman & Jose Carreras’ singing that 1989 Andrew Lloyd-Webber classic of love, which changes everything: Hands and faces, earth and sky, It changes How you live and how you die – it can make the summer fly, Or a night seem like a lifetime – Yes love changes everything! Now I tremble at your name, because now Nothing in the world will ever be the same. And whose name were they ultimately referring to? Ultimately – surely it’s God’s name, describing the effect of God’s love impacting our lives.
‘Are you getting it?’ we can imagine Jesus asking, ‘well, now take up your mat and follow me’
Christ is always inviting us to the generosity of his outpoured love which may seem absurd to those who are not following. It’s a life that realizes that our entire existence is not just for the good of ourselves but of others, the good of the planet: Lives turned outwards…
And so, touched by God’s love – it’s as if we are ‘born again’ …as if we are getting to see everything with new eyes, different priorities… Being Christian and following Christ was NEVER about forcing personal privilege into religious dogma – instead, it’s about our coming to live lives that reflect God’s self-giving nature and generous love. As Thoreau said ‘we now march to a different drum!’ Surely, as Christ followers, that’s what we are called to demonstrate in the world: in how we live, bearing witness to the remarkable, sometimes discombobulating but always enlivening work of Christ in our lives!
However religious we may or may not believe we are, may I invite you to join me in gnawing on some aspects of this question this week.
What has not as yet been turned around in your life as a Christ follower?
How are you, e.g., now able to forgive, or be forgiven in a way that previously made no sense…?
Or, how about how you are using your time, money…? Is it still always just for yourself or are you finding yourself increasingly compelled to share…
How seriously are you taking your stewardship of our world?
How different are you from those who may not yet be aware of Christ’s impact in their lives?
…how are you & your priorities DIFFERENT from those who are NOT Christ followers?
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