Updated: Oct 16, 2019
1. Back in June of 1978, I spent the summer as an exchange student in Holland.
2. The program coordinators tried to prepare me for culture shock,
3. But after getting off the plane in Amsterdam,
a. riding with a strange new family in the car,
4. and seeing the house which would be my home for the summer, my head was spinning.
5. It was then that my exchange student brother, the only one in the family who spoke some English, asked me, “Are you hungry? Do you want a sandwich?”
6. “Yes” I exclaimed. Sandwiches! Finally, something familiar.
7. IN a few minutes we were all seated at table.
a. There were plates of cold cuts and cheese, sliced bread and butter.
8. I dug in!
a. I took two slices of bread,
b. slathered them with the butter,
c. piled a few slices of cheese and ham on them
d. picked it up to take my first humongous bite . . .
9. And I looked up at my exchange student family,
a. who were looking at me with expressions of horror.
10. They were all sitting there,
a. with a single piece of buttered bread on their plates,
b. with either a slice of cheese
i. OR a slice of ham on it,
c. with a knife and a fork in their hands, ready to eat it
i. as we would a piece of steak.
11. After a moment, my exchange student mother reached out, patted me on the arm, and said something to her son that I did not understand.
12. Later I asked him what she said.
a. He replied, “She said, ‘Don’t worry we’ll teach him how to eat before we take him out to meet anyone.”
13. That experience taught me that meals are important.
14. Because they are not just the way we fill our stomachs,
15. But the way we structure our families, friendships and our lives;
a. Who here does not notice who sits at the head table at a banquet, a testimonial dinner or a wedding reception?
b. Who here has not thrilled at the invitation to an exclusive Gala, reception or cultural event?
c. Who here has not bristled at who gets invited – and who does not! – to family events, holiday parties and of course, Thanksgiving dinner?
16. When we understand and accept that structure,
a. we are accepted and welcome at the table.
17. But heaven help us when we do not.
18. Which brings us to the unfortunate dinner party we hear about in this morning’s Gospel.
a. Back then a dinner party took place at “U” shaped table.
b. The host would be at the bend of the U and his guests would be arrayed to his left and to his right.
i. The most favored guests would sit closest to him,
ii. those less favored at the ends.
19. A leading Pharisee was the host of this sabbath dinner.
20. and one of the guests this sabbath was Jesus.
21. Everyone was observing Jesus carefully,
a. intent on finding out whether Jesus understood and accepted the way they ate at table – whether he was one of them.
22. They soon had their answer.
a. For Jesus noticed how some of the guests were trying to take the prized places closest to the host,
23. And so he speaks up, telling them that those who did this were setting themselves up for humiliation when the host tells them to move.
a. Not exactly a conversation starter over the hors d’oeuvres, to be sure.
24. And if that were not enough, he goes on to say that the guests at a dinner
a. shouldn’t be friends or relatives
i. or people who could pay you back with a dinner of their own.
ii. In short, shouldn’t be the very people at table with Jesus and his host,
b. But the poor the cripple the lame and the blind.
c. People none of them would have invited.
25. You probably could hear crickets!
a. We can almost imagine one of Jesus’ disciples, leaning over and patting the leading pharisee’s arm saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll teach him how to eat before we take him out again.”
26. Being a boor at a party is not exactly the image we have of Jesus.
27. It’s difficult to understand until we notice something.
a. Look at the citation in your worship aid.
b. It says Luke, and the first number is the chapter, then after the colon, those are the verses.
i. Do you notice it? Verses 2-6 have been left out.
c. In those verses we discover that Jesus blew this party up before it even got started;
i. Because he healed one of the guests - on the Sabbath.
ii. ON a day when no work was permitted
iii. In the house of a leading pharisee. And if that wasn;t upsetting enough,
1. He then challenged anyone there
a. to tell him he was wrong for doing it.
2. And told them
a. that if the person who was ill were important enough to them, they would have all done the same.
d. That is the context for Jesus’ criticism of their own self-importance.
e. That is the reason for his criticism of the choice of guests.
28. Jesus wasn’t being a boor; he was being a prophet
29. He challenged that group of well-heeled guests to realize
a. that gathering at table was not just the way they organized their social calendar.
b. IT was the way God organized the world.
c. And at God’s table, all are invited.
i. Especially those who at our tables wouldn’t be.
d. And in the way we respond to them, we show whether we should be.
30. That day, sitting at lunch in Holland, with my host family staring at me like I just crawled out of a cave.
31. I realized I did not know the customs, the rules,
a. I did not even know the words for things in a place that would be my home for months.
b. I never felt so alone.
32. But my Dutch mother was true to her world.
33. The next day she sat me down after breakfast,
a. and with a Dutch/English dictionary at her side,
b. patiently taught me the names for things,
c. And with a piece of bread, taught me to eat with a knife and fork.
d. I will never forget it.
e. IT was the beginning of my being brought into their culture, their language and their world. and it began at a table. Where, I knew, I was welcome.
34. Jesus proclaimed God’s word to a group of people gathered at table In today’s Gospel.
a. 2000 years later we do the same here this morning.
35. Jesus’ words of radical welcome of course pertain to this table,
a. And the way we respond to people who answer God’s invitation to be here.
36. But our response isn’t just about how we treat one another here;
37. It is about how we treat one another
a. in our buildings and at the office,
b. at sports and at school.
c. on buses and trains.
d. in refugee camps and detention centers.
38. For Jesus vision of a world as a table where all are invited
a. May well be rooted in this table we gather around this morning,
39. But it is lived out in the way we take that vision from this table
40. and share it at all the other tables we sit at in our lives.
41. All are invited. All are welcome. We are here this morning because we heard that from someone; Others are waiting to hear that welcome too; maybe they are waiting to hear it from you.