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August 28th, 2022

Sermon by Pastor Ron Nelson

August 28, 2022, Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Turtle Island

Sirach 3:17-29, Psalm 68 3:3-10, Hebrews 12:18-24, Luke 14:1-14

IF YOU LOOK IN THE FRONT OF THE ELW, PAGE 46, UNDER LECTIONARY 22, YEAR C, YOU WILL

SEE SIRACH IS AN “OR” FOR TODAY. I DO NOT KNOW WHY THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT SIRACH

THAN THE ONE I AM USING BUT AT LEAST THEY ARE HONOURING SIRACH. LIKE WISDOM,

WHICH WE USED THREE SUNDAYS AGO, SIRACH IS IN THE APOCRYPHAL DEUTEROCANONICAL

BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. THIS SECTION IS BETWEEN THE OLD TESTAMENT (OT) AND

THE NEW TESTAMENT (NT). MANY MORE BOOKS THAN WHAT IS IN THE CANON, WHICH WAS

APPROVED IN ABOUT 300 AD, WERE WRITTEN AND THESE HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED BY MOST

CHURCHES. TODAY’S BOOK’S FULL TITLE IS, ‘THE WISDOM OF JESUS SON OF SIRACH’.

IF YOU HAVE NOT BOUGHT A BIBLE RECENTLY, WHY NOT BUY THE “NEW REVISED STANDARD

VERSION OF THE NEW ANNOTATED OXFORD BIBLE WITH THE APOCRYPHA.” NO, I DO NOT GET

A COMMISSION.

SIRACH WAS WRITTEN IN ABOUT 180 BC AND SEEMS TO BE WRITING AGAINST THE GREEK

PHILOSOPHERS. QUITE FRANKLY, THOSE PHILOSOPHERS WERE/ARE A PROBLEM. THE NT AND

MOST OF OUR THOUGHT PATTERNS TODAY WERE INFLUENCED BY THE GREEKS AND WE LOST

THE ABILITY TO “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.” AS I SAID NOT TOO LONG AGO, THE HEBREW

WRITERS ALWAYS RECOGNIZED THERE ARE/WERE ALTERNATIVES TO THE WAY WE THINK. SO

AS THE GREEK WRITERS WERE NARROWING DOWN THEIR VIEWS OF GOD, SIRACH WAS

SAYING, LOOK AT THE WISDOM OF ISRAEL LEARNED IN THEIR LONG RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

NOW I KNOW MANY PEOPLE GIVE UP ON THE OT BECAUSE OF THE KILLINGS AND THE

MISTRANSLATIONS OF GENESIS ETC. BUT IN DOING THAT, WE MISS WHAT WAS REALLY BEING

SAID. THE WRITER OF SIRACH IS STRESSING THE ESSENTIAL ROLE THAT HUMILITY PLAYS IN THE

LIFE OF PEOPLE WHO SEEK TRUE GREATNESS. REMEMBER THIS WHEN WE TALK ABOUT EATING

AT THE TABLE.


I JOKE ABOUT THE FACT THAT IT IS, “HARD TO BE HUMBLE WHEN YOU ARE PERFECT IN EVERY

WAY.” THE TROUBLE IS MANY LEADERS DO NOT PRACTISE HUMBLENESS, GENTLENESS,

COURTESY, AND CONSIDERATENESS. SIRACH SAYS, “WHEN CALAMITY BEFALLS SOMEONE

PROUD, THERE IS NO HEALING.” THIS SHOULD BE THE “BACKGROUND MUSIC” FOR OUR LIVES.

DO WE WANT TO HEAR THAT OR DO WE WANT TO HEAR THE MUSIC OF THE “HORN-

HONKERS?”

THE GOSPEL STORY FOLLOWS THIS UP WITH THE BIBLICAL HUMILITY THAT JESUS IS TALKING

ABOUT. “FOR WHOEVER EXALTS HIMSELF WILL BE HUMBLED, AND WHOEVER HUMBLES

HIMSELF WILL BE EXALTED.”

THE LETTER OF HEBREWS FOLLOWS UP ON THAT BY PUTTING OUR SIMPLE CHRISTIAN ACTIONS

ON A LEVEL OF SYMBOLISM ANYONE WOULD ENJOY HEARING. FOR INSTANCE, WE CAN

ACTUALLY “TOUCH” THE GOD AMONG US AND COME INTO CONTACT WITH GOD’S SPIRIT AS

WE INTERACT WITH THE PEOPLE AROUND US. COVID DID NOT ALLOW THAT AND WE ARE STILL

SUFFERING FROM SOMETHING BEYOND THE ACTUAL CAUSES OF THE DISEASE. YES, HEBREWS

HELPS US SEE WHAT A GOOD LIFE CAN BE. SOMETHING WE HAVE BARELY TASTED IN

MOMENTS OF GRACE.

THIS IS THE SORT OF VISION THAT FREED JESUS TO BE JUST EXACTLY WHO HE WAS, WHETHER

OUT ON THE ROAD, OR PRAYING ALONE, OR AT A PARTY. JESUS LOVED PARTIES/BANQUETS.

WE NEVER HEAR THAT HE REFUSED THE OFFER OF A GOOD MEAL. AND ONCE HE WAS AT THE

PARTY, HE WOULD TRANSFORM THE TABLE INTO A SPACE FOR EVANGELIZING REPARTEE. YES,

JESUS HAD A QUICK MIND AND A SPLENDID GIFT OF “REPARTEE.” [I LOVE THAT WORD.] WHEN

JESUS WAS AT A MEAL THERE WAS ALWAYS SOME CONTENTION, “WHY DOES HE LET HER

TOUCH HIM?”, “WHY DOES HE EAT WITH SINNERS?”, “WHY DO THEY NOT WASH THEIR

HANDS?”, AND FINALLY AT HIS “LAST MEAL,” “THE ONE WHO WILL BETRAY ME IS WITH ME AT

THIS TABLE.” BUT JESUS ALSO HAD ENOUGH WIT/REPARTEE IN EACH SITUATION THAT EVEN IN

THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD WHEN IT WAS/IS NOT VERY PEACEFUL, IT WAS/IS NEVER

BORING.

DOING WEDDINGS WAS NEVER MY FAVOURITE MINISTRY BUT WEDDING BANQUETS WERE

FUN UNTIL A COUPLE YOUNG MACHO GUYS HAD TOO MUCH TO DRINK. [WATCHING AN OLD

PASTOR DO THE CHICKEN DANCE ALWAYS GOT SOME PEOPLE EXCITED. I AM SURE THERE ARE

SOME HOME MOVIES OF THAT HAPPENING.] WEDDING BANQUETS WERE ONE OF JESUS’

FAVOURITE SYMBOLS FOR THE REIGN OF GOD. SO, JESUS WOULD USE THE OCCASION TO

EXPLAIN WHAT THE REIGN OF GOD COULD/SHOULD BE LIKE. GET OUT OF THE RUT OF ALL

PEOPLE HAVING TO BE THE SAME. REPEATING THE SAME OLD IS LIKE SERVING LEFTOVERS

WEEK AFTER WEEK. SO JESUS SUGGESTED THEY START INVITING NEW PEOPLE TO THEIR

BANQUETS.


BECAUSE OF OUR SANITARY LAWS TODAY, THE RESTAURANT CANNOT TAKE THE LEFT-OVER

FOOD AT A BANQUET TO FEED THE HUNGRY BUT I KNOW OF TIMES WHEN THE GUESTS TOOK

THE LEFTOVERS TO A COMMUNITY FOOD KITCHEN. MAYBE NEXT TIME THEY COULD INVITE

SOME OF THE STREET PEOPLE TO THE BANQUET???

I GUESS THAT IS WHY AT 82+ I KEEP WRITING SERMONS, SO THAT WE CAN LOOK AT THIS

PORTION FROM LUKE TODAY AND SAY IT IS JUST OFFERING US SOME WISE ADVICE. I THINK

THE WRITER OF LUKE GIVES US SOME REASONS THAT HE WANTS US TO SEE MORE THAN JUST

GOOD ADVICE IN THIS TEXT. THIS IS A SABBATH MEAL IN THE HOME OF A PHARISEE WITH

SOME “CHURCH” PEOPLE. JESUS’ ADVICE ABOUT SEEKING A LOWER PLACE AT THE TABLE

SOUNDS LIKE GOOD SHREWD ADVICE. BUT IT HAS TO BE MORE THEOLOGICAL THAN THAT OR

WHY AM I HERE?

LUKE’S GOOD SAMARITAN AND THE PRODIGAL SON PARABLES WERE MORE FASCINATING. BUT

THIS PARABLE IS TOLD IN THE SECOND-PERSON SINGULAR AND WE RECOGNIZE THE TYPICAL

AND THE ORDINARY. THE OTHER TWO PARABLES I JUST MENTIONED SEEMED PRETTY

OBVIOUS BUT THIS ONE HAS TO BE LOOKED AT MORE DEEPLY.

SO LET US AGREE THIS IS NOT A PARABLE ON MANNERS, SOCIAL ETIQUETTE OR THE LIKE. IT IS

NOT TELLING US HOW TO SECURE GOD’S GOOD GRACES AND GAINING SOME HEAVENLY

PAYBACK. YOU SEE JESUS KNEW WHO HE WAS. SO WHEN HE WATCHED/WATCHES PEOPLE

JOCKEYING FOR POSITION, THERE HAD/HAS TO BE A PLAYFUL GLINT, A TWINKLE IN HIS EYES,

WHEN EVERYONE IS FINALLY SETTLED IN THEIR PLACE AND THEN JESUS SAYS, “NEXT TIME YOU

GIVE A BANQUET, INVITE, THE POOR, THE CRIPPLED, THE LAME, AND THE BLIND.”

DINA AND I JUST HAD LUNCH WITH A FRIEND WHO BECAUSE OF A FIRE IN HIS APARTMENT

BUILDING ENDED UP LIVING WITH SOME “EXTREME CHRISTIAN PEOPLE.” WHEN THE GROUP

GETS TOGETHER, THEY LIKE TO EAT. OUR FRIEND MADE THE MISTAKE OF SAYING, “WHY DO

YOU NOT SHARE THIS WITH THE HOMELESS” AND AS THEY SAY, “THAT WENT OVER LIKE A TON

OF BRICKS.”

WHAT COULD HAPPEN AT SUCH A DINNER? THE ENTIRE TENOR OF THE GATHERING WOULD

CHANGE AS THE GUESTS ENTERED INTO THE SACRAMENT OF THE TABLE WHERE EATING

TOGETHER CAN BE A LIVING EXPRESSION OF SHARED HUMANITY. YES, EVEN IF JESUS SAID IT

LIGHTHEARTEDLY, HE WAS SERIOUS ABOUT THE GUEST LIST. EVERY MEAL JESUS SHARED WAS

ABOUT COMMUNION. EXCLUSIVITY IN COMMUNION IS ALWAYS SACRILEGE. IN FACT, IF WE

ARE THOSE WHO ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR CONVERSIONS, THIS IS IT. SEEKING COMMUNION

WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT IS WHAT IT IS REALLY ALL ABOUT. YES, AS OUR VALUES

GET REARRANGED, IT WILL BE UNCOMFORTABLE BUT IT WILL LEAD TO ENJOYING THE PEACE


OF COMMUNION AT THE MEAL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR US - - FOR ALL OF US, WITHOUT

DISTINCTION.

WHEN THE ORIGINAL GROUP GATHERS A FEW WEEKS LATER, THEY MIGHT BURST INTO

STORIES ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES, ABOUT IDEAS AND PERSPECTIVES THEY HAD NEVER

BEFORE IMAGINED. IT IS NOT HARD TO IMAGINE JESUS SAYING, “THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE IN

THE REIGN OF GOD.” IN FACT, FOR INSTANCE, BY USING SIRACH TODAY WE ARE TELLING THE

ORTHODOX AND ROMAN CATHOLIC’S THAT WE ARE AT LEAST JUST AS OPEN TO THE WORLD AS

YOU ARE.

TODAY’S READINGS FOCUS ON HUMILITY AND TEACH US HOW TO ATTEND TO THOSE WHO ARE

THE MOST-NEEDY. AFTER ALL THESE CENTURIES LATER, THEY SEEM ESPECIALLY RELEVANT

TODAY. FOR US TO KNOW HOW TO CONDUCT OURSELVES WHEN WE LIVE IN A CULTURE THAT

PROMOTES SUCCESS, POWER, AND SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT AT EVERY LEVEL, IS SO

IMPORTANT. AWARENESS – BOTH OF SELF AND OTHERS – IS ESSENTIAL. JESUS CALLS US TO

FOREGO OUR OWN WANTS, PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE IN NEED AND EXPECT NO REWARD IN

RETURN. THAT SOUNDS A LOT EASIER THAN IT IS AND SO WE CONTINUE TO TALK ABOUT IT.

YES, IN JESUS’ DAY, SHARING A MEAL WAS A PROFOUND ACT OF SOLIDARITY. TO SIT AT A

TABLE WITH SOMEONE IMPLIED THAT YOU WOULD PRAY TOGETHER, AND THAT IMPLIED YOU

SHARED A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND WITH ONE ANOTHER. WHILE NOT EVERYONE

PROBABLY THOUGHT IT THROUGH IN THOSE TERMS, JUST LIKE WE PROBABLY DO NOT DO IT

EITHER, BUT THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT IT WAS/IS ALL ABOUT. THAT WAS WHY THE JEWS COULD

NOT EAT WITH THE GENTILES, THEY DID NOT PRAY IN COMMUNION, AND THEY COULD NOT

EAT WITHOUT PRAYING? THEREFORE, THEY COULD ONLY EAT WITH “THEIR OWN.” SO SAD!

QUITE SIMPLY FOR THEM AND US, ENTERING INTO COMMUNION WITH ALL GOD’S PEOPLE

DOES NOT PUT US ON THE SOCIAL PAGE OR SOCIAL REGISTER BUT ACCORDING TO JESUS, GOD

WOULD BE IN OUR DEBT. AS I SAY, THAT IS BEYOND MY PAY GRADE, MY PURVIEW. BUT IT

SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD TO ME. YES, I/WE NEED GOD’S MERCY, AND WHEN WE RECOGNIZE

THAT, WE WILL FIND IT MUCH EASIER TO OFFER MERCY TO OTHERS. I AM SORRY I AM

LITERALLY NOT THERE SO THAT WE COULD BE EATING AND DRINKING AROUND THE TABLE

TODAY.

INCIDENTALLY, THE LEGEND OF KING ARTHUR’S ROUND TABLE WAS THAT THERE WAS NO

PECKING ORDER AMONG THE KNIGHTS. EVERY KNIGHT WAS EQUAL.

SIMILARLY, THE FAMILY KITCHEN TABLE IS/WAS THE SYMBOLIC, IF NOT A LITERAL PLACE

WHERE THE FAMILY PRAYS, SHARES FOOD, MEMORIES ARE PRESERVED, LAUGHTER REIGNS,

EVERYONE MATTERS AND YES, SOMETIMES WE EVEN CRY TOGETHER.


THE TABLE IS NOT A PLACE OF COMPETITION OR ACCOMPLISHMENT, IT IS ONLY A PLACE OF

FELLOWSHIP AND WELCOME. IS IT ANY WONDER, THEN, THAT THE TABLE IS ALSO THE

CENTRAL PLACE OF GATHERING AND COMMUNION WITH GOD AND WITH EACH OTHER. THIS

TABLE OF THE LORD IS THE HOLY PLACE WHERE THE VISION OF JESUS FOR A NEW WORLD

BEGINS TO TAKE PLACE. AT THIS TABLE, THERE IS NO POSTURING. WE ARE ALL EQUALLY IN

NEED OF FORGIVENESS, OF GRACE, OF GOD. AT THIS TABLE THERE IS NO COMPETITION, THERE

IS ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE. AT THIS TABLE THE ONLY WAY TO COME TO IT, IS WITH HUMILITY,

WITH OUTSTRETCHED HANDS AND BEING OPEN TO ALL. IF IT IS TRUE HERE, AT THIS TABLE,

MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, IT IS AND WILL BE TRUE EVERYWHERE ELSE AS WELL. YES, THE MEAL IS

OVER, JESUS STANDS UP FROM THE TABLE, AND HOPEFULLY WE WILL REMEMBER THAT

EVERYWHERE JESUS IS, THERE WILL BE A FEAST/A BANQUET. AND WE WILL REMEMBER THERE

IS ROOM FOR EVERYBODY AT THE TABLE, NOBODY CARES WHO SITS WHERE, AND EVERYBODY

SHARES IN ABUNDANCE.


BUILD A LONGER TABLE,

NOT A HIGHER WALL,

FEEDING THOSE WHO HUNGER,

MAKING ROOM FOR ALL.

FEASTING TOGETHER,

STRANGER TURNS TO FRIEND,

CHRIST BREAKS WALLS TO PIECES,

FALSE DIVISIONS END. [ACS 1062 V. 1]


MAY WE BUILD SUCH A PLACE AMONG US

WHERE ALL PEOPLE ARE EQUAL IN LOVE.

GOD HAS CALLED US TO WORK TOGETHER

AND TO SHARE EVERY-THING WE HAVE. [ELW 523 V. 3]

LET US GO NOW TO THE BANQUET,

TO THE FEAST OF THE UNIVERSE.

THE TABLE IS SET AND A PLACE IS WAITING,


COME, EVERY-ONE,

WITH YOUR GIFTS TO SHARE. [REFRAIN]


AMEN.

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