Sunday, 1 September 2013

Jesus the controversial dinner guest

                                           Sermon Notes
                                          Date: 01/09/2013
                                       Text: Luke 14:1-14 Jesus at a Pharisee's House

                           Anything wrong with healing?
If Jesus could heal even at a dinner in someone's home then it's not out of place to heal in a church building. So I say shall we have a healing service today? Seriously, shall we ? Does our law allow healing at church or not?

At the mentioning of a healing service some of you might be having these thoughts: I would have gone to a Pentecostal church if I wanted a healing service. This is Methodist church and we don't touch people during church service. Any healing service would have to be organised and notice served so that those who wish to attend can do so. No spontaneous healing here please. Just like the audience of Jesus, you can't say it loud.

What was Jesus supposed to do after seeing the predicament of the man? To tell him now is the time or place for healing? It's not just about rules regarding healing. By Jesus' action, he is telling us to think deeply about application of rules. We should show grace and mercy in applying our rules.  Is such law to please God or humans?

By strictly following rules, procedures or guidelines, we are limiting the glory of God. You often hear people in leadership complaining bitterly about rules and regulations. You would hear someone saying, I know the rule doesn't make sense but I can't help. Rule is a rule and must be obeyed. They are scared of the repercussions that would follow should they break the law.

Our hands shouldn't be tied by rules. Our rules should free people from bondage, hunger, sickness, hatred etc. If for example our rules, procedures and guidelines have prevented some people from joining us today, then such rules are harming the growth of the gospel and the kingdom of God.

                             Picking up the good places.
Let's now turn to the discussion Jesus had with his fellow guests. Jesus turned round and saw that people were scrambling for the high table, and he said to them, "when someone invites you to a dinner, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you might have been invited. If so, then the person who invited both of you will come and say to you "Give this person you seat". In some well organised wedding feast, tables are labelled before the guests arrive. Even that you will still see people swapping places either to be closer to friends or some VIP's

Note the audience Jesus was talking to- Pharisees. Their Jewish heritage made them considered themselves first in God's consideration. Many Christians today think the same. For the fact we're here and the rest are out there we think we're better than them. Some denominations think they're better than the rest. Some pastors and preachers think of themselves so highly. Some churches/fellowships wouldn't invite others to their programmes because they're not their "class". Our leadership roles, church attendance, friendship with some prominent people in society or within the church shouldn't be construed to mean we're better than others. Jesus' warning is- do not elevate yourself else you will be humbled. Humble yourself. Take the lowly place and God will lift you up.

                              And you too-Mr host
Having finished addressing his fellow guests, Jesus turned to the host of the dinner. Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

When did you, family, group, or church have anything to celebrate? Who did you invite and why? What was your motive for inviting Mr A and not Mrs C?  Some of us wouldn't invite friends or families let alone total strangers.

My local church has been having BBQ for the past 5 years. This year we decided to invite others to join us. Guess who we invited? Another local Methodist church. Why? We have lots in common- we share the same Minister, we have many friends and have similar nationalities. Guess what they said when they were leaving- Be our guest next year. Exactly what Jesus is talking about. We have been repaid if indeed they do invite.  Nothing wrong with us inviting them or they inviting us back. The point is- what's special about that?

Jesus isn't necessarily saying we should not invite; friends, relatives or neighbours at all. His worry is the exclusive nature we go about it. If we invite our friends and they invite us back, what's special about that? Even atheists do that. Jesus is therefore asking us to go beyond the usual family and friends when we send out invitation. What about the other people; different denominations, faith, race and social class? Wouldn't it be great if my local church decide to invite our immediate neighbours to our BBQ next year?

What Jesus is saying is this- extend your benevolence and hospitality beyond the "normal" people. We give gifts and presents to friends and family members and many of them never get used. There are many people in our church, block, and across the road who can't afford the basic necessities in life, and Jesus wants us to think about them when we sit down to have our meals, and when we're wrapping our presents. He wants us to think beyond the normal box. There are many people suffering in silence and Jesus is asking us to think about them. Their smiles as a result of our hospitality will release blessings from heaven.

Jesus might have been invited to the dinner for a wrong reason but he made good use of the occasion. The host provided the physical food, and Jesus offered the spiritual food. The guests were full. They had more than they bargained.

May the Lord help us to look beyond the immediate family and friends.