Sunday, September 02, 2007

Be content with what you have...

Luke 14:1, 7-14

Today's Gospel is the one where Jesus has the (dubious) honor of being invited to a fancy dinner party. He knows he's being watched and judged... someone wants to trip him up, pull him down a notch or two. This is one of the things I love about Jesus: he's not afraid to step in it. And he's not afraid to sling it if the going gets tough.

He tells a parable and gives some advice: Sit at the lowest place. That way you don't run the risk of humiliation if someone with more prestige arrives (fashionably late) and you have to give up the choice seat,.. and end up by the bathroom or the kitchen.

I'm not sure how that works today. Sometimes there are place cards, but I've seen people swap them so they didn't get stuck sitting beside the boring aunt. If there are designated tables, the first to arrive take the chairs facing the stage. Nobody tells them to give way to the latecomers. There is no "Friend, come up higher." in our first-come-first-serve culture.

That doesn't mean the spirit of the lesson needs to be lost. Our celebrant distilled the reading into one simple thought: be content with what you have. He equated accepting life as it's given us, not as we wish it to be, as obedience. That's a new twist on the word for me. In some ways I'm pretty good at taking life as it comes... making lemonade out of lemons is an art form I've perfected. But there's more to accepting the hand we're dealt than making lemonade.

Taking the lowest place out of a misguided belief that, as a result, a greater honor will be conferred doesn't really capture the spirit of being in the lowest place. If you know that by doing it you'll gain glory and honor in heaven, then it's simply deferred gratification. Deferred glorification.

I think the pain of being lowly is part of the mystery. That's where God is in the created order. If we really want to meet God face to face, then we have to face our own imperfections and flawed motivations... life as it is, not as we wish it to be.

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