Blogging Towards Sunday, August 29th
Jesus is invited to a meal at the home of a prominent religious leader. It’s like he’s been invited to be watched in some sort of paparazzi religious-examination way. And yet ironically as the story unfolds we see that it’s actually Jesus who is doing the watching. Like many of the gospel episodes, this one unfolds around food and the sharing of a meal: the basic experience that flavors and empowers human relationships and community.
Jesus talks about hospitality, humility and honor. He offers weird advice. I doubt that Miss Manners would agree with his subversive tidbits of politesse: Throw parties. Invite those that can’t return the invitation. Don’t seek a place of honor. Give without seeking repayment. He’s turning the world upside down, challenging his listeners to new ways of being and acting. In the Ancient World honor was paramount. It was something earned through one’s actions and passed on through one’s blood line. Being worthy and important was something you earned and then somehow passed on through your DNA. But Jesus sees it differently. As usual he’s healing multiple people in this story, not just the man suffering from dropsy. I find myself if this anonymous religious leader regretted having invited Jesus over to his place, and if he ever invited him back.
What does it mean to be hospitable, humble and an honoring host in the context that Jesus is describing? I've always heard that this parable basically tells us to be humble, to put others before ourselves, to put ourselves last. Yet I hear Jesus talking more about a different way of being, a subversive one that not only goes against the ways of the world (and Miss Manners) but also changes the world when we live that way. Victor Hugo wrote about this notion in his famous novel Les Misérables (now a prominent Broadway Musical and movie.) Here's a clip of the first 9 minutes of the Hollywood movie version. It's about minute 8 that this notion of hospitality and giving without expecting to get a return is treated when Jean Valjean returns to the Bishop's house, having been caught by the police with a bag of silverware stolen from the parsonage.
What would our churches look like if we offered hospitality that way? If we made place for others : children, those abled differently in terms of physical abilities, and those with different faith backgrounds and histories? We often talk about being an inclusive, multicultural church, yet to what extent are we willing to truly be this? Where is the line when it just becomes too uncomfortable, scary and subversive?