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2016.08 Trinity 14

SERMON (based on Luke 14:1, 7-14)


If you put the word “rules” into the Google search engine you will find that there are over 1,060,000,000 sites referring to rules. We just can't seem to get away from them.

Some of the rules protect and some are used to suppress or stifle.


To navigate in our world we need to get a fix on the rules, both spoken and hidden. If we move into a new situation then we have to figure out how to act. This is why beginning a new job, moving to a new area, or going to a new church can be so difficult.


Some may recall both the terror and the anticipation of going to a new school. Think of those who turn up in our church for the first time. What are our hidden rules?  Where can I sit, when do I stand, am I allowed to take communion?  The problem is “they” have set the rules before we got there, and who “they” are is never clear”. But, we know that their agenda is a minefield through which we may have to navigate


Whilst knowing the rules helps us to move into new and different places, some rules can be part of a silent or hidden agenda. They are there to maintain control and domination, by those already there and this is especially true if we are deemed to be an outsider, a non-local; not from this Island. And for the outsider, the rules can be used to keep them in their place; to keep them in the dark and to make them feel less sure of their calling


When we are unsure of the rules, when we are struggling to find our place in a social context, when we are trying to find out how things operate in a new place, where nothing is transparent and rules are not clear or even shared, it is hard to know what is important and what is not important


Humans will act with great compassion to those who are defined as “in the group”  and yet we will often be irrationally spiteful and destructive to people we define as “outsiders.”


Religion and theology are major ways we define insiders and outsiders.  We will fight and divide over almost anything.  Christians can and have, created major division over one word in a creed. We have created division over the type of communion wafer being used and we have created division even over the songs we sing


Luke tells a story about a  dinner where everyone is trying to get the best place at the table. Where do we fit? Who are the best seats for?  We all want to know where we stand, how we're doing, how we measure up. We seek that sense of order by comparing ourselves to others. This is why social pecking orders are so important. It would be rare for any of us to not be keenly aware of, and not invest importance in the pecking order of the various groups we're apart of.


And so here comes Jesus telling the man who's invited him to his home for supper, and who also just happens to be a leader of the Pharisees, who are the most pious people of his day, that his (and our) pecking orders aren't worth diddly- squat.


More than that, Jesus is inviting the Pharisee (and again us) to defy the pecking order and to turn it on its head. How would the world ever exist if we did this? Jesus proclaims here and throughout the gospel that in the kingdom of God  there are no pecking orders

None. Zero. Zilch.


And while that sounds like it ought to be good news, it throws us into radical dependence on God's grace and God's grace alone.



Jesus says our standing before God is not based on our accomplishments, is not based on our wealth, or positive attributes, our position in society, is not based on our good looks, or our IQ. There is nothing we can do to establish ourselves before God and the world. We can only rely upon God's desire to be in relationship with us and with all people. Which means that we have no claim on God. Rather, we have been claimed by God and invited to love others as we've been loved


A unifying theme of all Scripture is God's profound interest in two kinds of relationship. The relationship we have with God, and the relationship we have with each other and creation. We can't, of course, separate these two relationships. However we cut it, it’s difficult to claim much of a relationship with God if our relationships with the people around us are broken.  But this also works in reverse, as well


As we see in today's reading it is precisely because we have been invited into relationship by God, in that God has granted us freely, a dignity and worth we could never secure for ourselves, which means that we are free, and encouraged to do the same for all others.


We are free to put them before ourselves


We are free to lead them to seats of honour


We are free to invite them to be our dinner guests, not because of what they can do for us, but because of what has already been done for all of us in Jesus.





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