Sunday

‘For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ (v. 11)

Luke 14:1, 7-14 Sunday 28 August 2022

Psalm 112

Background

In two short parables, Jesus uses the image of a special meal to say something about his vision for human community. He overturns normal social expectations. In the 1st century AD hosting a dinner party was an important part of the social system in two ways. Firstly, where you sat at the table demonstrated, and potentially also established, your social status within the community. The more important and respected people sat nearer the top of the table. Jesus challenged this hierarchy and called on people to be humble, putting others before themselves. Secondly, this unofficial system of social status through special meals rolled on and on because if you attended a dinner at someone else’s home, you had to issue a return invitation. You needed well respected people to come to your party so that they would then invite you back and make you look even more respectable. Jesus challenged this self-centred system of exchange by calling people to deliberately invite those who could not issue a return invitation – those without their own place, or who did not have the wealth to be throwing dinner parties. In his vision of social exchange, the focus is not on self-centred social climbing, but on inclusion for those who had usually been left out in the cold.

Building 'social capital’ through networking is an inevitable part of any community. and people can use it for good or for evil. With these parables, Jesus shows that those who already have wealth and power should not use their status to gain even more social standing but instead they should share their status and influence, especially with those who are most vulnerable. He turns on its head many of our common assumptions about how human community works. So often individuals approach social situations thinking 'What will I get out of it?’ Jesus wants us instead to ask ‘What can I give to others?’

 

To Ponder:

  • What social situations today can you recognise as being similar to the special meals Jesus describes? How could you tell those as stories which would become similar parables?
  • How do you experience life as part of different communities, and where do you recognise the issues of power and influence that Jesus is addressing with these parables?

Prayer

Hospitable God, who invites us all to the table of your love, help us to put others before ourselves, to resist the temptation to seek a place of honour, and to invite people to share with us without expecting anything back, so that together we can move closer to the vision for community offered by Jesus. Amen.

The Methodist Church welcomes readers' comments, respectfully requesting all posts are on topic, constructive and courteous. Thank you.

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