FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
September 2, 2007 (Lectionary 22)
Proverbs 25:6-7 or Sirach 10:12-18
Psalm 112 (Ps. 112:4)
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Psalm 81:1, 10-16 (Ps. 81:16)
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
1. CONTEXT: Luke 14:1,7-14
Since Pentecost 11 (Lk 12:13—21) we have been dealing with themes surrounding the coming Reign of God. The texts have concerned themselves with one’s preparedness for the coming Day. The focus has narrowed considerably in the last two weeks dealing with the End of the Age questions and warnings. In Luke 12:49-53 (Pent 13) Jesus speaks of the coming divisions among those who area a part of the Reign of God and those who oppose it. In 13:22-30 (Pent 14) the warnings continue surrounding those who are inside at the banquet and those who stand outside desiring entrance.
In Luke table scenes are formative for the explication of the gospel in its eschatological reality and its social reality in the present. The issue here and elsewhere is one of status. Who one invites to dinner and by whom one is invited are means of climbing the social ladder. “Jesus’ advice is not simply worldly wisdom but a warning that those who consider themselves privileged may be humbled. Likewise inviting the poor and the outcasts is not simply a more prudent way of achieving status in God’s eyes. Jesus suggests that meals be the occasion for a very different kind of relationship among God’s children” (Juel and Buttrick, p. 37).
Taken from the perspective of Reign of God themes, our text seems to have little or no connection what what precedes it. Outwardly it appears to be yet another controversy story between Jesus and the Pharisees contrasting proper table manners of those who would maintain perfection of the law and Jesus’ new command to love. However, the imagery of the Messianic banquet in 13:22—30 and the sabbath meal of 14:1 provides a direct connection with the text under consideration. The issue is one of more than proper table manners, it is a question of an open acceptance of all under the coming Reign of God.
That Jesus chooses yet another table scene to teach concerning the Reign of God should be of no surprise, for in the Synoptics (and in the church) it is always at table that the disciples see and know Jesus best.
2. ANALYSIS: Luke 14:1,7-14
vs. 1 archonteo —a ruler
The significance of archonteo is not clear. It may refer to rulers who belonged to the Pharasiac party, or to rulers of the synagogue, or to leading men among the Pharisees.
The situation appears to be a meal following the sabbath service in the synagogue. That Lk should record that this particular meal took place on the Lord’s day reveals a tie to proper behavior in THE Lord’s day.
vs. 7 kalein (kekleimenogon, and variations) —to invite
Most generally this word is translated “to call” or “to invite,” though there is a special nuance which suggests the more distinctive sense of “vocation.” This gives rise to the main question from the standpoint of biblical theology and serves to bind the whole section together: 14:8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 16, 17, 24; cf 5:32 and 7:39.
kalein is an ordinary word which acquires special significance through the naming of salvation as the basis and goal and especially of God as the Author and Consummator. God calls His own by grace and to grace. He does this finally and definitively through Jesus Christ, who is the fulness of grace.
ekelegomai (exelegonto) —how they chose
Two Lukan passages (14:7; 10:42) which use this word bear the meaning “to select from among many possibilities” or “to decide between two possibilities.” However, in its use in the LXX it is translated as “elected,” thus a link with the idea of God’s election.
protoklisa—place of honor
Where one sat at a banquet depended upon rank and distinction at this time; after AD 300 it depended upon age. The top place at a Jewish meal was at the head end of the table or the middle of the middle couch. (Cf. 14:8; 20:46 par Mk 12:39/Mt23:6).
vs. 9 sxaton—last, least, lowest
Matthew speaks of the ‘worse’ place (eitten) and the arrival of the inferior guest. Luke’s use of sxaton draws the mind of the reader beyond the earthly feast and its table manners to the final feast, the eschaton, the reign of God.
vs. 10 This verse is parallel to vs 9, however, it is stated as a positive command rather than as a negative command.
'ina— so that— expresses the result rather than purpose.
vs. 11 tapeinoo (tapeineystai) —the one who humbles
Three passages in the NT (Mt 23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14) contain this saying. The saying has an OT basis and there are Rabbinical parallels. It is a two-membered mashal whose very form betrays its Jewish origin. In using it Jesus adopts a basic experience of the Israelite and non-biblical world but makes it into a saying expressing God’s eschatological work, as may be seen from the future form.
In Lk 14:1 the saying comes at the end of an illustration which is modeled on Proverbs 25:6ƒ (the OT Lesson for this day). The starting point in Lk. is the ambition of the invited guests. The conclusion demands submission to God’s decision rather than arrogant anticipation of it.
Jesus is speaking to adults. He is conscious of their lost childlikeness before God. He thus gives humility a special nuance. It is to become a child again before God, i.e., to trust God utterly, to expect everything from God and nothing from self. It is worth noting that Jesus neither practices nor demands the visible self-abasement. Indeed, he is critical of such practices.
vs. 12 antapodidymi (antapodoma) related word (misuoo) —reward, repay
The root of this word is apodidvmi meaning “to give or do something which one should in fulfillment of an obligation or expectation.” Adding the prefix anti-- strengthens the thought of repayment.
In the Synoptic Gospels a related word is (misuoo (reward). The concept of reward is presented just as freely as the threat of punishment. To do God’s will by not heaping up earthly treasurers (Mt 6:19-21), or as Luke says, by giving them away, is to lay up treasure in heaven which will one day be paid out as a reward.
vs. 14 anisthmi (anas. tein dikaiein) — resurrection of the just.
The general resurrection has that of Jesus as its first-fruits (Acts 26:23; I Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18). In the NT, the inner logic of faith is towards the resurrection to life (I Cor. 15:22; Roms 8:11; Jn 6:39,40, 44,54).
Nevertheless, the predominant view is that of a double resurrection (Jn 5:29; cf. Roms 14:9; II Cor 5:10). Possibly in Lk 14:14, and certainly in Rev. 20:5,6, Jewish tradition is followed and the resurrection to life is seen as a prior act in time at the beginning of the millennium.
3. Strategy: Luke 14:1,7-14
The preacher is offered a wide scope of options in this text. The text of season of Pentecost often focus on discipleship, on following Jesus into the world. In this text we are presented with a fork in the road in the journey. One option is to follow the fork of the moral and ethical principles of “table manners.” The other fork follows the believer’s place and actions in the coming feast—the reign of God.
If we take the first fork of “table manners” we are presented with many images to use. Coming as this text does in early September when the harvest is beginning, one can speak of the believer’s status in the reign of God, and the responsibility to the least. When invited to the feast set before us in this country with its bounty we should realize that it is not an earned invitation, but a sheer gift. Therefore, one should not be hauty and selfish when coming to the table. Further, the disciple on the road with Jesus is to share with those who have nothing and who can give nothing in return.
The second fork of the text brings us closer to matters of the heart. Yet here, too, is another fork in the road for the preacher. Each takes us deeper into the woods. The first fork is the fork of “evangelism.” The second fork is the fork of “grace alone.” Which road is taken depends upon the understanding of the believer’s life-situation.
Evangelism means more than telling the story of the reign of God. It means being the gospel for those with whom we come into contact. The believer’s faith relationship to the outsider, the least, is the theme here. No one has anything of which to boast or claim when invited to the feast of God. All are on equal footing. As Luther said, “We are all beggars.”
This confession guides the believer’s response to the host as well as to the least. A church who seeks out “good members,” those who are good prospects with a good chance of contributing to the congregation, has misunderstood its own standing as a “good member” in the reign of God and has misunderstood Jesus’ command.
To be a good guest and a good host is to enter first into the reality of one’s own sinfulness, and unworthiness. And it is from that position of recognized sinfulness that real evangelism takes place, in the depths of human depravity. It is those who minister to the AIDS victim, the abused, the poor—even the hard-core poor—and who do not judge who bring the good news in its purest form.
The fork of “grace alone” leads us into the darkest, yet most beautiful, part of the forest. It is dark because all that we are able to control—evangelism, stewardship and the like—have been stripped away and we are naked.
To walk this path in preaching and living is to take a fresh look at the main character of these twin parables. We are not the center. It is not a question of being a humble guest, nor of being a gracious host. The sabbath feast is set before us already. Jesus has taken the lowest position at God’s feast and God has exalted him for our sake. We who are “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” have already been invited to the feast.
Yet, we are the ones looking for ways to repay! God expects no repayment, none is possible. God simply invites all to the feast.
Perhaps for once we need to be still, to come to the Table knowing that these great gifts are already paid for. It is there that we are nourished for our journey which will take us down all those other forks in the road, to people and places that need to hear the gracious invitation:
“You who have no money, come receive bread, and eat. Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk.”
4. References: Luke 14:1,7-14
Conzelmann, Hans. The Theology of St. Luke. (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1961).
Danker, Frederick W. Jesus and the New Age: According to Luke (St. Louis, Missouri: Clayton Publishing House, 1972.)
________________. Luke in Proclamation Commentaries: The New Testament Witness for Preaching, Gerhard Kordel, ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976).
Jervell, Jacob. Luke and the People of God. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972).
Juel, Donald H. and Buttrick, David. Pentecost 2: Series C in Proclamation 2: Aids for Interpreting the Lessons of the Church Year, Elizabeth Achtemeier, et al, eds. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980).
Kittel, Gerhard and Friedrich, Gerhard, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964).
Marshall, I. Howard, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978).
5. Worship & Music Suggestions: Luke 14:1,7-14
It would be most appropriate to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on this day even if it is not regularly scheduled in your parish. Creative Ministers of the Table can always find a rationale for squeezing in one more Holy Communion service. Perhaps it could be justified as a welcome home feast to those who have been “at the lake” all summer, or as a celebration of the beginning of “the programming year.” If all else fails, plan an all-church pot-luck after the morning worship. In whatever way possible, break bread together! It is in the actions we learn around that Table that teach us how to act around the many tables from which we eat in our daily lives. The action of eating and drinking together is the surest sign and work on earth that the reign of God is active in and transforming the lives of God’s people.
Hymn Suggestions: Luke 14:1,7-14
O God of Earth and Altar (LBW 428)
Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service (LBW 423)
Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain (LBW 301)
The Nunc Dimittis in its various hymn or psalm tone settings would be appropriate if one has followed the last fork suggested in Strategy such as:
O Lord, Now Let Your Servant (LBW 339)
Any number of Holy Communion hymns such as:
O Living Bread from Heaven (LBW 197)
For the Bread Which You Have Broken (LBW 200)
Exegete: Rev. Thomas S. Hanson (St. Paul Synod) is currently Interim Pastor at
Christ the Servant Lutheran Church Vadnais Heights, MN.