Title: In Christ your sin is covered and you are exalted!
Text: Luke 14:1-14
10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Anyone who travels to Edinburgh, Scotland will find Edinburgh castle a tower of seemingly insurmountable strength. But the truth is that the castle was once actually captured. The fortress had an obvious weak spot which defenders guarded--but because another spot was apparently protected by its steepness and impregnability, no sentries were ever posted there. At an opportune time, an attacking army sent a small band up that unguarded slope and surprised the garrison into surrender. Where the castle was strong, there it was weak.
Today in the Word, Feb 89, p. 36.
Humility, or pride and arrogance can drive the decisions that you make and though sin can cause you to try at times to reach places of honor for yourselves in this life. You can be comforted that:
In Christ your sin is covered and you are exalted!
7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him,
Saturday night the 17th of August, Monica and I attended a wedding. It was for a young lady that had been in Monica’s Girl Scout Troop. There was beautiful weather and the wedding was outside in a nicely set up garden area with the reception afterward in the hall, decorated with linen and the finest food that you might expect - in this particular price range. It was a beautiful wedding!
As we entered the hall with tables throughout … we noticed a table with our name and a little heart symbol. As we walked through the hall we found our table, in the back and off to the left of the head table. And as you might expect, it wasn't the table of honor. That was reserved for the wedding party and the ones closest were reserved for the parents of the bride and groom, relatives and close friends. Monica and I and her friends Lori and Sheila were friends ... but not elevated to the level of family or very close and dear friends.
Had the table seating designations not been clearly visible, you can imagine just how confusing the seating might have been. Possibly even coming to us and asking if we could move to the back corner so that the bride’s parents and relatives could take the seats closer to the main table.
In our lesson today, Jesus was in the house of a Pharisee.
And as a guest Jesus had noticed just how those who had been invited, Pharisees and lawyers, were looking to have the seats of honor at this dinner. Ordinary, feasts of the Jews were usually attended to in a more casual and informal manner, but with this diner and in the wedding feast of Christ’s illustration, rank and status among the guests was important.
… do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, Jesus says.
I always found the irony in Jesus statement here, as an invited guest to this diner, as the only begotten Son the God … who could be more distinguished? Here, God in the flesh is among them, but as was read earlier in the Gospel, the ruler of the Pharisees and the lawyers who were in attendance had another agenda.
There just so happened to be a man with dropsy in attendance at this diner. Now, I looked up this medical condition reference and dropsy could be understood as the equivalent of congestive heart failure today.
We've all seen this condition in many of our friends, neighbors and relatives and Jesus, knowing the Law better than the Pharisees and lawyers, knows that it is quite alright to show acts of mercy on the Sabbath, so He heals the man, saying to those whose intent was to trap Him as a violator of the Law:
“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”
6 And to this question, they could not reply to these things.
So the intent of their false feast is crushed by Christ’s healing of the man with dropsy, but He doesn't stop there. He now points out the true arrogant nature of their sitting in the place of honor when one truly more distinguished than they … has been invited … and is now sitting among them.
The arrogant sinner will stand before the throne of grace covered in their own righteousness but:
In Christ your sin is covered and you are exalted!
You too exalt yourself at times; taking too much credit for things you’ve done in the world or in the church. You do … and I do. The sinner always minimizes sin and exaggerates virtue. It’s what sinners do. The sinner sees the sin of others clearly … in view … with no distractions. But, their own sin remains masked in a veil of acceptance, false piety - which is nothing more than the quality of being religious or reverent - or indifference.
This past week, if you are unaware, it was MTV, their music awards and Miley Cyrus who captured the headlines. I didn’t see the show or her and really don’t care to. But I’ve been overwhelmed by the news of it on line, on facebook and through blogs and the like. It seems that she did something offensive to some or many depending on your perspective – a visual adaptation of a song of hers that is currently sitting at no. 3 on the Billboard charts. That means that it has been heard, seen and bought by quite a few; namely young, underage easily influenced girls and boys to young men who like seeing girls like Miley degrade themselves in this way with suggestive acts because it feeds some fantasy of their own, I guess.
The bloggers were ripe and all over this. As one mom blogger wrote:
Yes, this is what happens when you constantly hear everything you do is awesome. This is what happens when people fawn over your every Tweet and Instagram photo. This is what happens when no responsible adult has ever said the word “no,” made you change your clothes before leaving the house, or never spanked your butt for deliberate defiance.
To another blogger who wrote:
“Ms. Miley paraded around on stage in a skimpy outfit, babbled a bunch of inane lyrics, sang off key, touched herself suggestively, gyrated in front of the crowd … with some of the other performers. In other words, it was a pretty routine evening of cable TV programming. It’s not that I don’t find her behavior offensive and crass (he says) — I do, very much so — it’s just that I’m always a little surprised by the folks who seem to be only selectively opposed to the moral decay of our culture. I’ve seen outraged parents on Twitter and Facebook swear that they “won’t allow their daughters to listen to Miley Cyrus anymore”.
Anymore? (He continues)
You do realize that little display last night was an accurate portrayal of the CONTENT of the actual song? … So you let your daughter listen to music that actively encourages her to … do these things, you just won’t let her see the visual?
He goes on to say:
I don’t think she should see it, either. But maybe we ought to think about the consequences of having that messaged hammered into our children’s brains every day, all day —
So, the point is … that we, you and I, when we let sin deceive us, place our desire to not recognize sin for what it is, over and above God’s word … well, we just elevated sin to a place of honor, when someone more distinguished – the living, active and incarnate Word of God Himself, is among us and in us.
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The truth of sin taking a place of honor in your life is nothing new. Luther called it the Bondage of the Will. That our will in and of itself is bound to sin and that is all it can do, but thanks be to God that because you have been raised to newness of life by God the Holy Spirit, there is truly Good News that:
In Christ your sin is covered and you – dear friends - are exalted!
So, Jesus goes up to the host, the ruler of the Pharisees, who had invited him and He says:
12 “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Those who Christ came to redeem are the poor sinners, crippled from birth and lame, blind to God’s saving work in Christ if not drawn to believe through the invitation and working of God the Holy Spirit in them by faith.
You too, dear friends, have received this blessed invitation to His banquet feast and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb by faith. And today, you will receive a foretaste of this feast when you receive Christ’s true body and blood in the blessed table of the Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar – given and shed for you! It matters not which seat at the table you occupy because the host of this feast comes to where you are – bodily – in, with and under the bread and wine so that you truly receive Him, who is and was and is to come, in a real and tangible way – for the forgiveness of all your sins. Even though these sins, sill at times work havoc in our lives, they are forgiven as far as east is from the west … not to be remembered by the Father ever again.
In Christ … your sin is removed and you are forever exalted in Him!
Though, like the Edinburgh castle in Scotland … that had good defenses all around … its greatest defense was left unprotected and proved to be their downfall. You have a defense and a protection that will never fail because it is God Himself, not you, who will protect you because He came to live, suffer and die for each one of you and as a result you are his, the table is set, and you are invited, in fact you have already received all that is promised … rejoice!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.