Monday, August 29, 2016

Sermon August 27-28, 2016

Title: The humble will be exalted in Christ!
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.”

A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady. 

The nexand apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.

Our Daily Bread.

Humility, or pride and arrogance can drive the decisions that you make and through sin can cause you to try at times to reach places of honor for yourselves in this life. You can be comforted that:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

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,

Ill.

Friday night the 5th of August, Monica and I attended a wedding for our niece Nora and her husband Justin. There was beautiful weather and the wedding was outside at the Casino on Belle Isle with the reception afterward in the hall, decorated with linen and the finest food that you might expect. It was a beautiful wedding!

As we entered the hall with tables throughout … we noticed a table with our names and the names of my brother and sister and their spouses. We walked through the hall and found our table, off to the left of the head table in a corner. 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. Monica and I though relatives ... were not elevated to the level of Nora and Justin’s family.

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 soon to be in-laws 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:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

You and I also exalt ourselves at times; taking too much credit for things we’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 sin remains masked in a veil of acceptance, false piety - which is nothing more than the quality of being religious or reverent - or indifferent.

Ill.

In those running for office we see much false piety in many of the candidates. Humility is very hard to sense. “I did nothing wrong” is the standard cry and blame falls to those in the fringes of the campaign who largely remain nameless and faceless.

The line will be long for the politicians at the Pearly Gates as St. Peter says in a voice reminiscent of Ricky Ricardo to his wife Lucy.

“… you have some ‘splainen to do!”

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:

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

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 you 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.

The humble will be exalted in Christ!

Christ humiliated himself so that you might be redeemed. At times we too are humbled so that another can be served, just as Booker T. Washington did in service to his neighbor.

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.

Amen


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