nullPentecost 12 2019 Proper 17
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 1, 2019
Proverbs 25:2-10, Hebrews 13:1-17, Luke 14:1-14

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

It is lunch time on the first day of school.  Kasie gets her tray and looks out over the tables in the cafeteria.  She sees a group of popular kids gathered at a table.  They see her looking and motion for her to come over and take the last open seat.  Two tables behind them, Kasie sees her friend Laura who is sitting alone and is waving to Kasie.  Laura is a good friend, but she is kind of awkward and is not very popular at school.  Kasie has a choice.  Does she sit with the “in” crowd, or does she sit with someone who is a bit of an outcast?  Which decision will be better for Kasie’s social clout?  Which is the better decision?

Kasie has a choice of which social class of person to eat with.  We face decisions about social class quite a bit in life.  Who do I interact with?  Who do I speak with?  Who do I eat with?  Who do I ignore.  When someone wants to go to lunch with you or interact with you, it is easy to start to think, “If I am seen with them, what will other people think of me?”

It is quite normal and quite tempting to always want to move up the social ladder; to hang out with the cool, interesting, popular people and to ignore the boring, mundane, difficult, outsiders.  We naturally want to use whatever tools we have to improve our clout.

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus is teaching the people about what is really important.  It is more important to help someone in need than it is to strictly follow the Pharisees’ Sabbath laws.  You should not exalt yourself but rather choose humble service.  You will receive your reward at the resurrection so you are free to be generous in this life and help others who cannot help you.

The people of Jesus’ time were very concerned about social status and this is especially evident on occasions that have to do with food.  Who do I eat with?  Where do I sit at dinner?  Everyone knew where everybody else was on the hierarchy of social status just by what meals they are invited to and where they sat.

In Hinduism there is a very rigid caste system.  You know where you belong in the social order from the day you are born.  A June BBC article explains, “At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas (ksha-tree-uh) , or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs…Outside of this Hindu caste system were the achhoots – the Dalits or the untouchables.”[1]

In India you don’t share food or drink with someone of another caste and you certainly don’t marry outside your caste.  The Dalits, who are below the caste system, face violence and abuse from those of the upper castes.  Dalit means oppressed.

Our system of social castes is not nearly as oppressive as the Hindu system or the Jewish system of Jesus’ time, but we still have one.  We like to keep score with others as to how we are doing.  We like to use what social clout we have to move up the ladder and gain more respect and admiration from others.  The older way of keeping track of our social clout was with job titles and money and houses and cars and clothing and that all still goes on, but now your social clout is also determined by how many followers you have on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

I recently learned that a certain style of funky, thick-rimmed white sunglasses are called clout goggles.  They were named this by a rapper named Denzel Curry who said you have to have a lot of swag and sway in order to pull off wearing that style sunglasses.

Clout, social status, Instagram followers.  The name of the game in this life is exalting yourself.  Do your best to climb the ladder of financial success and ascend the social status ranking.  This is what world teaches you is important in life, but these things are not important to God.  God doesn’t care how much money you have, or what kind of car you drive, or what neighborhood you live in, or whose name is on the clothes you wear.  God doesn’t care how many followers you have on Instagram or Twitter or YouTube.  God doesn’t care if you can pull off wearing clout goggles.

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus calls you, in light of your coming resurrection from the dead, to take off your clout goggles and get off the ladder of success and serve others who cannot repay you.  Jesus calls for you to give up trying to exalt yourself and instead live humbly in love and service to others.  Luke 14:11 (ESV)  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [2]  Jesus totally upends what the world teaches.

Jesus teaches the Pharisees present with him at dinner that night, and he teaches us as well.  Jesus is not who they are expecting.  He is not who we would expect.

Jesus is not the kind of God that people are looking for.  When people make up a god they make one up who is mighty and powerful and exalted; enthroned in glory.  Folks make up gods like Thor and Zeus and Hercules and Allah and Vishnu and Brahma and Shiva.  We want exalted gods of power.  We do not like the idea of a God of humility and service, we don’t want a humiliated, suffering God, but that is what we get with Jesus.

By nature we want a God to be powerful and use that power to do whatever it is that we want Him to do.  I want God to help me climb the ladder of success and social status.  I want him to make me strong and keep me healthy and never die.  I want a God who can deliver the goods.  The “goods” being whatever I think is most important.

That is what I want.  That is what you want, but instead we get Jesus, God incarnate; God in flesh.  Jesus is not the God that the Jewish people expected and He is not the God that we expect.  The Jewish people want a military Messiah to ride in on a white stallion, sword drawn, leading a vast army to drive the Romans from their land forever.  They want a Messiah who is greater than the greatest, most powerful Caesar.

But then Jesus shows up; born to a young virgin girl from the nowhere village of Nazareth.  He is laid in a manger.  Before Jesus is born His mother Mary sings her song, the Magnificat, which tells of the great reversal that is coming.  Luke 1:51-53 (ESV)
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.[3]

Jesus comes to upset the traditional expectations of what God should be like and what He will do.  As a grown man Jesus is ordinary looking.  He dresses in ordinary clothes and goes around accompanied by ordinary folks.  He does miracles, but He does them quietly in service to others and not to exalt Himself.  He welcomes outcasts to eat with Him.  He allows a tainted woman to wipe His feet with her hair.  Jesus is the unexpected Messiah.  Jesus serves others.  Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  Mark 10:45 (ESV) 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [4]

Jesus comes to offer Himself as the sacrifice for sin; to die for the sins of the all people.  But His sacrifice will not be to die in some glorified battle as a heroic figure.  No.  Jesus is going to die in utter humiliation.  Beaten, whipped, paraded through the streets, stripped naked and nailed to a cross to die slowly, in disgrace, while suffering excruciating pain.  Jesus is not the Messiah people are looking for; Jesus is the suffering servant as foretold in Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.[5]

Jesus humbles Himself for you.  Jesus suffers serving you.  Jesus dies in service to you.  Jesus rises from the dead to conquer death the great enemy.  Jesus rises from the dead to fulfill His promise and to confirm He is indeed God in flesh; God with us.

Your reward is coming and it will be a great reward.  Your eternal reward is secure in Christ so you are freed from worrying about your social status here on earth.  You are freed from having to think about whether being around someone or something will affect your social status.  You are free not to care about what other people think of you.  You are free to eat with the outcasts.  You are free to share with the poor.  You are free to love and serve the crippled, the lame and the blind.  You are free to give freely to those who cannot repay you

Jesus humbles Himself to take on your sins.  He lowers Himself to take responsibility for your sin, even that unspeakable sin.  He pays the price and He conquers death.  For you.  And He pours out forgiveness and eternal life onto you in baptism, in His words of forgiveness, in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  Jesus gives you eternal life.

You will be raised from the dead on the last day.  You confess it in the creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”  That’s your body.  Your earthly body that by then may have gone ashes to ashes, dust to dust will be raised from the dead on the last day.  You will spend eternity in the heavenly city with the Lord Jesus.

Your reward is coming and it will be a great reward.  Your eternal reward is secure in Christ so you are freed from worrying about your social status here on earth.  You are freed from having to think about whether being around someone or something will affect your social status.  You are free not to care about what other people think of you.  You are free to eat with the outcasts.  You are free to share with the poor.  You are free to love and serve the crippled, the lame and the blind.  You are free to give freely to those who cannot repay you because, Luke 14:14 (ESV) 14 . You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”[6]

Be a humble servant and be a blessing to people who cannot be a blessing back to you.  Choose love of the outcast over your own popularity.  Reach out to those others have been cast off.  Eat with people no one wants to eat with.  Don’t do it in order to gain a reward; do it because Jesus did it for you.  Do it because you are going to rise from the dead on the last day.  Do it because that matters more than anything.  Do it because in Christ you are free.

Amen.


[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s