Luke 14: 1, 7 – 14
When I was a child, my grandparents came to spend the summer in Maine. My grandfather was a formidable man. Table manners were very important. I remember more than one cousin being caught out for having their elbow on the table. When we met with the extended family, whether at their summer house or in a restaurant, we knew not to sit down until we were told. Grandfather would assign places for everyone except for him and my grandmother. They sat at either end of the table. The coveted places were next to her or my grandfather. I clearly remember the few times I was asked to sit at my grandfather’s right hand. He talked to me like an adult: about global politics, travel, and business.
In our Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a wedding banquet. On the surface, it can seem like a lesson on first century table manners. But like most of Jesus’ parables, it has deeper meaning. In the New Testament, a banquet is a symbol of the reign of God. Those jostling for a “place of honour” represent those who were pushing themselves forward to show their own righteousness in God’s eyes. But the Kingdom has a different standard. In verse eleven, Jesus makes a universal claim— a reversal of status. Those who lift themselves up, will be brought low, and those who make themselves low, will be lifted up (14:11).
Humility is not a trait we hear about much today. It can be hard to define. It has a quality of being courteously respectful of others— the opposite of aggressiveness, arrogance, boastfulness, and vanity. Rather than, me first, humility allows us to say, no, you first, my friend. It is a characteristic that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others. C.S. Lewis describes, “humility [as] not thinking less of yourself, [but] thinking of yourself less.” Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self-worth. Rather, it affirms the inherent worth of all people.
Our Gospel text tells us how we come to the table matters. It tells of a different way to live, contrary to our “me first” mentality that can so pervade our culture. We don’t have to earn our place. It is already there for us. What we can do, as Christians, is invite anyone and everyone to come and eat with us. There is no need for repayment, and in this, you “will be blessed.” (14:14).
Yours in Christ, Kathryn