Sermon 1st September = 12th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 14:1, 7-14 - The best seat in the house
We probably don’t realise how much status is held by seating.
The AFL finals begin this week and already there has been outrage over seating.
Geelong wants a home final but their ground doesn’t seat enough to cater for the huge crowds.
The Gabba in Queensland holds 42,000 and there are 3 times that amount of members between the 2 clubs.
And finding a seat on an aeroplane to attend an interstate match has become extremely expensive because of the high demand for seating.
And as the Grand Final draws near we will hear the outrage of seats unavailable for grass roots members who make up the core supporter groups as corporate seating takes precedence.
It seems that whenever you see sporting or other popular events, the front row seats are usually made up of celebrities and A listers who are either invited to attend or they have enough money that they can afford to buy the most expensive seats while diehard fans miss out or have to sit way in the back.
It makes people sad, even angry, when they are such diehard fans but celebrities, corporate sponsors and the rich seem to get the best seats simply so they can be seen at the events by the media.
Having the best seats is often seen as a status symbol.
I’m always intrigued when I catch a flight at the airport and there is the scramble to be the first on the plane to get your seat even though it doesn’t get you to your destination any quicker, and if you’re seated in the aisle you’ll have to get out anyway to let the person in the window seat in.
Jesus also sees today that seating arrangements were the cause of much distress.
He noticed how the guests chose the seats of honour and warned them that they were opening themselves up to ridicule rather than honour if someone more important arrived and they had to give up their seat.
He said it was better to choose a lower seat and wait to be asked to move up when the host sees you sitting in a lower seat.
Is Jesus really worried about seating arrangements?
Is Jesus really worried about us being embarrassed because we might have to give up our seats to someone more important?
I very much doubt that seating at a banquet is what Jesus is worried about as that is not the reason Jesus came to give his life for us.
And what if you choose the lower seat and are not asked to move up?
What Jesus is trying to do is have us see life in perspective.
In a sense life here on earth is like a seat in a waiting room.
We are here on our journey to heaven.
And sometimes we can lose that perspective as we think that this life here on earth is our main focus.
As much as we strive to achieve our best – a comfortable home, a satisfying career, success for our children – sometimes these aren’t achievable for one reason or another and we can sometimes feel anger towards life and towards God because we feel we deserve better and that God hasn’t rewarded us for our faithfulness.
But God has rewarded us – not in this lifetime but in the life to come.
But we can be so focused on achieving our dreams in this life that we forget about God and our neighbour whom we have been asked to love as we find ourselves becoming the main focus of our love.
Our 2nd reading today highlights that there are hidden blessings when we focus away from ourselves and focus our attention on others.
The writer to the Hebrews says: Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
I love that image.
Sometimes we don’t get recognised or thanked for what we have done but those people we have helped may have actually been angels.
How amazing is that?
Jesus confirms that focus when he says: "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
If we are doing things for this lifetime or to achieve recognition or rewards in this lifetime then we are selling ourselves way too short.
What Jesus and the writer to the Hebrews are trying to encourage us with is to keep our eyes focused on the coming rewards and to keep living this life without worry about rewards and outcomes.
We can become so focused on achieving in this lifetime that we can become quite depressed and disillusioned about what seems to be failures for all the good work we do.
Jesus assures us that we will be repaid at the resurrection.
And even if life seems to be quite negative for all our faithfulness, Hebrews says: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?
Life doesn’t always reward or reflect what efforts we put in for others.
So many people miss out on receiving the accolades or awards for the sacrifices they make for others.
But God sees all.
And even if we don’t receive the recognition we deserve we thank God that we also don’t receive from him what we deserve.
We don’t deserve all that God has prepared for us – eternal life in heaven.
But we receive it from God because of his love for us and his desire to have us live with him forever in heaven.
And if we can understand that for ourselves then we can accept that at times we too will give to others, not for the rewards or recognition but because of our love for God and our neighbour.
It is very easy to get caught up in seeking recognition or status among our friends and family.
But Jesus has arranged for us the highest honour of all.
A seat of honour at the wedding feast in heaven.
I love that imagery of St John in Revelation when he sees what is coming for us:
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
Until that great and glorious day God invites you to the foretaste of the feast to come as he invites you to his table to feast on his Body and Blood in Holy Communion.
Here is where all our concerns about status and recognition are put to one side as we come together around the one table – to receive the one bread and the one cup.
No status or honour separating us as we gather as the one body of Christ.
As we go out into our weekly world we will be tempted and challenged by the world who will want us to place different priorities in our lives.
But when that happens we set ourselves up for disappointment because we will never reach a point where we are satisfied or something will come along to undo the blessings we have received for all we’ve done.
God’s blessings are different.
Because they are reserved for our eternal life, as Jesus promises: you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Don’t short change yourself.
God has abundant treasures laid up for you as Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel - “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So let us seek first the kingdom of God and all his treasures will be added unto us.