+ Pentecost 15 – August 28th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C, Proper 17: Proverbs 25:2-10; Hebrews 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14
Whether it’s a Superbowl party, a Star Wars marathon, a church potluck, or even a smaller dinner with friends – say something like dinner for 8 here at Redeemer - we love a good opportunity to gather around the table or tailgate or the TV with friends and, of course, a feast. Feed them and they’ll come is more accurate!
God hard-wired us this way: to live in communion and fellowship with one another, and most of all with him. Think about his promise to Adam and Eve before the fall into sin:
“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
And though our gatherings can also be places of stress, conflict, pain, and sin against one another – at least this side of Eden – the simple truth remains. God loves a feast. God loves to give and loves when we receive his gifts. He loves to give us daily bread at our kitchen tables and especially at his table.
No wonder, “the Feast” is a recurring picture of heaven throughout Scripture.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
From Genesis to Revelation, from our tables at home to the Lord’s Table at church, God is the host and we’re his guests.
Many of Jesus’ parables end the same way. When the lost sheep is found – there’s a joyous party. When the woman finds her lost coin – there’s joy and a party. When the lost (or prodigal) son returns, the father kills the fatten calf – you guessed it – there’s a joyous party.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus tells us he is known in the breaking of the bread – one of many New Testament ways of saying Jesus is present for you in the Lord’s Supper.
And recall how the Pharisees wag their fingers at Jesus: He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. And thank God for that.
Jesus’ words in Luke 14 today follow this similar pattern.
Jesus is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. On the Sabbath. And just as everyone is enjoying the appetizers and drinks in walks a man with dropsy – or edema in today’s medical terminology, swelling caused by fluid in the body.
Now we might think that the proper table etiquette in this event would be to have this poor fellow moved outside. Wouldn’t want anyone to lose their lamb over it. Then Jesus could’ve healed him without making a scene. And from the Pharisees perspective, that’s exactly what Jesus does.
Is it lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath, or not?
Jesus’ question would’ve thrown the Pharisees into a legal mind-storm. Let’s see…there’s 613 dos and don’ts. 32 kinds of work to be avoided on the Sabbath. Is this one of those things? Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
You can just imagine the ruler of the Pharisees swiftly grabbing his scroll of the Talmud, checking the table of contents under “healing” to see what the rabbis have said. All the while, the internal hamster wheel of the Law is hard at work: “Is it work or not? Well, it depends who did it, I suppose. If I do it, then it’s work. If God does it, then it isn’t work. But if God does it through someone, well…. hmm….not so sure about that. Best not say anything at all. That would be safest.”
And that’s exactly how they responded. Twice. They remained silent.
That’s what the Law does. It stops our mouths. It shuts us up. Yes, the Law serves as damage control, a diagnosis or mirror of our sin; it shows us God’s way of discipline. But the Law cannot heal. The Law cannot give life. The Law will not make you a better person. The Law will not get us an invitation to the wedding feast.
So, Jesus pushes the table conversation into super-awkward mode.
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?
What do you do? Ignore the man and you break the 5th commandment. Heal him and you break the 3rd commandment. That’s life under the Law: caught between the rock of the 10 Commandments and the hard place of Sinai.
It’s easy to point our fingers in accusation at the Pharisees. But the truth is, there’s a little Pharisee in each of us. A larger than life hypocrite who – like the Pharisees – is dead silent when it comes to God’s Word, and yet who sings like a song-bird when it comes to the good in ourselves, and better still, all the bad in someone else.
There’s a little Pharisee in each of us that wants to be the ruler of the Law and pick and choose how to follow and listen to God’s Word like we choose our favorite dishes in a buffet line.
There’s a little Pharisee in each of us that’s so afraid on the one hand to proclaim the Gospel to our neighbor because it might offend them or be awkward, and yet on the other hand remain silent because we’re worried about saying the wrong thing. When it comes to the Christian faith, silence is not golden.
And that’s how the law works, it’s a trap…there’s no winning – we’re all losers according to the Law. We are guilty of all sins in thought, word, and deed.
All of our accusations and excuses are stopped, our mouth is closed, left gaping wide open. We have lived as if God did not matter and as if we mattered most.
There’s no healing their – only a mirror that reveals our brokeneness. Our prayers and worship have faltered…and our love for others has failed.
We know what the Pharisees did. But what do we do? The only thing we can do. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.
And this is precisely where Jesus wants us. This is exactly how we get to the table – not by our own invitation, but his. We’ve come at last to the main course.
Jesus healed the man.
Jesus heals you. And not just one day a week. But every day. You are baptized, like Simon this morning. That means you’re God’s own child. You’re part of the family. You’ve a seat at the table. You’re washed, fed, and nourished by the fruit of the cross in Jesus’ words, water, body and blood. Jesus still loves to eat and drink with sinners.
Jesus calls, rescues, and heals sinners, losers, and outcasts like us. Jesus gathers us to his banqueting table where your name is written in the only guest book that truly matters: the Lamb’s book of life.
Jesus takes us, broken, dead, and sinful though we are, and becomes for you the broken, dead, and sinful one on the cross. All to heal you.
Jesus takes our mouths, that were shut up by the Law, opens them, and fills them with heavenly food, the bread of life, the medicine of immortality. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Jesus calls to each of us from the head of the table: Friend, move up higher. “In my humility you are exalted. In wounds you are healed. In my suffering and death you receive joy and life. Come, the banquet table is ready. It’s time for the feast!”
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
This isn’t Jesus’ party planning advice. It’s good news of a great reversal. A joyous exchange. A marvelous flipping of the tables in your favor. Jesus is humbled and you are exalted. Jesus is brought wounded so you are healed. Jesus frees you from the Law by taking the curse of the Law upon himself. And now you are free from sin and death. Free to love others.
That’s what humility means after all, not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less (C.S. Lewis). Which is exactly what Jesus has done for you in his death on the cross.
Jesus is free. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and the Lord of creation for you. He brings healing like no other healer can for his cross is the Source of all healing. What He did for that man with dropsy, He does for you by His dying and rising, by his body and blood, by your baptism. He bears our infirmities, our sicknesses, all the ways that Sin has ravaged our lives. He became our Sin. Our sickness too. “By His wounds we are healed.” Washed. And ready for the feast.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.