August 28, 2022
Revised Common Lectionary
Jeremiah 2:4-13 or Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm 81:1, 10-16 or Psalm 112
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11 (see 11b)
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Dear Miss Manners,
I attended a lovely sabbath dinner hosted by one of the leading Pharisees in our community and was embarrassed by some very blunt comments from one of the guests. Because I really want to be noticed in the city, I had deliberately chosen a place at table near the host. When this other guest saw me picking out my place, he had the nerve to lecture the host and to embarrass me by suggesting that one should choose the lowest place in hopes of being invited to come up higher. Was this guest out of line? What would have been an appropriate way for me to show my displeasure at being embarrassed? What do you think of his suggestion about choosing a lower place?
-I Love Places of Honor
Dear I Love Places of Honor,
Miss Manners is taking a well-deserved late August vacation, and so your inquiry is being answered instead by The Hymn Society’s Word and Song columnist. I had actually read something about the banquet you attended in the Gospel of Luke and so have some familiarity with this incident. I’m very happy to address some of the issues you raised.
I think that if she had been responding to your inquiry personally, Miss Manners would have pointed out that this “other guest,” Jesus of Nazareth, was suggesting a way for you to avoid the very kind of embarrassment you experienced. Jesus noted that you’re more likely to be noticed in a favorable way if you choose a less prominent place from which you can be invited higher. Right?
But there’s more to this incident than can be addressed by etiquette.
There are two important things that you need to know about Jesus. First, he loved banquets and other opportunities for feasting. Yes, he dined with respected members of the community (like you and your host) but he enjoyed sharing meals with marginalized people even more. In response to criticism of his dining practices, he once remarked that “the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Lk 7:34)
Second, Jesus was laser focused on the mission that he had received to proclaim the reign of God in word and deed. He chose to dine with tax collectors and people considered to be sinners by the religious people in town to show everyone the kind of feast that God was planning for the coming time of God’s reign. As I said, he also enjoyed dinners with the wealthy and powerful, and at those events he took the opportunity to teach them about the reign of God.
How fortunate that you were able to dine with Jesus and to hear his good news firsthand. As you experienced, Jesus proclaimed the coming of a world in which the lowly are raised to high places, the hungry are filled with good things, and sinners are welcomed as heirs. His words to you and the others on that evening remind us that every meal is an opportunity to show our solidarity with Jesus and to join ourselves to those with whom he identified most closely. Taking the lowest place is not only good etiquette but a way of embracing the life-giving message of Jesus.
As you are able to throw dinner parties of your own, please consider his further suggestion to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:13). It’s true that your social standing and career advancement may benefit more from inviting your rich neighbors, but you can be sure that people will notice if you begin to identify with those whom society overlooks, often deliberately. They’ll start talking about you the way that they spoke of Jesus—as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (7:34). What a blessing that would be!
A Hymn for Today: “If Life Is Like a Wedding Feast”
Michael Hudson had been a successful contemporary Christian songwriter with 75 hymns to his credit before he was ordained an Episcopal priest and subsequently decided to write a series of hymn texts based on the three-year Lectionary. Those texts were gathered by Church Publishing into “Songs for the Cycle,” the collection in which the following hymn appeared in 2004.
If life is like a wedding feast
And we are cast as guests,
Then it is tragic not to know
The life God manifests.
Distracted by appearances,
Seduced by praise or place,
If we remain outside ourselves
We miss this moment’s grace.
If life is like a wedding feast
And we are cast as hosts,
Then it is limiting to list
The ones we like the most
And leave apart, outside, unknown,
Uncounted other souls,
When love suggests there is no feast
Till all the parts are whole.
And God is making life a feast,
Embracing us as guests
So that with self-forgetting grace
We gather and are blessed
To taste and know that God is good
And spreads the table wide,
So wide we know to say with God,
Come, all my friends, inside.
Text: Michael Hudson, © 2004, admin. by Church Publishing Inc. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Image Credit: A Parable – Where to Sit, Cara B. Hochhalter, 2019
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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