Luke 14:1, 7-14
14 On one occasion when Jesus[a] was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
DIY means Do It Yourself. If you go to YouTube and type in DIY you can find a video on how to fix just about anything in the world you can think of. Cars, mowers, tires, etc. But then there is also makeup and challenges for makeup. Fixing antennas for your house and making indoor and outdoor chairs. You name it and you can probably find a video and or some help in doing any type of project or repair.
When I typed in DIY discipleship on YouTube, I found that I am not the first person to preach a sermon on this topic. I had a brief moment where I thought, I could steal this and no one would be the wiser, but then the little angel on my shoulder said don’t do it even through the devil was jumping up and down chanting Do It! Do It! But the angel won and you are stuck with my own crafted sermon. By the way those sermons were around 30 minutes in length so you can thank me later for that. After the sermons we get into the self-help talks about how you too can be a disciple of Jesus Christ. With all the fan-fare and flare you can imagine. Lights and sounds, fancy PowerPoints and moving testimonials filled the screen.
Yet, I believe our story today reminds us that Do It Yourself discipleship is not what God calls us to do. When we try to be disciples the first thing we have to do is remember the definition of discipleship means to follow a teacher. Therefore! it seems to reason that if you are following someone, then you are not doing it yourself. However, so many times in life, especially those of us in America. Our Puritan, hard-work ethic tells us that anything we want to do can be accomplished if we work hard enough and keep trying. This mentality creates a lot of pride which isn’t all bad, unless it takes away our humility. Being humble is really hard for us. Especially in our fast-paced, social media world.
When we post on social media and someone likes our post it actually gives us a little shot of serotonin. Its an endorphin that boosts self-confidence. The more likes the more we feel good about ourselves. The more we feel good about ourselves, the less we think we need others. Now combine that with the philosophy of humility and the two just don’t seem to go hand in hand. The same thing was happening in Jeremiah’s time of prophecy.
It is the tried and true story of the people of God having been saved from people of Egypt turning from God to worship the false gods and prophets of the day. The Babylonians are at the doorstep and it appears that its going to take a miracle for the Hebrews to survive. Yet, God does not seem to care what happens. God appears absent and silent, thus the people try to do it themselves. They begin to worship the foreign gods and make sacrifices to these gods. They have even begun to sacrifice humans, little children, to get someone to notice their plight and save them.
Jeremiah cries out to them wondering why a nation would abandon their own God. Even ignorant foreigners would never do that. Jeremiah reminds the people that God offers fresh running water but the people would rather dig holes in the cracked ground and hold on to stagnant water. Meaning that God is alive and filled with life yet the people would rather hold on to the dead decaying gods of the day. Jeremiah is calling the people to end the apostasy or running from their own religion and to do justice and love mercy.
This passage forces us to examine the false idols of our own day. I do not believe for one minute that any of us have created shrines in our homes to false gods, yet our actions may say different. This is supposed to be Labor Day weekend, and sometimes our labor can act like a god. Our jobs can consume us. Sometimes it is tied to the almighty dollar in trying to gain wealth, but most of the time it is tied to our place within that work. Are we in charge where we work? Do we get feelings of empowerment? Does our ego get stroked and our pride increase more than it should? In my work I can answer yes to all those questions. There are days when I could work all day and still not be finished. I can make myself the hero and the martyr, yet where does that leave me? Am I worshipping the job over the God in whom we are called to serve? We should ask the same questions about our finances, our toys, our gadgets, our politics, our level of patriotism. Where are we on the humility meter? Are trying to do it ourselves or are we allowing God to be in our lives?
Jesus was invited to a dinner party. He was watching everyone else, while they were watching him. When people ate at dinner parties of Jesus day they reclined around a U-shaped table. The most honored guest sat in the middle of that U. There was then a hierarchy of folks seated around that guest. The most important sat next to the honored guest and the least would be out at the ends of the table. Often times the host would seat people as they cam in, but sometimes they may get busy and not notice that someone had entered and was sitting in a spot meant for someone else. The embarrassment that would be placed on the one who had to move to the end of the table would be a serious breach of etiquette.
The circumstances surrounding this parable Jesus tells reminds those at the dinner and ourselves that our pride can be greater than our reality. Jesus was always about doing justice and loving mercy. Jesus had a ready-made list of guests to invite. He said we should invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind. Even though they would not be able to repay us that was beside the point. We should do it because it is the right thing to do.
That was the point of Hebrews also. “2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Several times in the OT beginning with Abraham and Sarah they entertained guests and later found out that they were angels sent with a message from God. Each time they appeared to be foreign travelers and because of the grace and generosity that the heroes of the Bible displayed God revealed them as messengers and blessed them. In our DIY world how are we doing with welcoming strangers? Who are the ones that are on our guest lists? Do we try to elbow our way to the center of the table or are we content on the ends? It’s impossible to live in a DIY world and to do justice and love mercy. Amen.