Luke 14: 1, 7-14
For everyone born a place at the table
For everyone born clean water and bread
A shelter, a space, a safe place for growing
For everyone born, a system that’s fair.
We are of course a long way from this ideal and in today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to think about the question of status.
Giving great honor to those who are distinguished. Ignoring those who are perceived as ‘ordinary’ or ‘defective’. Seating charts that are set up to emphasize the high status of some and the lower status of others. These are things that trouble me greatly because they are so intrinsic to how society works. We would like to think that these social issues are descriptions of the first century world of the New Testament and not part of the world we live in today, but that wouldn’t be true, would it? An even more important question for us to ask ourselves this morning is whether these social distinctions are part of our Christian communities. How inclusive are we when it comes to the homeless, refugees, gender diversity, and on this particular day, the people who are indigenous to this country?
Where is your place at the table? Most if not all of us here today are privileged compared with so many, both locally and globally, and we are probably quite aware of our privilege. Jesus seemed to accept that status and power are woven into the way society operates. But he is challenging his followers to consider our own attitudes and perceptions.
How do we define ourselves? There is always much to do, but if we find our identity in our position or our accomplishments, then we are in danger of seeking a higher place at the table. And lest we think this only happens in the wider world, perhaps we might say, particularly in politics, I have to say that the church is not exempt. A priest who controls a parish instead of collaborating with it to discern God’s purpose, a layperson who has done an exemplary job in a specific ministry but can’t let it go when the time comes because their self-worth is wrapped up in that ministry. Or the individual who takes on something but won’t let others participate. While there is always work to be done and ministry to carry out, it is incumbent on us to be constantly aware that our identity is that we are God’s beloved; and that our talents are given for the building up of God’s creation, not for our own glory of power.
I’ve always liked the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table with his vision of “all for one and one for all” (or was that The Three Musketeers?)
No matter: the image of a round table where everyone was equal and all had a say. I do notice by the way that the Peg Lowe room has an oval table which is pretty much the same thing.
And then there is the big picture: as we take the world view, we can hardly be unaware that so many don’t have a seat at the table at all and we must ask ourselves, we are we doing as individuals and as a parish to address this? Next Sunday is National Day of Reconciliation in Canada, a day in which we reflect as a country on our history of the indigenous people of Canada, as together we form new relationships moving forward. Thursday, September 1st marks the Season of Creation in the Anglican Church, and for five weeks our liturgies and readings will lead us to reflect on our relationship with God’s world.
All of which invites us to take a lower seat at the table metaphorically: to cultivate in ourselves an attitude of humility and openness, to be willing to let go of old practices and attitudes when necessary and to be willing to change when change is needed. In the words of the prophet Micah “to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God”.