Saturday, 31 August 2013

Take your seat

GospelLuke 14:1,7-14 

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. 

He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

  Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

Interesting that this Gospel comes in the exam season; a time when the hierarchy of life first starts to raise its ugly head in earnest. Whether it’s places at Grammar schools, counting A's or points for university places. Young people begin to understand that we may have all been born equal but that that equality does not last long.

The world all too quickly becomes a place for haves and have-nots; designer fashion and phone, holidays, cars, driving lessons, friends in high places, faces that fit. And into this melee we try to find a seat with our name on it. And we hope that the seat is at least more than halfway up the table and that we find ourselves sitting with people who are like us.

Which is, of course the other thing - that we  seek out those who are ‘like us’; from football teams to music preferences; the language we speak to the colour of our skin; our abilities and our disabilities; it is so comfortable to be with people who remind us of us; who remind us of what we like about us.

Social media, especially, encourages us to find 'people like us'; suggesting 'groups' or 'pages' we should join; inner circles that we should want to be a part of; following people who live up to an image of how we want to be. 

It's a great way to make links across the virtual world if we are secure about who we are. However, in the search for approval, our social network avatar can provide a 'techo' opportunity to 'dress up' and pretend. Social scientists are becoming concerned that social media is developing an unhealthy need to be 'liked' in more ways that one. 

It's a contemporary platform but it's nothing new. In the weekday Gospel readings, Jesus has been rebuking the Pharisees for their measured hypocrisy; using the Law to exclude those it was intended to protect; protecting the self-serving behaviour it was meant to exclude. The word ‘hypocrites’ is a theatrical word for those who wear a mask. 

But then we all have a mask of some kind or other; and for some of us they are very elaborate indeed; combining all the elements of status and authority that we need to take the right place in the theatre of life. 

We forget that someone came along and modelled another way of looking at people; of deciding status and of judging others - by not doing it.

Jesus is sitting at the back in the cheap seats and shouting at us to come and join him. But would you be prepared to give up your seat?

Jesus loves us all, but he shows a fondness for honest people, or rather people who are honestly themselves; the poor, the unclean, the lame – the ones who have neither the energy or anyone to impress by wearing these masks of society. 

And, yes, the rich can be honest, after all, integrity and humility are virtues that need practice. But it may be harder; the world sets standards that are difficult to ignore.

 Jesus makes friends across the width, depth and breadth of society. He  sits with the greatest and the least; table fellowship is at the heart of his mission - providing food and friendship - placing them first. 

The celebration of the Eucharist tells us this is true, that this is fellowship - this is the love of God, wanting the least of us - who can never pay him back - to share in his great feast. 

Is it really too much for us to have the grace to do the same?



Claire Bangasser said...

A sociology teacher of mine liked to say that we are made up of masks, that as we remove one, another comes up, and that there is no real 'me' to be found. My hope was that behind all those masks, was the face that Godde had given me.
Are those masks 'false selves' and the face 'true self', I could not say.
Thank you for a thought-provoking post, Word :-)

Phil Ewing said...

Excellent post Word. Jungian through and through ! Blessings

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks Claire, I'm sure your teacher friend has a point - I suppose there are masks and there are masks - at least there is Godde to know who we are.

I'll take that as a compliment Phil.Think I have a bit of a Jungian thought process going on.

blessings to you both mx

Roberta Desalle said...

As usual Word, your posts on the scripture give me pause to think and reflect, leading me in many directions for growth. Godde knows my face, and I am in the process of trying to live in ways that allow me to recognize that--- and to know it as part of the reflection of Godde.

Gelli Ma said...

Amen to that, Roberta

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