Saturday, August 27, 2016

Luke 14:1, 7-14
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. "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; 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. 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. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Reflection        In this season of political theatrics it is clear, God’s version of political power is not getting much media coverage because God’s political power exalts the humble and the meek. Jesus’ mother Mary knew this when she sang Hannah’s song “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly….” (Luke 1.45-55) and apparently Mary effectively communicated this wisdom to her son whom we hear unequivocally,“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." ( Luke 14:11)

The social political structures that support domination and oppression; racism, classism, agism, nationalism, sexism, elitism, all of the ‘isms’ or ideologies that support domination and oppression will be replaced by God’s political power which is expressed in humble self-giving love – servant love. As Jesus firmly informed the  disciples who were disputing about which one of them was to be the greatest;  “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves….I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27) We, the people of God, are to become new as Jesus, to be and to lead the new way of the kingdom of God by serving others, especially the least and the lost and the lonely.

Essentially Jesus is saying, “This is how to subvert power that intends to dominate or oppress. Be humble. Refuse honor. Serve the oppressed. Do this rather than buy into the established social political structures that dominate and oppress.” Arguably the single greatest expression of political power in history is the Incarnation. God emptied God’s self, humbled God’s self to become fully human, not only consenting to the human condition, but consenting to suffer with all of humanity. Not only refusing to call upon divine power to escape evil and suffering, but holding nothing back
 God gave God’s self to be with and for humanity even in death.

This is noble power. This is humble servant power. In Luke’s gospel text, in fact in most of his teachings and parables Jesus seems to be saying, “If the law, if power is an instrument of dominance and oppression, if the law, power is used to give advantage to some at the expense of others, If the law, power excludes some people from full participation in God’s Kingdom, ever so humbly refuse to comply. Go and sit down at the lowest place. Sit on the bench with homeless women at Sr.José’s homeless shelter. Help set up St. Andrew’s Medical Clinic to serve suffering children. Help care for the pets of our penniless neighbors by supporting Paws With a Cause. Raise a cup and share a meal to support our friends stricken with HIV/Aids at the Pink Party in Tucson next Sunday evening.”

Where shall we sit? Shall we elbow our way to places of honor with great media coverage or humble ourselves, refuse honor and sit with the least and the lost and the lonely?

Paste this link into your browser to read a contemporary psychologists reflection on “The Paradoxical Power of Humility.” 

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