Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sermon - The Dishonest Servant

This sermon is based on Luke 16:1-13, the parable of the Dishonest Servant.



This morning, I want to ask the question: 'What is it in life that matters?' In many ways, this is a personal question for each one of us and there are no right or wrong answers. From another perspective, as Christians, our faith will have an important role in informing our values.

We all have points in our lives where we are given to contemplate - sometimes forced to contemplate - what it is that matters to us.

A friend of mine has just moved house to take up her first appointment as a minister. In making this move, the whole family has been consulted over a time period of about five years: husband as well as children. Although everyone in the family agreed to the move, one of her teenagers is finding life quite difficult right now: uprooted from school friends and, it seems, from a budding but fragile sense of identity. What is it that's important in this situation? No easy answers here. Certainly, my friend's child is one of the most precious and important things in her life.

Another friend became a grandmother for the first time last year. Many of you might recognise the scenario, but I was surprised at the effect it had on my friend. For the first few months after her grandson was born, she was walking around acting like a love-sick teenager. You couldn't have any kind of conversation with her without her telling you about the latest cute thing her grandson had done: 'We know it was probably only gas, but it looked like he was giving his mummy the biggest most wonderful smile. He's the most wonderful baby in the world!'

'What is it in life that matters?' What matters to you? What matters to God?

A Difficult Parable

Today's Gospel reading about the shrewd servant is probably one of the most difficult gospel readings for modern people to understand. I suspect that this is possibly because we are used to reading parables in a rather incorrect way. For example, we are used to reading the Parable of the Prodigal Son in a certain way. And no matter how the preacher jumps up and down trying to tell us how outrageous and utterly unthinkable it would be for a son to ask for his inheritance before his father's death, or how unthinkable it would be for a father to then forgive such an action, we still tend to read parables as if they were analogies. The son represents the ungrateful sinner, the father represents God, and so on and so on, and this is what the parable means.

But today we have a parable that is as outrageous to modern ears as many of the original parables would have been to Jesus' hearers and we don't know exactly what to do with it. If we read it in the manner in which we are used to reading parables, I think we get a message that is something like verse 11: 'If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?' To which, I think, we can only
say: 'Huh?'

And that's why I am posing the question, 'What is it in life that matters?' I want to suggest that one thing the parable might be saying to us is something about the importance of relationships: the importance of God's relationship with us and our relationships with other people.

To give a quick defence of this approach: this parable comes directly after the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the parable of the Prodigal Son. It comes before Luke launches a denunciation on those who make money their priority, which culminates in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, which is next Sunday's Gospel reading. Like the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost Son, God longs to draw all people into relationship with him. God will do whatever it takes to form a relationship with human beings: he will search us out and he is even prepared to forgive some pretty outrageous behaviour.

Relationship & The Body of Christ

What is it in life that matters? To love God and to love our fellow human beings and to be in relationship with them. Life is about relationship and, for Christians, all our relationships are fundamentally grounded in the love of God. However feeble or misguided our energies and efforts (and we know that most of our human efforts are feeble and misguided) it is advisable to direct them toward things that will last rather than toward things that will pass away.

Relationship is, I think, at the very core of what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to enter into a community via baptism: the universal Christian church, the Body of Christ. In that baptism, we symbolically die to our Self and we rise to become one with Christ in his Body here on earth. We enter into the life of Christ: a life that looks outside of our own private concerns to other people, to the community and to the world.

St. Augustine said that to be baptised is to be baptised into a life of sacrifice, which he defined as 'loving God and loving one's neighbour as oneself'.

With Christ we also enter into the life of the Trinity: into a relationship with a God who is a force for creation rather than for destruction; into a relationship with a God whose nature is - as the prayer book says - always and everywhere to have mercy; into a relationship with a God who empowers us through himself to reach outside ourselves and to manifest his love to those around us.

The Church is the Body of Christ here on earth and we are charged with Christ's on-going mission until the Kingdom of God has arrived. In entering into the life of the Trinity, we benefit from God's creative energy, from his mercy and his strength; we hopefully grow in our own capacity for love and for reaching out to others. Relationship and community are the essence of human life as God created it to be.


It's my hypothesis for this morning that however far away the Dishonest Servant might have been from the will of God, he did at least understand the importance of relationships. Despite all his faults and all his mistakes there was something inside him that told him what was of ultimate worth.

The Dishonest Servant was bumbling and inept and we might imagine that the relationships he formed by buying friendship would not have been terribly satisfying until they were transformed, but at least he had a tiny inkling of what's important.

We can imagine that perhaps, just perhaps, the God who leaves the 99 sheep to look for one in the wilderness might have mercy. We can imagine that perhaps the God who sweeps everywhere looking for the lost coin might have mercy. We can imagine that perhaps the Father who rushes to meet the son who wronged him might have mercy.

In a few minutes, we will come as the Body of Christ to meet with the risen Lord at his table. I pray that, as we do so, we may enter more fully into the life of the God who loves us. I pray that our hearts may be filled with love of God and love of neighbour and I pray that we each find what it is that is important in life. Amen

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday 9 September 2007 - Take Up Your Cross

The sermon below is based on Luke 14:25-33 with a short reference to the Old Testament reading, Jeremiah 18:1-11.


A Warning

The heading in my bible pretty well sums up the message in this morning’s Gospel reading. The heading is: ‘The Cost of Discipleship’.

Imagine a politician campaigning for office[1] who gets up at the rostrum and tells his or her expectant listeners: ‘Vote for me and your life will be more difficult than it is now. If I’m elected, there will be sacrifices to make. You may lose your homes and your family.’ I wonder what the reaction would be to such a campaign speech? I actually doubt that the reaction would be booing or jeering because I reckon that it’s quite possible that the crowd might be stunned into silence. It’s not exactly the kind of thing you expect to hear from a politician.

But the thing is, today’s Gospel reading is not a campaign speech and it’s not a recruitment speech. Jesus isn’t trying to convince people to follow him. On the contrary, Jesus is addressing a crowd of admirers who are more than eager – at least they think that they are eager – to become his disciples.

And Jesus is trying to give them an informed picture of what exactly is involved in following him. Rather than thinking of him as a politician campaigning for office, it might be more accurate to think of Jesus as a mountain guide, leading an expedition through the mountains to bring life-saving supplies to a remote village. Jesus is not threatening us, but simply informing us of the very real costs of being his disciples.

And what is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? At least according to this passage in Luke? The cost is that we are called to prefer the way of Jesus to the way of the world. If circumstances require it, Jesus is exhorting us to bear our own cross for the sake of his name.

Hate Your Family?

Before we go any further, I want to take a side-track for a minute and focus on verse 26, where my text reads (NRSV) ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.’

I think that we need to understand the word ‘hate’ the way that Jesus’ hearers would have done. There was a Jewish expression that went: ‘I love A and I hate B’. It was a way of expressing a strong preference. So, if you were to say ‘I love the Japanese and I hate the Chinese’, it wouldn’t mean ‘Every time I meet a Chinese person, I become filled with fury and upset and it’s just about all I can to do keep from punching that person the face.’ The expression would have meant something more like ‘I have a strong preference for Japanese people over Chinese people.’

So, I want to caution us against thinking that Jesus wants us to hate the members of our family. Such a message does not make sense in the light of Great Commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves nor does it make sense in the light of the commandment to honour our fathers and our mothers.

Bearing Our Crosses

The warning that we are being given from Jesus – our guide who is leading us across a perilous mountain path so that we can bring necessary aid to a suffering world – is that his disciples are to be willing to give up the comforts of this world, our families and our possessions, if we are called upon to do so for the sake of the gospel.

More specifically, we are called to bear the crosses that we are given.

As I think I’ve said before, the biblical concept of ‘bearing our cross’ is about what we are willing to do for the sake of Christ and for the sake of being true to the Gospel. In the bible, the concept of ‘bearing our cross’ does not refer to persevering in the face of illness or tragedy, even if we use the expression in this way today.

It is about sitting lightly to the values of this world in order that all our focus may be on the values of the Kingdom of God. We can certainly enjoy all the blessings that God has given us, but we are to understand that these are not ends in themselves. Christ asks us to be willing to let go of them for his sake, if we are called to do so.

But for many of us, this is not the message that we want hear and it’s not the kind of God we want. God calls us to trust in him to guide us to stand up for Kingdom values, but if we’re honest with ourselves, what we want is a magical magician God who will sort things out for us.

And so some people in our culture protest: There cannot be a good God because otherwise, innocent children would not die. They say that if they cannot have the God with the magic wand who spares all innocent children from injury and destruction, then they are not prepared to believe in God at all.

But Christians are guilty of wanting to believe in the Magical God myth as well. In one version of this myth we declare that God will give his followers status, wealth and prosperity in this world on the condition that we ‘have enough faith’. Or another, subtler version of this is to turn our Christian faith into a transaction where we exchange our conversion for an admission ticket into heaven.

But in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is telling us that being a Christian is not about believing in a Magical God. And that being his disciple is not just about some sort of transaction that lets us into heaven. Jesus is telling us that being his disciple might possibly involve turning our backs on the values of our society and choosing to bear a cross for his sake.

We are not going to get our magical God; but we will be called to bear a cross. Every Christian is called to make choices between following the ways of this world and following the ways of God.

In some countries, being a Christian can very literally put your life in danger. In our culture, being a Christian means being called to use our time, energy and money for goals that are different from those of the world. We are stewards of our resources and our goal is the Kingdom of God where justice and righteousness reign. Christians are not meant to use the precious resources we have been given by God for our own fame, fortune or security.

Imitate Jesus

The images used in the rest of this morning’s gospel readings are interesting ones.

Who would build a tower without a proper foundation? The same people, perhaps, who would build a temple as a focus of national pride but where the true worship of God was absent?

What kind of king would prepare for war without considering whether or not he could win the war? The same kind of king who thought that the war that the Messiah was to fight would be a war against the Romans rather than a war against the forces of Evil?

Who would think that following Jesus meant getting on the bandwagon of the conquering Messiah for an easy ride into the Kingdom of God? Who would think that following the Messiah meant fame, fortune and security? Well, probably the crowd of people who were following Jesus. After all, he had to warn them that being his disciple was difficult rather than easy.

These people probably didn’t want to follow Jesus in order to give anything up. The wanted to follow Jesus in order to enjoy what they had and to get more. (Unlike us, of course!) And Jesus is warning them (and us): being his disciple is not like joining a pleasant hike on a rolling hillside on a sunny summer afternoon. To be his disciple is to be called to navigate dangerous mountain paths in order to bring needed medicine to the world.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to be called to imitate Jesus.

To imitate Jesus is to proclaim the love of God to those who are not respectable and to associate with people who others will not associate with. To imitate Jesus is to proclaim God’s message of justice to people who have enough power to destroy us. To imitate Jesus is visit those who are sick and in prison.

All of this is difficult work. All of it is costly. But Jesus told us that to follow him is to bear our cross.

He also told us that we were not capable of doing this on our own but that he would send us the Holy Spirit to help us to imitate him. Using Jeremiah’s image, God will form us into the kind of vessels he wants us to be if we will let him.

When we get it wrong – as we all will from time to time – God will not dispose of the clay, but will continue to work to reshape us until we become the creations that he wants us to be.


In a few minutes, we will come to the table of the Lord, a physical sign and symbol of the Kingdom of God on earth where Jesus promised to be present among us. In the prayer called the Great Thanksgiving which we pray before receiving communion, we remember Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.

We remember that, before sacrificing himself for us, Jesus promised to meet our own weakness, pain and suffering with his presence. We remember that Christ is here and that his Spirit is always with us.

As we come to his communion table, I pray that each one of us will ask Jesus to shape us as according to his will. And I pray that we will each be strengthened for the journey as we meet our risen Lord. Amen

[1] Illustrations of the politician and the mountain guide taken from: Wright, Tom; Luke for Everyone; SPCK, London 2001. p. 180.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Magical Seed Bush

The story below was written for a midweek fellowship group. It's based on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52.

I give to readers the same caution that I gave to the fellowship group. This is a story. It's not an allegory. You can't focus on one character or thing and decide that it strictly represents such-and-such an idea.

People seem to listen more keenly to stories than to sermons. One member of the fellowship group told me that they had been thinking about my story all day.



Once upon a time, there was a bush. But this bush wasn’t just an ordinary bush, it was a very special bush. Because this bush produced magical seeds.

Once the seeds were planted, you never knew what it was that they might grow into. The seeds might grow into a different kind of plant, or they might even grow into an animal, a person or a thing.

Very occasionally, the seeds grew into a magical seed bush, but only something like once in a lifetime. You see, the Creator knows that there shouldn’t be too many magical seed bush in the world.

+ + + +

One day, one of the seeds happened upon a clearing in the middle of the forest. The seed dropped on to the grass in the clearing, and it found itself burrowing deep into the ground: first one foot, then two feet, then five feet.

The seed lay buried deep below ground level for a number of years. Sometimes she wondered whether she had died, but then she realised that if she could wonder if she was dead, she probably wasn’t!

Then, one day, something happened. The seed felt a great sharp rush and then all of a sudden, a great chest appeared. It wasn’t like a chest of drawers, but something more like a treasure chest. Before the seed knew what was happening, a copper coin appeared inside the box, then a silver coin, then a gold coin. The treasure chest was being rapidly filled with copper, silver and gold coins. Not pennies and twenty-pence pieces and gold-coloured pound coins, but real gold, real silver and real copper.

After all those many years of the seed just lying underneath the ground, all of a sudden everything started happening in a rush. No sooner was the treasure chest filled with precious coins when suddenly there was the sound of digging. The five feet of earth that had covered the magic seed and which was now covering the treasure chest was being removed. And the sound of a man’s voice could be heard: ‘Hope! Come here and look at this!?’

Then the sound of a woman’s voice could be heard. Hope joined her husband Promise and they both stared down at the treasure chest. ‘Do you think we should open it?’ Promise asked Hope. ‘How could it hurt?’ she replied. Upon opening the treasure chest and seeing all the coins, Promise and Hope gasped. They lived in a poor village and never had either one of them seen that much silver and gold in their lives.

They looked at each other and realised that their prayers had been answered. The only problem was that the chest was simply too heavy to lift, so they quickly covered it with dirt again. Then they went and sold their home, their furniture and all their other possessions in order to buy the clearing in the forest where the treasure-chest lay.

Not too long later, Promise and Hope were finally able to come back to claim their treasure. They took all the gold coins, the sliver coins and the copper coins and sold them for their national currency. Then, in a celebration of thanks to God that their prayers had been answered, they were finally able to begin doing what they had always wanted to do: they built a hospital for the people of their village, indeed, for all the region around them. They were even able to build themselves a small house in the hospital compound and they began to offer medical treatment to the people in the region.

+ + + +

But let’s get back to that bush that produced the magical seeds. One of the seeds left the magical bush and it got caught up in a current of air. It floated beyond the forest, and it floated beyond the hills, and it floated beyond the plains until it landed several miles out to sea.

As it hit the salt water, this particular magical seed felt itself getting heaver and heaver and denser and denser. He looked to see what was happening and he realised that he had sunk to the bottom of the sea and had turned into a grain of sand. He was swallowed up by an oyster and before you could say ‘Bob’s your uncle’, the grain of sand started being covered by the oyster’s pearl. The grain of sand chuckled to himself thinking, ‘Ah yes, this is rather like being a seed.’

The grain of sand remained inside the oyster for many, many years. And because it was a magical grain of sand, the pearl that formed around it was perfectly coloured, perfectly smooth and absolutely, perfectly round. It was also very, very big. It was the biggest, roundest, most perfectly coloured pearl you’d ever seen in your life.

And then, one day, the oyster was caught up in a fishing net and the pearl found itself in the middle of the village in the hands of Prosper, one of the most successful of the village’s traders. Prosper was contemplating his next move with some glee. The clueless fishermen had sold him the pearl for almost nothing; well, it had been a handsome sum of money, but nowhere near what his Japanese jewllerly contacts would pay for it. This pearl was Prosper’s ticket out of the village. The big break that he had been waiting for all his life.

Prosper wanted to see the world and he was almost 60 now. His children were grown and he and his wife were healthy and fit. This pearl was his big chance to leave the village, travel and settle in the capital city where he and his wife could retire in luxury. No more village life, but a villa in the city with running water, electricity and access to all the entertainments the capital could offer. That was Prosper’s dream.

+ + + +

All that was, of course, before the magical seed bush began to work it’s magic once again. Another seed burst forth from the bush. It didn’t float too far this time. In fact, it floated right into Prosper’s kitchen where the cook was preparing bread for the entire household.

The seed landed in a very large vat that was filled with flour, milk and oil and the seed began to levan the bread. Forgetting that she hadn’t actually put the yeast in the vat at all, but smelling the yeast and noticing that the bread dough had risen, cook began to make loaf after loaf after loaf of bread in a quantity that was much larger than usual. In fact, there was so much bread, that cook had to give it away to people in the village.

And the bread had a very unusual effect on everyone who ate it. Some people continued to live their lives as they had done before but the vast majority started acting differently: some for the better and some for the worse. The strange thing was that you couldn’t really predict how individual people would change.

One young woman who seemed mostly unobtrusive but not very confident went off to the city and became a prostitute. A teenage boy who had always seemed angry became a successful cattle rancher. A middle-aged woman who had been tearful and depressed since her children married began to work in the village hospital as a midwife, teaching new mothers how to care for their babies.

And then, of course, there was Prosper. He’d eaten the magical bread too. Rather more of it than most people since it was his bread in the first place. And he changed too.

Prosper had sold the pearl of great price for, well, a great price. But after eating the magical bread, he lost all interest in moving to the city. And truth be told, he realised that he had a pretty good life in the village with his friends, family and community. One evening, he invited Promise and Hope and their hospital staff to his house for a feast and he informed them that he was giving all his wealth to the hospital.

From that time on, the village thrived. People with no money were able to come to the hospital and get medical care. They were able to make sure that their children were healthy, they learned how to care for themselves and their families and they got medicine when they needed it. Simple medicines, but ones that meant the difference between life and death to them.

What’s more, the magical bush kept working its magic. The people who really paid attention understood that lots of little bits of good luck were being generated around the village. A word of encouragement helped someone go out and do something good that they didn’t have confidence to do before, and the village prospered. Villagers who had bad luck often seemed to be miraculously helped by other people who couldn’t possibly have known about their difficulties.

And, contrary to all expectations, the more the village grew and prospered, the more people in the village looked out for each other. No one seemed to ask the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ Everyone seemed to ask the question: ‘Do my fellow villagers have enough? Are they eating? Are they healthy? Are they happy?’

Some people put all these changes down to the day that Promise and Hope started their hospital. Other people put it all down to the day that Prosper decided to give all his wealth to help the village to prosper. Other people, the ones who understood about the bread, put it down to the day that the goodhearted people in the village actually began to understand and to act on their hearts’ desires.

But no-body ever guessed the secret of the magical seed bush. And even though the bush continued to plant opportunities that could be used for good (or for evil) amongst the villagers, it didn’t ever produce another magical seed bush.

And then one day, for no apparent reason and for no apparent motive, someone looked at the bush and announced loudly: ‘This is a mustard bush! Mustard bushes are weeds! What do we want this thing for in our village? We must burn it!’

And so, with no further ado, the bush with the magical mustard seeds was burnt.

And the Creator declared that, from that day forward, it was to be the angels who would separate the evil from the righteous.

And the village itself continued to live…………ever after.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday 2 September 2007 - Dishonourable God

This sermon is based on Luke 14:1, 7-14.



When I was in my 20s, a friend of mine from University invited me on a weekend away to some friends of her parents. My university friend had developed a close bond with our host and hostess, whom she called ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ and they were very hospitable people.

They had a big house in the countryside and there were plenty of recreational activities in the area. These people liked to have weekend house-parties and they seemed to make a particular habit of inviting my friend to their home because they knew that she couldn’t afford to get away otherwise.

I was the only ‘stranger’ that weekend. There were four other guests besides me and my friend: two couples who were long-time friends of our hosts.

Our hosts made a feature of the evening meal and they owned large dinner table around which everyone could gather. As everyone was having drinks before dinner, I noticed one place that had a different place-setting from all the rest. It was set with a beautiful hand-made ceramic plate, silver cutlery and beautiful crystal. I remarked on this to the hostess.

She replied: ‘Oh yes. At every weekend we like to set one special place for a special guest.’ I said ‘Oh, what a nice idea!’ and I thought to myself ‘That place is for me since I’m the only person they don’t know well. I’m the special guest.’

When it came time to sit down to dinner, I was still certain that this was my place, but thank goodness I didn’t sit there! It turned out that the place was set for one of their friends – a woman who had just been let out of hospital after having an operation for cancer.

I can’t even begin to imagine how utterly mortified I would have been if I had not been saved by dumb luck from sitting down in that place. I was still extremely embarrassed in myself when I realised that, for all intents and purposes, I had been operating in my own mind as if I was the centre of the universe.

Of course, as embarrassing as this would have been today, it would have been even more embarrassing in Jesus’ time when being seen to be an honourable person was of the utmost importance.

Common Sense & Bad Advice

At first reading, this morning’s Gospel story might be seen as a story about good common sense in a culture which values honour. In such a society, the smartest thing to do is to take a seat in a relatively insignificant place and then wait to be invited to a higher place.

Just about the stupidest thing that you could do would be to take the seat of the guest of honour and then be asked to vacate it. This would expose you as a person who was, in fact, dishonourable.

Because in a society that operates according to code of honour, to be an honourable person is to observe, uphold and defend the values and the society structures of the larger group. In an honour culture the strict observance of group values, systems and structures leads to self-fulfilment and advancement as one is recognised as an upholder and defender of social values.

Any self-respecting Pharisee or Rabbi would see the sense in not taking the seat of the guest of honour without being invited first. That would be disaster!

I think that Jesus’ parable about the dinner guests would have been easily accepted by the crowd as simple common sense advice in a culture that prizes personal honour.

But what are we to make of Jesus’ further recommendation that the properly invited guests to our dinner parties should not be our peers but the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind?

It would have been a normal sight in Jesus’ time to see the poor and the disabled at a banquet being given by the rich. These people – who were deemed to be poor and disabled because of some sin they had committed – would be able to avail themselves of the charity of the rich, but they were most certainly not invited guests with seats at the table.

Jewish law and custom required those who had the means to give charity to the poor, but it did not require people to associate with the poor. In the honour system, to associate with the poor, to mix with them, to eat with them at your table, would be to dishonour yourself.

When we give charity to someone, we retain power over them. To mix with the poor or any dishonoured group is to be equal with them and thereby forfeit your own honour.

So, in the first story, Jesus seems to be giving some good common-sense advice to those of us who consider ourselves ‘honourable’ so that we don’t lose our honour.

In the second story, Jesus is suggesting that we consort and associate with the dishonourable people of the world. Jesus is suggesting that we give up our honour.

The Good News of the Dishonourable God

Is there any way to soften Jesus rather difficult commandment in the second story? A number of commentators have suggested ways of ‘softening’ the second story, but I think that if we soften it, we risk losing the point.

The point is that Jesus himself, God incarnate, mixed with the dishonourable, associated with the dishonourable and thereby dishonoured himself in the process.

But we seem to have a schizophrenic attitude toward Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

On the one hand, we will all utter a silent prayer of thanksgiving when we read in Philippians 2 that Christ Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself in the form of a slave to be born in human likeness. But do we really accept those words about slavery and emptying?

I suspect that we don’t. In our minds God somehow manages to remain high and mighty whilst simultaneously debasing himself. And that’s what we want for ourselves too.

Like James and John, we prefer to see God on his throne and we prefer to see ourselves sitting on his right hand in the Kingdom. We don’t want to think about a crucified Christ – even if he rises from the dead.

We are happy to think of ourselves as imitating Jesus by doing good works, but not if that imitation requires us to lose respect in the eyes of wider society.

So far, this morning’s Gospel reading perhaps risks sounding like bad news rather than good news, so where can we find the good news in these passages?

Well, the good news is that God will do anything, absolutely anything, to get alongside humankind. And God doesn’t reserve his hospitality for the honoured guests. God also invites the dishonoured, the poor and the outcasts to his celebration feast.

The good news is that God does not require the dishonourable to take their customary place on the fringes of the celebration; he does not require them to accept charity from a God who maintains his right to wield his power over them. The good news is that God goes out to the so-called dishonoured, makes himself their equal, associates with them and thereby turns everything upside down so that the fringes of the celebration become the place of importance.

And the good news is that, in one way or another, we are all dishonourable people. When God goes out to the fringes of the banquet in order to demonstrate that the dishonourable people are offered citizenship in his Kingdom, he’s going out to invite you and me into his banquet.

I was lucky. I had a narrow escape at my friend’s aunt’s dinner table. Sheer dumb luck meant that I didn’t voice my assumption that I was to be the person at the place of honour. Sheer dumb luck saved me from the shame and embarrassment of sitting down in the place of honour.

But in that narrow escape, I was also given a lesson – a lesson that I’ve had a number of times since then and that I will probably have again in the future! I was shown how I assume that I’m the centre of the universe: how, most of the time I neglect to think of others or to think of God.

But unlike me, God isn’t sitting up in heaven contemplating his divine navel and thinking about what he can do to attract more honour to himself. On the contrary, God is continually looking outside himself: to creation and to all living beings, doing everything that he can to draw everything and everyone into his circle of divine love.


In a few minutes, we will come to the Lord’s Table. The celebration of Holy Communion is a sacrament and an ordinance but it is also a physical symbol of the feast of the Kingdom of God. All are invited to this table today because all are invited to the feast of God’s Kingdom.

God goes out into the highways and byways in order to walk among those who are ‘not allowed’ into honourable society, and he invites them into the feast of his Kingdom.

I pray that we will not only heed the invitation to his table, but that we too will also look outside ourselves in order to invite the poor, the outcast and the dishonourable into the Kingdom.