Monday, October 3, 2016

Are you going to do all the things God thinks you ought to have done?
Let Jesus and his tradition override the way we've been doing things.  Learn to sit at that table with his people.  God's table, where everyone belongs.

One Table.
A Sermon on Luke 17:5-10
For the Community of First Austin: a baptist community of faith
On the Twentieth Sunday following Pentecost
October  2, 2016

(World Communion Sunday)

It’s the loss of innocence we all experience at some point in our life time: we realize that the way our family does things is not necessarily the only way to do things. We realize that even though this is always how we’ve done things, it’s not necessarily the right way to do things.

For me, my first memory of this involved the kids table at holiday meals. You see for my family there was no kids tables at holiday meals, we all sat together at one table as one big family. Sure there were some minor differences: no wine glass at my plate, no crystal or silver and maybe at times I got extra rolls and butter, but we all sat together. So I was confused when I heard about my friends and this kids table that they sat at during holiday meals… this mystical table which existed in a different room, in which there were at times different foods and at which maybe one adult sat…. Here everyone ate off plastic ware, there was no tablecloth, there we no candles, there was no china or silver or crystal, and they used paper napkins or paper towels…. The horror of all horrors, at this table sometimes they were able to watch television or a movie while they ate.

At first there was a bit of jealousy…. It was the TV while eating part- that never happened at my house except on Sunday nights when we ate Gatti’s pizza and watched Life Goes On and the Wonderful World of Disney movie …. But as I thought about this idea of a kids table, I realized it was an outrage, maybe even a social justice issue for an elementary student: Why should kids be delegated like second class citizens to an exile table? Think of all they were missing: the grandfathers prayer where he always got lost in tears as he thanked God the for family members no longer with us, the stories the family shared about previous times they have gathered around that table and those stories are always accompanied by laughter and tears, you always get the good seconds at this table… the seconds of cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, devilled eggs, and the pies always end up in the middle of the grown up’s table, and here you eat off the china and the crystal which has it’s own stories and you use napkins that were hand-sewn by your great grandmother….

I was no fan of a kid’s table at family meals. And then I married into a rather large family where everyone could never physically sit at one table and the kid’s table was a thing, even when those sitting around it were long past the age of kids. And it felt wrong because that is not how you do family meals.

It happens to all of us at some point… our home and place and traditions, those things we were brought up in are challenged because not every family does holidays the same way.

Maybe it was if you opened your gifts on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning… or if Christmas was a day you dressed up or stayed in pajamas all day… if you opened stocking as soon as you woke up and then gifts or everything at the same time… whether the gravy was giblet or brown… if you dressing started off with cornbread or white bread… if you fried a turkey or roasted a turkey… if you hunted Easter Eggs before or after church….

You have your traditions, the way things should be done and then suddenly at some point you are not with your family for a meal and you are with another family and you see that they are not doing things the right way, your way and everything in you screams out, “this is not right.”

I wonder how often Jesus felt like that during his lifetime here on earth. How often did Jesus get frustrated because truly this is not the way things are supposed to be? How often did Jesus get angry and want to scream out because truly this way is not the right way? Because in the tension of the incarnation, of the marriage of humanity and divinity, there exists the very real frustration that how we are doing things here one earth is not the right way to do things.

I think this passage is a prime example of that… The disciples demand- not ask- demand something a bit frustrating, “Increase our faith!” And this just must make Jesus blood boil because this is what he has been teaching them and one of the key lessons is that this is not an overnight quick fix, that our spiritual journey is not magic, that it takes the hard work of justice and sanctification. It’s not a hocus pocus increase our faith type thing.

And I think Jesus hears this demand, “increase our faith.” And I think he might get a bit frustrated. It’s the feeling that each of us parents feel about 8:15 every night when we have read the story, we’ve taken them to the bathroom, we’ve gotten them water and we’ve answered all the questions and after those 5 trips upstairs, our kids still cry out “aren’t you going to tuck me in?” And you want to scream back, “what do you think I have been doing?” But instead you climb the stairs one more time and plant a pretty fake grin if we are honest and through our grit teeth muster a “goodnight sweet darling angel.”

I think Jesus response to the disciples this morning is in that same spirit. “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move trees and mountains…” and the minute he starts he sees their eyes glaze over because speaking to them in parables sometimes just confuses them and he does not have room for more questions so he quickly takes another angle….and he grabs an image from their everyday life and honestly I wish he had grabbed another one but he didn’t, maybe it’s just being caught in the moment or maybe it’s searching for something they can relate to…. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just walked in from a hard day’s work, sit down at the table with me and enjoy a meal, no that is not the way you do things here is it… you would instead have them prepare you a meal…”

And pay attention to what is behind those words… because behind these words I think we have two things… first that frustration of being in someone else’s traditions and knowing this is not the way we do things… and then behind that frustration we have an image of the kingdom of God. He is pointing out the way this works here on earth and behind it there is the right way to do things- where we all sit at one table together and share a meal.

Because the answer to his question, “Who would invite someone who is a sweaty mess after working all day to sit and dine at their table?” The answer to Jesus’ question is Jesus would.

Jesus would invite that slave to sit there at the table and then Jesus would start doing his thing…. Washing the feet that are so dusty and dirty from a day of farming, and then before him Jesus would put down a feast- the very best meal he could produce, and then in that meal Jesus would remind him of how deeply he loved this man.

This is not another parable, this is tangible… this is the very real question of: are you going to do things the way this world expects you to do them or are you going to do things the way we do them in God’s kingdom? It’s the question this text alludes to in conclusion, “are you going to do only what you think you ought to have done or are you going to do all that God thinks you ought to have done?”

And this is one of those times that we need to listen to our Jesus and we need to let his tradition and his way of doing things override the way we have always done things and we need to learn to sit down at that table together… because that table is never going to be complete until everyone has a seat around it.

It’s what we celebrate this World Communion Sunday. We celebrate that we are not the only one’s sitting at the table. There are churches across this city, across this state, across this country and around this globe that are sitting at the table with us…. And they might not look like us, and they might have different traditions, and they might not vote like us, and they might not even think like us and there way of doing things might not be our way of doing things and our way of doing things might not be their way of doing things but we sit at that table because it’s not our table it’s God’s table and everyone belongs.

And it’s there at the Table where we all share what we know about God and maybe by listening to one another’s stories and experiences, we began to see a bigger and truer picture of God.

And it’s there at that Table where we are reminded of the beautiful truth that our faith is not and cannot be a solo journey, but is a journey we take as a community, no as a family. Because Christianity means community.

And on World Communion Sunday maybe we need to be reminded that the table belongs to the entire community of Christianity in which “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.” And maybe today we should add, neither gay nor straight, neither poor nor rich, neither transgender nor cisgender, neither black nor brown nor white, neither Republican nor Democrat, neither educated nor uneducated, neither liberal or conservative, neither adult table and kid’s table…. At Christ’s Table where are all equals because we are all God’s beloved.

And it’s there at the Table where we are reminded of our Jesus Christ who gave everything so that we could go and do the same… it’s there at the Table where we are sent away to do the very work of Jesus.  We come to Christ’s table so that we can go out and be Christ to the world.

And it’s at that Table we are reminded that the way things have always been done around here in this world… not only is that not the only way, it’s not the right way… that there is another family, the Kingdom of God and the way things are done there, that’s the right way.


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