Year C Proper 17 Luke 14
How to Stay Humble in a Haughty World
Luke 14:1, 7-14

Coach Shug Jordan at Auburn University asked his former Linebacker Mike Kollin, who was then playing for the Miami Dolphins, if he would help his alma mater do some recruiting.

Mike said, "Sure, coach. What kind of player are you looking for?" The coach said, "Well Mike, you know there's that fellow, you knock him down, he just stays down?" Mike said, "We don't want him, do we, coach?"

"No, that's right. Then there's that fellow, you knock him down and he gets up, you knock him down again and he stays down." Mike said, "We don't want him either do we coach?"

Coach said, "No, but Mike, there's a fellow, you knock him down, he gets up. Knock him down, he gets up. Knock him down, he gets up. Knock him down, he gets up."

Mike said, "That's the guy we want isn't it, coach?" The coach answered, "No, Mike, we don't want him either. I want you to find the guy who's knocking everybody down. That's the guy we want."

That's the guy we want to be seen with! That we want to invite to our dinners and social gatherings because deeply it is the kind of people we want to be. We don't want to be seen with the guys who are always being knocked down--the poor, crippled, the lame, the blind. But these are the very people, as we shall soon see, that we are encouraged to associate with.

Look with me as we examine Jesus' story about a party. As the guests arrive they are quickly grabbing the front row seats--the places of honor. Assuming they are the most important guest, they will soon be embarrassed, Jesus says, by someone more distinguished. They will be asked to get up and move to the end of the table. They will be dishonored before all.

How do we avoid humiliation? How do you stay humble in a haughty world? There are two things that we must do.

  1. Don't put yourself in a position to eat humble pie (verses 7-11).
  2. We should not expect to be honored in this life (verses 12-14).

Character Approved: Stand Up or Stand Out?
Luke 14:1, 7-14

August is county fair time. Hooray!

Who doesn’t like a county fair?

Yes, we are sophisticated, urbane, high-tech people. But there is something about a good old-fashioned county fair that is like catnip. County fairs still draw us to our local fairgrounds like cotton candy draws us to paper cones.

Who can resist taking just one ride on the Ferris wheel? Who can resist eating deep-fried something (this summer’s new something -- hamburger with a deep fried doughnut for its bun!). Who can resist walking through smelly barns full of prize winning farm animals? Who can resist drooling over champion pies?

County fair prize winners among the livestock are decided along the lines of type and breed. There is the best Hereford, and there is also the best Charolais — even though they are both cows. But there is no competition for “Best Animal” or “Best of Show” that pits different species against each other.

Dog shows are different. Okay, strictly-speaking a dog show is about one species. But human beings have spent so many centuries messing around with the canine gene pool that the difference between some breeds is astronomical. How do you compare a Chihuahua with a Newfoundland. Or a Pekinese with a Pit Bull? Yet in dog shows, after a champion has been crowned in each breed, the next competition is to find the best dog in each “Group” — herding, working, sporting, toy, and the group that we’d all like to be in, the “non working.” After a winner has been picked from each of these groups, they compete in the coveted “Best of Show.”

It is in the “Best of Show” show-down that the judges really seem to be judging apples against oranges. And yet they are not. In each stage of a dog-show competition, each pooch a judge examines is held up to the standards established for its own breed. So even though in the “Best of Show” assembly a Scottie might be competing against a Samoyed, the Scottie is being judged only according to Scottish Terrier standards. The “Best in Show” winner is the dog that best embodies the ideal of its own breed, the dog that is truest to type, the dog that best embodies the essence of itself.

This is so different from the winner of a horse race, or a dog race. The standards of “best” are completely different. The best horse in a horse race is easy to tell: it’s the first horse across the finish line. The best greyhound in a greyhound race is easy to tell: it’s the first dog to cross the finish line. It’s not so easy to figure out what dog will be the “Best in Show.”

Unfortunately most of our culture is based on the horse race model of “best” and not the “best of show” model of “best.” The “best” has become the richest, the most exclusive, the biggest, the fastest, the most famous (for whatever reason). The “success” of bad-behaving reality-stars proves one thing: In a celebrity culture, it doesn’t matter what you stand for as long as you stand out.

Being “the best” in the first century meant playing a skillful game of patronage and power. Virtually every relationship was played out with the same self-promoting intentionality and intensity as a twenty-first century political fund-raising dinner. Everyone who buys a place at a $500/plate fund-raiser for a political candidate knows they were not invited to attend because of their table manners or table skills. The candidate knows that those who buy a ticket eventually expect to get more for their money than rubber chicken.

Likewise the banquet Jesus attends in today’s gospel text is far more than an ordinary Sabbath supper... presents Leonard Sweet