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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings - We're-Not-Talking-Emily-Post Here Edition

Have you seen the bumper sticker "Jesus is coming, look busy?" How DO we act around Jesus, anyway?

Well, as we discussed in Bible Study this morning, the etiquette you learned at your favorite auntie's knee about the proper placement of the salad fork and the correct way to open a door for an older person, is not the behavior expected or modeled by Jesus. The etiquette you learned as a child was to maintain social order. Every time you entered that well-known dining room with those familiar voices ringing around you, you know just which fork to grab, and you chewed your iceberg lettuce with your mouth closed, just as you had been taught.
But the rules suggested by Jesus, and then echoed in the Hebrews passage from the lectionary today seem intended not to maintain but to disrupt social situations. Jesus openly derides his hosts for what are, after all, faithful and prayerful practices. Then he turns on the guests, pointedly uncovering their their jostling for position.

Both gospel and the epistle advocate welcoming strangers to your feasts rather than those who you want to impress, pay back or hold something over. He does these things, our Lord and Savior, in spite of what he knows it will cost him --his very life. Jesus' radical welcome is so very central to who he is, and to who we, his followers are called to be.

And yet, how many of us literally follow this passage in our homes, welcoming strangers to our private celebrations? And for how many of us has our worship hour become a private celebration, at which strangers are not actually welcomed, even if we pay them lip service? Weigh in, friends and strangers. The comments are open.

Picture of Jesus at table with the rabble found here. Link to texts found here.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I'm going to tighten up our comments with word verification since we're getting spam again. Sorry!

  3. Hmmmm, my opening thoughts also referenced Emily Post.

    I am talking about hospitality, whihc could be described as having reached idol status in the UCCan, at least in terms of being "welcoming and friendly". But are we willing to go as far as Jesus would have us go???

  4. Gord, that's a good thought. There is really kind of a huge difference between "friendly" and what Jesus was up to here.

    Thanks for the word verf, Martha. I got "sumsi" which is tickling my funnybone for some reason.

  5. I preached this gospel lesson in February when I picked up some of the parables I was afraid I might miss on maternity leave. That sermon is here.

    My thoughts for this week, about my process and content, are here. I'm wondering a bit if I'm copping out by cropping out some of the Hebrews text. I just don't want it to be a distraction if it's not going to be addressed directly in my sermon (which it's not). I see I did it last time when I included the Hebrews text as a reading for my sermon in February. It wasn't the focal point text then, though.

    I'm going to read (or storytell) the Genesis passage Hebrews is often said to be alluding to. All our folks don't always know those stories, so I think it's worth making sure it is heard if it's going to be refered to in the NT reading.

    Gord, another issue I have with the hospitality buzz word is the way we sometimes use it as an excuse to water things down. We don't want to offend the people we are welcoming in the name of hospitality by talking to them about Jesus, so we don't do it at all. I'm a #1 offender here myself. I like the idea in the video I have posted at my blog that walks this line. You meet folks where they are, invite them in, offer that hospitality, but don't end with the welcome. We do have something more than warm food to offer; we just have to offer it in a loving and "companioning" way, not an overbearing and condescending way.

  6. I think in heaven all the tables are round...

    I'm preaching for the first time in four weeks, and feeling a bit rusty!

    Reading this gospel makes me remember third grade; I was the "new kid" and our teacher kept talking about "reseating" us. I didn't recognize the word as re-seat and had no idea what she was talking about. When our first report cards came out, she arranged us (still in the days when all the desks were in neat rows) in order of class rank--in third grade! I was in the first row--around the 3rd or 4th seat I think--so my pride wasn't affected, but even then I wondered how that felt to the kids at the end of row 4, especially Sandra, who had Down Syndrome (mainstreamed before there was such a thing b/c there was no special ed).

    So that may or may not be part of the sermon, but that's where my mind went.

    Good thoughts about hospitality--my congregation is very hospitable to visitors, but their boundaries haven't really been pushed. They are not yet "welcoming and inclusive" although they know that is the direction I am trying to lead them. So what is true hospitality of the sort Jesus calls us to?

    My rambling thoughts so far...

  7. I so wish I was preaching this week. My folks are getting in a tizz about the number of baptisms I do because I encourage folks into the church who don't know how to behave. Arghh!!
    Perhaps it's just as well I don't get the opportunity to tell it like it is.

  8. ooo, sherev, i remember that story about Gander and I used it at the same time when you showed it to us all. thanks again for that -- it's a goodie.

    revdrmum - oh, for goodness SAKE. I cant believe your teacher did that - it's is so wrong headed on so many levels (feeling extra prickly since my own dear boy will be entering third grade this year!)

    liz - oh no! well, history is on your side, when it comes to baptizing the regular folk. keep it up!

    i was planning to do something to address whole ny mosque business this week, and the scripture as well the hebrews both seem to be a good way to show that these "who's in and who's out" connversations are as old as humanity.

  9. Thinking about hospitality beyond Emily Post made me remember an article I read in American Way Magazine around July 1. It was about a book a man had written describing how he tried to get to know his neighbors better by having sleep-overs. Can you imagine being gutsy enough to propose a sleep-over to neighbors you don't know very well?! :) But if some of the people in this book went for it, maybe we can stretch ourselves when it comes to offering and receiving hospitality too. The book is called "In the Neighborhood: The search for community on an American street, one sleepover at at time" by Peter Lovenheim.

  10. We talk the talk about "radical hospitality" but we don't always live it, do we? My little parish showed it when it welcomed several families of Sudanese refugees, supporting them in all sorts of ways. Beautifully done! But when we were approached to share our worship space with a Pentecostal Latino community, there were all sorts of reservations, and it ended up not happening. A hospitality fail? Was it the language? Was it the possibility that some of these folks ("those people") might be undocumented immigrants?

    I'm playing around with the concept of "host" which of course has multiple meanings, including the one who welcomes guests as well as the consecrated wafer we serve at OUR banquet the Body of Christ, we serve the Body of Christ (2x) ...still in the very early stages, but I'll let you know where I go with it.


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