Choosing my seat was easy… I suspect most people would be surprised to learn that I am an introvert. Yes, I am outspoken in most situations and I tend to be noticed in a crowd because I am not “shy.” It was explained to me that as an introvert I draw my energy from places of quiet reflection and solitude. When I am “working the room” I am draining energy and eventually I must retreat to find a quiet place to be restored.
When the John Guest Crusade made its way back to West Michigan, pastors and church leaders were invited to an informational meeting in Grand Haven. When I walked into the meeting I made my way to the back of the room near the kitchen. I took an empty chair between two individuals and introduced myself. The gentleman on my left was the CEO of the crusade; the gentleman on my right was one of John’s special guest speakers, Rev. Jimmy Gallant. The conversation that ensued resulted in a relationship that took my ministry into a totally unexpected direction that I cherish to this day.
I believe the advice which Jesus offers to those seeking seats “higher up” at the table may be a metaphor for the church today. He describes a banquet where individuals who chose places of honor may end up “losing face” if someone more important than themselves arrive, causing them to move down to the lowest place. He suggests that by humbling themselves they are given the opportunity to receive a greater honor by being welcomed by the host to move up the table. The message I hear from many in the church today reflects the attitude and behavior more of the Pharisees than the one who follows Jesus’ advice.
In the beginning of our passage Jesus is travelling with religious leaders (Pharisees and Lawyers) to the home of a prominent leader to dine. We are told it is the Sabbath. Suddenly Jesus encounters a man with what was considered an incurable disease. Jesus asks the religious scholars whether it was breaking the law to heal on the Sabbath. They would not respond to his question so he miraculously heals the man and continues on to the dinner. What I find intriguing is that Jesus was literally breaking the law according to their narrow definition of God’s Laws. It became one of the charges that led to his crucifixion. Some of these same principles are used by many in the church today to condemn other’s lifestyles.
I was in attendance at a gathering of “senior pastors” who were praying one after another around a circle. I recall one pastor thanking God for making us, “gatekeepers of the community.” I prayed and asked forgiveness for us being like “whitewashed walls.” Both statements were biblically sound. But they reflected dramatically differing attitudes about “places of honor” at God’s table.
I wonder if our ministry of lifting up the love of Jesus Christ to the world would have more dramatic effect if we were less critical of those on other spiritual paths; or those who we feel are living outside of our interpretation of spiritual laws. Maybe if we approached conversations regarding faith issues with less arrogance we might see the Holy Spirit miraculously impact our relationship in such a way as to truly be an instrument of Christ’s love for all creation?
That sounds like a dinner I would enjoy!