If you could have a dinner party with anyone in the entire history of the world, living or dead, fictional or historical, who would you choose?
Who we choose to sit with and associate with says much about who we are and what we value.
1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.
7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Starting as early as middle school, if not earlier, it matters where we sit and who sits with us. We find value and acceptance in those who let us sit with them. We find validation in their company. Who we choose to break bread with says much to the rest of the world that looks on. Some of us strive to be at the head table, in the hottest clubs, in the luxury suites at the game, in first class, etc., etc. We may look up to those on the tiers above us and with derision on those around us and below us. Dissatisfaction with our current placement is cultivated. It is like the star-belly sneetches with a vertical component. The ones above have what we want. The ones below have what we wish to slough off.
Jesus' teaching about the wedding feast plays off our desire to sit at the place of honor. Jesus tells us to err on the side of sitting well below where we might deserve. If we do that we will be honored and glorified as we are lifted up to our rightful place. If we err on the side of sitting above where we deserve then we may well be moved downward. Beyond that our "rightful place" may be full at the time in which we are downgraded and we may end up well in the back, in the outer darkness, where there is sadness, isolation and perhaps even weeping and gnashing of teeth. We are called to be humble and let others, particularly God, raise us to where we ought to be.
Jesus came into this world eschewing our social pecking orders. He sat at the lunch table with lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, gluttons, drunkards, Samaritans. He found his home in the island of misfit toys. I daresay that he would even find his place at our table breaking bread with us. Jesus deserved higher but chose lower. He let the world "glorify" him by putting him on the cross (see John, chapter 3). His higher place was one of shame, humiliation, isolation, abandonment and pain. He did this for our sake. He took on punishment that God might raise us in this life and the next. Jesus will never slough us off.
There is a resurrection of the righteous. We will be among those because Jesus has chosen to be righteous when we could not and to complete what God began in our baptisms. In the meantime we would do well to choose more like Jesus did when finding people to break bread with.
God, shape us after Jesus' heart. Help us love more fully as we have been fully loved. Amen.