In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Know your place. Especially on Thanksgiving weekend when all the family gathers. The kids at the card table. The adults, and heads of the family aligned in order at the big table. The father at the head carving the turkey. Ya. Right. Those vestiges of yesteryear are rarely found anymore. And most of us react rather viscerally to such ideas. Some of you may say, “Ah, the good old days when all was right in world.” Others may say, “Ah, the bad old days when all was vile, patriarchal, and oppressive.”
Yet here is Jesus saying, “Know your place. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” And giving us a lesson in how to win friends and influence people; how to be shown great honour in your community, by forcing the hand of the one who invited you to raise your profile, your status by giving you a better place in the banquet. A place of honour. Thus, you will be shown to be humble, and to be of high rank all at the same time. A win-win for you. Ya. Right.
The religious men don’t like it. After all, those who are accomplished tend to be accomplished by believing and practicing that you get what you deserve. And in this world that is generally true. But not so with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. With Him you get what you do not deserve. For He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Like a parent who doesn’t want to come down too hard on their child not wanting to drive their wayward one away, He puts up with your sin, taking the long view, always seeking and working toward the day when you repent, come to senses, and return to Him. He has done all to reconcile you to Himself. He does all to seek and save we who are lost. And He is slow to anger, bearing with you in love, uniting you to Himself with His bonds of peace.
Well, the peace giver, the source of rest heals that man. The well-to-do religious men don’t like it. They were watching Him closely. They didn’t trust this overly compassionate new upstart teacher who feasted with the “good” and wicked alike; Who had constant compassion on the willing-to-admit-it wastrels, but judgement for the holy-than-thou holy rollers. So again he upsets their apple cart. He does what ought not be done. He heals on their “holy” Sabbath day. Then He stops up their gaping mouths by abounding in steadfast love to this son of God dropped in a well by dropsy. For no matter what God’s law says about resting just as He did from all his work on the 7th day, which one of us wouldn’t lift up our fallen child who had fallen down into the pits of life, wouldn’t move heaven and earth if we could to save them no matter what day it was?
Religiosity which focuses on the Lord and His gifts is true religion! It is a word fitly spoken that lifts you up and refreshes the soul.
So let’s re-look at Our Lord’s parable, because with the Lord it is never about how to win friends and influence people. That’s self-focused religiosity, which is idolatry, an abomination in the Lord’s sight.
The Lord of the Sabbath asked the self-focused religious men, “Is it fitting to heal on the Sabbath?” And He answers His own question by doing what the Sabbath is for. Then He asks, “Wouldn’t you pick up those who have fallen down and gotten hurt? Is that not what your own love for your child would do? So how much more God’s steadfast love?” But they won’t answer for self-focused religiosity has nothing to do with the Lord of life. So our Lord takes His axe to root of their self-focused religion with a parable.
Parables always allow you to focus it on yourself or on Jesus. So the self-focused religious will miss the point saying, “Ok, you’ve got me there. Your way is better. You’re way is the right way to let yourself be elevated.” But if its about you, then its about being sly and using a false-humility to get what you want. For you still have a notion of your own worth in your own eyes. And you want to be recognized in the sight of others. And the self-focused who actually try to practice this “humility” and don’t receive the desired lifting, then get angry when they are not appropriately recognized.
And now the Father of all mercy has exalted His humble Son so that His name is above every name in heaven and on earth. He has seated His Son at His right hand on His own throne. So that God’s right hand man uses His Sabbath rest as it is meant: to give desperate, sick, sinners His holy rest. To give them wholeness in Him. For we who are broken have been healed in Christ. We who are empty have been filled with His Spirit. We who are dead to God in sin and transgressions have been made alive in His Son. We who are brought low by sin have been lifted in His loving, nail scarred hands.
Christ, our golden apple, is God the Father’s fitly spoken word to the World, saying, “Come up here, beloved friend, move up higher. Come to Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Know your place. For you, baptized one, are in Christ and He is all in all.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON