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The driving habits of some people never cease to amaze me. Recently I pulled up at a set of traffic lights, in the left hand lane waiting for the lights to change to green. Suddenly, a car pulled up to my right hand side, revving very loudly and as soon as the lights changed to amber, that car was off, with a screech of tyres and a puff of blue smoke from the rear end of the car! He shot off into the distance, merging quickly back into the single lane. I went on my way and shortly discovered the same car stuck behind a tractor, not too far in front of me.
I was reminded of this instance as I read today’s reading from Luke, where Jesus is imploring us to be humble and not to rush to the front, not to take the best seat. In our society that’s quite a challenging thing as we see people striving to get into positions of power, to be the leaders, to always be at the top of the game. I wonder what impact that has on individuals, on their blood pressure, on their self-esteem if they don’t achieve exactly what they want. Just like the person speeding away from the traffic lights and getting stuck behind a tractor.
I know that personally, I’ve done exactly the same. That through my life I’ve tried to get into positions of power and influence and actually, I’ve found that most of the time it’s when I’m in the subordinate position that I can make most difference, as I’m serving, as I’m working for people. We hear so much these days about the stresses and strains of life, about the speed at which we have to live and yet Jesus is offering us a wonderful antidote to this. That if we are the last, then we will be first. We’ll be first because we’ll be looking after ourselves, we’ll be taking life at a better pace. We won’t be in competition with everyone. It gives us time to look around, to see those around us who are not as well off as we are, those who aren’t fed as well as we are. Then Jesus goes on to implore us not to look after those who are rich, but those who have little to eat. Not to invite those to our table who will reciprocate, but those who don’t have the means to reciprocate. Jesus is really turning our current establishment on its head and he’s challenging us to think about how we might influence our own society and bring in a small window of God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom where all are welcome, where there is no high seat, where we are all equal.
This morning many thousands of people will be walking to the altar rail to receive bread and wine. And that’s the great reminder that we are all equal in God’s eyes. That we are all loved; we are all wanted and no matter who we are and what we have done, we can all come to God, facing him, knowing he will take us forwards, forgiven and loved.
This reading from Luke really does speak into each one of our lives. It’s a message that we need to get out to all those around us, those people who visit us, those people who we talk to on the telephone, regardless of who they are, they need to hear this Good News of Christ. The Good News that there is no race for a high seat, that we need to take our time, that we need to cherish that time and use it to reflect on how we might reach out to those around us who are poor, who are lame, who are ill. Those people who really feel like they’re at the bottom of the table. Those people who need their confidence and self-esteem lifting. That’s a difficult challenge for each one of us to do, but it’s something that God calls us to do in our daily lives. Let us be aware that when we compete for the highest seat, when we are in the race and trying to win, it often means that we are forsaking God and that we’re digging ourselves into a hole, as Jeremiah tells us.
So, as we hear those words of Luke and the words of Jeremiah too, let’s ask ourselves the question: How can we be close to God through our own actions? How can we reach out to those people around us meaningfully? And what do we need to do to ensure that we take time, that we don’t rush, that we can fill our days with the pleasure of meeting God.