For the past several Sundays, we have been following the teachings of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. To help us remember these teachings, we have been using vanity license plate messages.
Since this is the last Sunday for this series, let’s review each of these license plate messages. Hopefully, many of you will remember these. So, let’s look at the first message:
KISS – Keep it simple, saint. This was the story where Mary and Martha spent time with Jesus. Martha missed out on learning from Jesus because she was distracted by being too busy, while Mary kept things simple by focusing on what Jesus wanted to tell her.
NOK2OPN – Knock to Open. This is where Jesus taught the disciples how to pray by teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus said that all we need to do is to knock and Jesus will open the door to us. That’s all we need to do.
ENUF – Jesus teaches us the meaning of enough. He tells us to guard against all kinds of greed and to not store up treasure for ourselves but to instead, be rich toward God.
REDE2DN – Ready to the end. Jesus tells us to always be ready in our faith because Jesus will come back at an unexpected hour. Be ready to the end.
STAN4ME – Stand for me. Jesus tells us that people will not always understand why we follow him. It will cost us something. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t always easy.
HOPE4ME – Hope for me. This was last Sunday’s message and it’s where Jesus heals a woman who had been ill for eighteen years. With Jesus, there is always hope for us. God is always reaching out to us with his healing love.
And here’s today’s vanity license plate. This one stands for Jesus, Others, & You. Jesus wants us to have our priorities in order.
For this Sunday, Luke tells the story of the time when Jesus went to the house of a Pharisee for a meal and it was a Sabbath day. It’s interesting that the people who were around the table with Jesus were watching him closely.
That’s what I hope we have been able to do over these past several Sundays. I hope that we’ve been able to watch Jesus closely through the Gospel of Luke. When we watch Jesus, we can learn what it means to follow him. We can learn from him because he has so much to teach us.
In today’s gospel reading, we learn some table manners. Now, I don’t have the best table manners. I always have to think really hard about which bread plate or which drinking glass is mine. I don’t always get this right. I do know to put the napkin on my lap, to not eat until everyone has their food, and to have polite conversation.
Well, for whatever reason, these aren’t the table manners that Jesus wants to teach us at this dinner scene. Jesus has some other table manners in mind. And I don’t think that his actions and what he had to say went over very well with the people who were carefully watching him. It certainly didn’t go over well seven chapters earlier when Jesus attended a dinner party.
So, here’s the first table manner lesson from Jesus. God is the most important part of the dinner gathering. The most important thing at a meal isn’t the placement of the utensils or where you should place your drinking glass. The most important thing is to know that God is present at your meal.
During the time of Jesus, the religious leaders had all kinds of rules about what you could and couldn’t do during a meal. One of those rules was to not allow anybody who was considered ritually unclean with a disease to be part of that meal.
And guess what? Here at this meal was a man who had a disease. He was considered a nobody and yet Jesus healed this man! Not only did Jesus affirm this man’s place at this meal, but he also healed him on the Sabbath which was another rule that was not meant to be broken.
The reason Jesus broke the rules was because he knew that the most important table manner of all was to keep God and not rules as the most important part of the dinner gathering. By keeping God first at that meal, Jesus was able to offer healing to this man with a disease.
What would it be like if we would remember to keep God first in everything we did? I think that this would help us to know which table manners to keep and which table manners are not worth keeping. Jesus is helping us to see that we can know where every fork and spoon should be placed at a table setting but if we don’t keep God first, none of these other rules really matter.
The second table manner that Jesus teaches us is to put others first. Immediately after Jesus broke the table rules by healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus teaches a lesson about where people should sit during a meal.
Jesus says that instead of going for the best seats, to first think of others and to let them have the better seats. Like in many social settings today, in the time of Jesus, people believed that those with titles and social standing were superior to everyone else and should have the better seats. And so Jesus teaches them that to be his followers, they need to humble themselves and allow others to be first.
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.
Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew.
Some of the new members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea.
They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they re-decorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club.
Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired life boat crews to do this work.
The mission of life-saving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the life-saving activities personally.
About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people.
They were dirty and sick, and some of them were foreigners, and spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal pattern of the club.
But some members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another life-saving station was founded.
And as the story of the lighthouse goes, if you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but now most of the people drown!
I think of this story of the saving station and how Jesus taught us to put others first. There is a real temptation for us to forget the primary purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to think of others before we think of ourselves. It’s to remember our primary mission and why we exist in the first place.
Jesus has taught us two table manners so far. God is the most important part of the dinner gathering and we are to think of others before ourselves.
And the third table manner – Remember that you are also invited to be at God’s table. And so, the table manners begin with God, they extend to others, and they also include us. Jesus, others, and you. That’s what Jesus wants us to remember.
Toward the end of the dinner in our gospel reading, Jesus tells us that if we put God and others first, that we will be blessed. He even says that we will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
In one of the churches I served, some leaders in our community including people from the church helped launch an exciting community wide program called “Sharing Hope.” It was a program to help people in the local community get out of poverty and to make a better life for themselves.
Each gathering included people who were in poverty as well as people who wanted to help make a difference in their lives. Whenever they met, they had a meal together. And during that meal, it didn’t matter the economic levels of the people who were there. What mattered, was that everyone was there to help and encourage each other.
I wasn’t able to attend the first dinner gathering but I was able to attend the second meal gathering. One of the community leaders who was helping with this program had been preparing the meals and donating the food because we were on a shoestring budget, especially for that first year of the program.
When this kind hearted volunteer with a heart of gold saw me at our second dinner gathering, he said, “Robert, last week’s gathering was just incredible. During our time of sharing around the circle, a woman in the group really opened up about her life making us all tear up, and that was just our first meeting. This gathering really is about sharing hope!”
You should have seen the smile on his face as he told me this story. I know that Jesus said that we will receive our reward in heaven, but I could tell that this man was receiving his reward a little early.
As we come to receive Holy Communion this morning, we come because Jesus is the host. And we come with others because there is always room for more. And we come to this table, because we need to eat, too.
License Plate Sightings: JEOTHU
Sermon Discussion Questions
September 1, 2019
For the past several weeks, we have been following Jesus’ teachings from the Gospel of Luke and turning them into vanity license plate messages. See if you can recall these messages:
KISS, NOK2OPN, ENUF, REDE2DN, STAN4ME, HOPE4ME
Which of these messages from the Gospel of Luke have spoken to you the most? Why?
Our final Sunday’s vanity license plate message is JEOTHU which stands for “Jesus, Others, You.” This is based on when Jesus was eating a meal with some Pharisees. Jesus teaches us some important spiritual table manners to help us grow in our faith.
Table Manner #1 – God is the most important part of the meal. This is the first part of this week’s vanity license plate. “JE” stands for Jesus and God. Jesus broke religious customs by healing a man on the Sabbath. He chose to heal the man because he was more focused on God’s presence at that meal rather than on certain rules he was expected to follow.
What can help you keep God first in all that you do?
Table Manner #2 – Allow others to have the best seats around God’s table. This is the second part of this week’s message. “OTH” stands for “others.”
In what ways you can you provide space for people who are not affiliated with any church or who may feel disconnected from God’s love? Who feels excluded?
Table Manner #3 – You are also invited to sit around God’s table. This is the final part of this week’s message. “U” stands for each one of us! Sometimes, when we focus on the first two table manners of putting God and others first, we forget that we are invited to be part of God’s circle as well. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is a meal that reminds us that we are ALL invited to share at God’s table. Nobody is excluded!
How does your participation in receiving Holy Communion remind you that you are invited and welcomed at God’s table?