Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for the privilege of public worship. Praise God that he has made it clear that, as we abide increasingly in Christ, the threat of conflict with, and persecution from, the world will increase.
Acknowledge the sin of fear of potential conflict, which too often holds us back, not from seeking conflict, which we are not to do, but from declaring Christ, which might lead to persecution.
Please ask for the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Luke 14:7-11
Where do you see your place?
Jesus loved watching people to see how they behaved. His observational and listening skills lead to so much of his ministry. We tend to think that he was primarily a reactionary, responding to the needs of people who came to him. But it's interesting just how many times his interactions with people, or his teaching, began with what he saw or heard.
Developing the capacity to either see or hear the needs of others is important. It's not complicated. It just requires an attitude that looks beyond oneself and sees in the privilege of helping others a blessing. Such an approach flows out of a proper understanding of oneself, and this passage speaks to that.
Jesus is at a wedding banquet and, as he is watching, he notices how the guests are choosing the seats nearest the top table. Obviously, there was no assigned seating, and people were just choosing to sit wherever they wanted. There weren't actually seats. There would have been couches, large enough for three people to 'recline' on. These triclinia, as they were known, were arranged in a U-shape, with the 'top table' being the couch at the base of the U configuration. One of the commentators gives a detailed description of the order of priority on each couch and the couches themselves, but I had to read it three times to understand it; maybe it's just because it is Monday morning. Then the other commentators described the order priority differently. If it were a point of life importance, I would have to choose, but since it's not, I will leave it at the following. The privileged position was either on the left or the centre of each couch. And the couches descended in priority as you made your way up the sides of the 'U', with the couches on the tips of the 'U', i.e., the furthermost away from the base, being the least significant.
Seeing the scramble for the prominent couches near the base of the configuration, Jesus speaks up. It is interesting that he does so. You'd think that, being an invited guest, he would look, see, and say nothing. Why upset the tone of the banquet? Have a day off, relax, leave it as it is. One can't go changing everything in the world. If Jesus had done that though, how much of his teaching would we have? It would be interesting to see just how much of Jesus' teaching arose out of a live 'life' situation. I haven't done such a study, maybe it is something you'd like to have a look at, but taking a guess, I think the link between his teaching and life situations would be reasonably high. This is interesting because most of the teaching we receive is in formal settings, with Lord's Day worship being principle one, Bible classes being principle two. And yet when you think about it, we are much more apt to listen and take on board what comes our way when it applies directly to our situation. That is one reason why ministers need to be with the flock during the week, seeing the lives of God's people up close, so that they can speak truth into where the sheep actually are. That can be time demanding, but it is a critical aspect of the minister's care for God's people. Of course, some sheep don't like such attention, and in my experience, those who resent it tend to drift to the edges of the flock to avoid it. That is regrettable because the edge is a place where opportunities for such 'life' teaching is minimal. It is also a short step to another flock where the teaching is less directed, less challenging, more generic, and therefore easier to take or leave based on personal preference. Never a good place to be, because it is prime territory for the deceitfulness of our hearts to take every advantage of such. To be clear, people can and do leave churches for necessary reasons – moving home, coming to a clearer theological understanding of doctrine, but that's not what I am highlighting here.
The parable Jesus teaches is about how we are to view ourselves. Specifically, the necessity of seeing yourself as less important than maybe we think. Even the apparently humblest of people can have a heart that exudes pride when set in the right context. Jesus' point is blindingly clear – why make your way to a prominent seat, based, in your humble opinion, on the assumption that you are going to be one of the people most entitled to such a place. He says, what if more prominent people come in and you are asked to relocate, how are you going to feel then? Would it not be better to sit back and then be honoured through an invitation to move up?
Of course, you and I wouldn't think like that. We always hang back and let others get seated first or take a back seat from the outset. That is probably true, but Jesus' teaching to humble oneself arises in several scenarios; for example, you will find the same content in Luke 18:14, Matthew 23:12, and similar teaching in Psalm 18:27, Proverbs 29:23, Matthew 18:4, 1 Peter 5:6 and James 4:6. Philippians 2:1-11 also speaks to this.
So, taking the truth of humbling oneself, and applying it to your life within the community of Christ's Bride, of course, we aren't going to take the prominent seats at a special gathering. Still, when it comes to picking a bible off the floor of the church that a child has set down – well, someone else will bend down and do that. When it comes to going up to a visitor at worship and simply saying 'hello, good to see you' – well, so and so is good at that, I need to go and speak with... When it comes to helping with the cleanup after a fellowship lunch – well, we need to get home, someone else will do that. When it comes to being at worship twenty minutes early to give a hand shoveling the snow off the paths – well, that’s the deacons’ job. When it comes to making a meal for a family in need – well, there are people in the church who love doing that sort of thing. When the toilet roll in the washroom is getting low – well, we have a paid cleaner, it's their job to see that doesn't happen. Having a humble attitude isn't just about where you sit.
Sing with joy in our heart to the Lord.
Psalm 72C - Link to the words. Link to it being sung.
Store up the Word in your heart.
Luke 14:11 - "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,"
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 101 – What do we pray for in the first request?
Answer – In the first request (which is, Hallowed be your name) we pray that God may enable us and others to glorify him in all in which he makes himself known; and that he would overrule all things for his own glory.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God that we can humble ourselves and serve him and others; because the Lord Jesus humbled himself by coming to the earth, being found in human form, and by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC