#PrideBanquet is the Podcast for August 28, 2016. Don’t be fooled. This story from the Gospel of Luke is more intense than just a little wise advice from a kindly young prophet. Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Suits #TheGoodWife #Lawyers #Pressure #System #Pride #Kingdom
Pride Banquet: Luke 14:1, 7-14
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here
For Listener Supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/28/2016 The 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 14:1, 7-14
About two years ago, I stopped watching the TV show “Suits.” It is still running, but every show is just exhausting. It used to be a story about how a guy who didn’t go to law school who got himself hired as a top flight lawyer in New York City. The way he figured out how to win cases with his memory was awesome. Yet, somewhere along the line, the formula for the show turned from this guy’s incredible gift. It became about power.
In the show “Suits”, as in the recently finished series “The Good Wife,” there is no safe harbor. Everyone is jockeying for position. Everyone is thinking that life is a big chess game about power, prestige, and forcing others to do what you want. Humility is only used as a tool for the end game: get what you want in the quantities that you want them. The perception is the reality and no one can really be trusted. One must ALWAYS protect themselves from getting shafted.
Just like with other lawyer shows that I have watched over the years, LA Law, The Good Wife, and more, Suits has music that builds up the pressure. If you listen, the chords in the music set are always minor, or diminished with a sense of urgency, dread, and fear. The music says, “Always watch your back.” This is exactly why I stopped watching them, or in the case of “The Good Wife”, I was going to stop watching until they announced they were finishing the series.
I mention it because that same kind of pressure and intrigue should follow us when we read this passage from the Gospel of Luke. The very first verse of chapter 14 reminds us that this dinner party at which we find Jesus is filled with people who are trying to trap him in some sort of misstep so they can eliminate him. As I was reading this passage, I could hear the music from the show Suits in the background: pressure, constant pressure.
This is why we should avoid the temptation to understand Jesus’ message as a formula for success: “keep your head down, do your job, go to the right party, but don’t brag. Just be present and don’t say anything, son/daughter.” That would be a patting of Jesus on the head and thanking him for giving us some great self-help advice. The Gospel is not about self-help. The Gospel is about a divine reversal of life. It is about coming into a kingdom where justice does reign, where humility is practiced, and the most important virtue is the one of kindness and generosity lived out in love.
The problem in the eyes for the Jewish Lawyers, the Pharisees, and the people in power amongst the Jews of Palestine is that Jesus Christ is not in the business of giving quaint advice about going along to get along. Jesus is about tearing down the whole thing and putting something better in its place.
It was not considered a good thing to be humble by Greek and Roman authorities. Humility was a sign of weakness and foolishness to Greek and Roman moralists. To be able to be successful, one had to be strong, bold, and maybe even brash. Does this sound familiar? Instead of being of service to others, the leaders were having gatherings on the Sabbath.
That may not seem like too bad of a thing, but these are the same people who didn’t want Jesus to heal on the Sabbath. They were fine with making people cook, serve them, and clean up after their banquets on the Sabbath, but they couldn’t handle Jesus healing someone on the Sabbath. This is the same hypocrisy that filled the passage three weeks ago in the [sermon] then.
Over the course of this summer, we have seen over and over again how the Lord is tearing down the power structures that get tied up with religion. These power structures are tied by that need we all have to be prestigious. Prestige is tied to pride. Pride has no partner in humility. Pride is a false sense of the self. Pride is a sense that we are better than we really are. It makes us behave in ways that puts down others, exploits the earth, and gives ourselves what we would not want to give others.
To give us an idea of how bad pride is, just think of how you have been treated by someone who is prideful. Were your needs considered? Was your worth considered? Was excellence considered? Was truth considered? Was there some other value considered besides the need to puff up that person’s pride? It is a system of life that kills. It demoralizes.
Another thing that has been a theme this summer is that Jesus Christ wants his people to be something better than the ways the world. So, he takes what would be a gamble for you and me. He sees a man that no one would want at their party (this is not included in the reading for today for some reason). He heals him on the Sabbath. Then, he goes into this discourse about not sitting at the head of the table. He is NOT talking about the setting at the banquet. He is talking about the Great Banquet, the kingdom of Heaven. He is telling the Lawyers, the Pharisees, and all who want to trap him that their actions, as seen by having a banquet on the Sabbath, are putting themselves first. They are putting themselves before the people who need to hear the Good News.
The leaders who are trying to trap Jesus don’t know that the example of sitting in the cheap seats at the table is being demonstrated by the God of the universe in their very midst. The God of the Universe made mangers holy because he deemed that a stinky stable with barn animals was holy enough to house the birth of the Word of God. The Creator made the ground of the earth worthy, even in the poor neighborhoods, by walking on the earth as the Word become flesh. The Healer of All deemed that talking with the lepers, the unclean women, the sick, the untouchable beaten ones by the side of the road, the thieves on the cross next to him, was a holy thing because he did it. The Son of God made it holy to speak with adulterers, frauds, cheats, extortionists, criminals, because he came to the earth in Jesus and did it.
The people who want to kill him don’t even realize that God is in their midst. Jesus, is making healing on the Sabbath holy. They cannot see it because they believe that serving God as a minister, a priest, a scholar, a follower of God etc., is about pride, from prestige, from being served by others, and from sitting at the place of honor at a banquet on a Sabbath.
No. This is not so.
There is one other thing about the shows “The Good Wife” and “Suits”. Everybody drinks a lot. They are always sharing hard liquor. They are always sitting at bars at the end of the day. They all look like they are drinking to forget. As I watch those shows, as entertaining as they are (and they are), these people are drinking to forget the effects of pride. They are numbing themselves from the fact that they are participating in a system based upon pride. The killing of Jesus Christ is simply the Lawyers, Pharisees, Chief Priests, and those who colluded with them, sitting at the bar of life and numbing their conscience from their lack of faithful living.
For those who have been sitting in the cheap seats at the banquet there is truly Good News. God loves all. He sees beyond the system of pride. He knows who you are. He knows what you need. He knows you. He values you. He wants to heal you on the Sabbath and any other day of the week. He wants to have a system that is just and true. That includes you. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian