Today at both Morning Prayer and the Eucharist we are confronted with a scandal. In both places the original audiences would have been shocked by what Jesus was saying. They may have been listening as Jesus spoke, thinking yes, yes, I quite see that. Suddenly, they would have been startled by what they heard. Perhaps they turned to their neighbour with a quizzical look. Maybe they asked someone near them to repeat what they thought they had just heard. Perhaps they tried to clean out their ears, thinking they had misheard the Teacher. But if we read the gospels carefully, what we heard this morning is not new. Jesus repeats it over, and over. Indeed, Jesus lives it. We could even say that Jesus dies it.
Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.
‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured…’
The world isn’t supposed to operate this way! Masters are not supposed to serve slaves; guests are meant to be honoured, not sent down to a lower place.
Yet over and over, Jesus reverses the way of the world. The poor are blessed. The exalted are brought low. The barren are fruitful. The dead live. The Master serves. The Teacher washes.
We say in our Rule of Life in the chapter Engaging with Poverty that the vow of poverty is a commitment of faithfulness to the gospel itself, which summons us to a new vision and way of life that reverses the values of the world. The beatitudes of Jesus call us to trust the promise of divine fulfillment hidden in things that the world counts as barren and negative. By our vow we reaffirm our baptismal renunciations and pledge ourselves to seek out the mystery of divine grace present in places and experiences that seem insignificant, dark or empty.
It’s not supposed to be this way. Indeed, it’s not the way most of the world operates, where might is right; the powerful demand blind loyalty; the strong feel free to strong-arm; the rich make themselves richer, at the expense of the poor.
But this is not the life to which Jesus invites us. Through his life, and his death, Jesus invites us to a life of service, humility, and self-spending love. It is, as we know, the way of suffering and of the cross, but it is also the way of love and life.
The values of the world are killing us. They are poisoning the creation around us. Maybe it’s time to take seriously the invitation of the gospel, and discover the fruitfulness of humility, service and sacrificial love. Because in Jesus we see that it is those things, not power, strength, and riches, that leads ultimately to life and to life eternal.
Luke 12: 37 From the lesson appointed for the Saturday of Proper 25, Year 2
Luke 14: 8 – 10 From the Gospel appointed for the Saturday of Proper 25, Year 2
SSJE, Rule of Life, Engaging with Poverty, chapter 8, page 16
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