Luke 14:1, 7-14
There’s some delightful reading in the 32nd chapter of Ecclesiasticus, one of the books of the Apocrypha, in what we call the Wisdom Literature. It reads a bit like the Miss Manners of the ancient world, with advice about etiquette at dinner parties: if there’s music or entertainment, don’t interrupt by talking; don’t display your cleverness at the wrong time; if you’re young, speak only if obliged, and then only twice; if you’re older, only talk about things you actually know about; leave on time, don’t be the last to leave; and, above all, bless your Maker, who fills you with his good gifts.
Today, Jesus continues somewhat in the vein of the Wisdom Literature with sage advice about wedding banquet etiquette. But Jesus is not just speaking in the vein of the Wisdom Literature: Jesus is Wisdom—Wisdom itself, or, Wisdom himself—well, actually Wisdom herself: Sophia. Earlier in the Gospel of Luke in referring to himself, he says “Wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Jesus is Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia in Greek. This identification of Christ with Holy Wisdom is especially important in the Churches of the East. You may remember the great church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
So when Jesus speaks, we can expect to find deeper wisdom, deeper levels of meaning, the inexhaustible, infinite depths of the holy wisdom of God. He calls this teaching a parable, which means it’s about more than dinner parties.
It’s hard to escape our very human concern with matters of rank and status. And, yet, the gospel invites us to another place, another kind of self-awareness: a place of what we might call radical egalitarianism, a state of such deep identification with Christ himself that status and rank no longer matter. We stand before God as equals.
Or sit. I’m tempted to make a wager: the table at the heavenly banquet will be round. Perfectly round. Infinitely round, infinitely commodious, and—somehow–at the same time, infinitely intimate.
Luke 14:1, 7-14
There’s more going on in this story Jesus tells than meets the eye. Jesus’ most obvious point is about distinctions between people, the invidious, sometimes tempting desire to distinguish ourselves from others to make ourselves look better, more important, higher than we might otherwise appear. I’ll come back to that. There’s also something more subtle going on here in this story about who is at the table.