Take and Give – Give and Take

by Ken Dale

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14:1, 7-14

What a mix of common sense and wisdom. Jesus advises ?when you are invited to a wedding banquet, do not sit at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ?Give this person your place.?? It would be a pretty embarrassing position to be in wouldn?t it?? We won?t share our stories, but I wonder how many of you could join me in a memory of a time when you thought you were a bit more important than you were and embarrassed yourself?? It brings to mind a little story I came across about Mohammad Ali at the height of his career. ?The?world famous boxer had boarded a plane and resisted the instructions of the?stewardess who repeatedly told him to buckle up. ?Ali said, ?Superman don?t need?no seat belt.? Without missing a beat the stewardess replied, ?Superman don?t need no airplane either. Buckle up!? Ali swallowed his pride and buckled up.

Pride can be an important, yet difficult thing to swallow. ?And yet in this passage from Luke?s gospel the point is obvious and important. ?It almost seems he calls us away from our natural tendencies. It seems we come into this world looking out for number one ? when a baby cries out in hunger, when a child has a need,?early on it seems there is this propensity to organize the world around ourselves. Maybe it?s about human survival. ?But think about children ? say around the age of?5 and for example – birthday parties. ?At a young age we quite naturally jockey for?position to be first, to get the biggest, and so on. ?And when asked ?who do you want to invite to your party?? — isn?t it true that often the first on the list are the kids that invited you to their party or kids you want to like you and be your friend?

Part of us may sympathize for the guests and host whom Jesus criticizes in his parable. ?I mean think about it ? the host graciously invites Jesus and Jesus tells a parable that is critical of the behavior of both guests as they jockey for position and the host for who he invites. ?He suggests that the host invite those who cannot repay. Unnatural social skills?

Jesus puts forth a radically different way of looking at the world. ?It seems only natural that we look out for number one. ?And unnatural to humble ourselves ? take the lowest place at the banquet table, to invite those who in their great need, ?cannot repay you.? Jesus puts forth a different way of relating to one another and to God.

I was intrigued and challenged to read of a church that took the time to survey their neighbors and ask door to door ? what do you need?? Then they went back and compiled all the information they gained and designed all these worthwhile programs to those needs. The church experienced growth ? but the growth was short lived. The pastor called on those new folks that had stopped coming and learned that they thought the church would meet their needs but it?didn?t. ?What?s the point of attending a church that doesn?t meet your needs? Others said that they continued to have problems with their teens even after they attended youth group.

Jesus says when you go to a party don?t think about yourself as you take a seat ? think of others. ?When you give a party don?t invite those who can repay by returning an invitation ? invite those who can?t. ?Think about the needs of others more than you think about your own needs. God in Christ most certainly reaches out to us and to all people concerned about us ? hoping to meet our needs so that we can live a fuller life.? But God in Christ also calls us to be there for others. ?When?we go to church on Sunday don?t we often come with some kind of hope of ?getting something? out of the service?? And yet we are also here to offer something ? namely our worship to God, and to be here in community as a community of faith ? and in that community we enjoy both helping needs to be met and getting needs met in some way.

In the context of this community of faith I can?t think of a better illustration than this past Easter. ?Following worship there was a wonderful Easter egg hunt for the kids. But what really struck me ? and this very nicely provides the exception to the comments about 5 year olds early on in this message ? what really struck me was when Addie came up to me during the fellowship hour after church and gave me a candy saying, ?This one is for you!? And I quickly found out I was not the only one who had that experience.

The point is yes ? we come to church, we come to faith, with the hope of getting something ? but what we get is most certainly meant to be shared in some way. ?May we remember and ponder that virtue of humility as we begin a new year of church life together. ?And knowing that next Sunday is more often than not a high point of worship and community as we gather at Pemaquid ? think about sharing that experience. ?Do you know someone who might either may benefit from being with us or have something to offer as we gather together as this church?