At the Kid's Table
Inspired by Luke 14:1, 7-14
How many of you adults, remember having to eat at a kids table? Usually for big family events right, like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? I wasn’t a big fan of the kids table. I was one of those weird kids who liked to sit among the adults, to watch and listen to them converse, debate, laugh, or whatever was going on at the adult table. I remember feeling like that was the place where things were happening, and I was missing out, on something, which I know now as an adult myself, was probably nothing.
I’m not a big fan of kids tables now either. Maybe because I remember what that felt like as a kid but also because I like my kids at the table. I enjoy including them in conversations, they may not but I do! Not to mention the fact that their presence adds something to the table, in spite of the age difference. They make me laugh like no adult can. And they bring a perspective that has been lost long ago in my life.
I don’t know whether they like it or not but if I see an empty seat at the kids table at our Wednesday evening meal here at the church, I’ll grab it. I see that table and think to myself, that is where things are happening, just the opposite of when I was a kid—funny how that works. And sure enough, I leave that table having had a fun, vibrant, engaging conversation with them. And I think to myself, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where we all sat together, where things like age, gender, class, race and all the other things that we allow to separate us, don’t matter? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today we have a strange story that our author Luke shares with us. It’s strange on a variety of levels. It’s strange because it sounds very simple and straight forward, and we know that Jesus is never that simple. So it leaves you wondering what Jesus is really getting at here. It’s also strange because he calls it a parable when it really isn’t like any other parable in scripture. I remember learning in Sunday school that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. But this isn’t even a story! It’s more like a description of a scene in order to teach something—more like a proverb really than a parable. And it’s also strange because what Jesus is teaching here, at least on the surface, doesn’t seem to jive with the rest of his teachings.
So, let’s dig in by first going over what this story is not teaching us. This story is not teaching us to be humble. Don’t get me wrong, humility is supposed to be a characteristic of us Jesus followers but if that is all we take away from this then we have really missed the point. Especially because, what Jesus teaches here about humility sounds more like a false humility that we are going to be rewarded for.
Jesus says that we are supposed to take the worst seat so that we can be told to take a better seat in front of everyone. That’s not humility, quite the opposite I’d say. Not only that but taken at face value, the false humility seems to work on a reward system. And we know, as good Lutherans, that salvation doesn’t work like that, grace doesn’t work like that. So, it forces us to conclude that there’s something more here than just a lesson on humility.
This story is also not teaching us to be polite. Jesus had better ways of spending his time, more important lessons to teach his followers, than a lesson on manners. This wasn’t his way of telling us how we are to behave at a party. This wasn’t Jesus’ Finishing School. Now, again, don’t get me wrong. Manners are important. Giving up your seat for someone else is a good sign of character. Knowing what is inappropriate behavior at a wedding reception is good advice for anyone! I’m sure we’ve all encountered wedding parties that could have used that lesson beforehand! But if that is what we leave this text with then we have missed the point.
So what is this story trying to teach us? What is Jesus getting at!? This story is about knowing your place—but not in the way you’re probably thinking right now. This is about knowing where we stand in the grand scheme of our lives. And then looking around to see who is standing next to you. And then looking even farther to see who is less fortunate than you, who is more fortunate. Who are the ones in our society that are getting the best seats in the house? And who are the ones in our society that aren’t even getting an invitation? And then asking yourself, what can we do to help level the playing field.
Two answers come to mind directly from this story: making grace visible, and inviting all. At the beginning of our story Luke starts out with, “One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely.” I laughed out loud when I read that last week because Jesus knew that! Jesus, time and time again, intentionally put himself in places that needed his grace and mercy the most. Not just with the less fortunate but also in the hearts and minds of the most fortunate, the ones with the means to make a difference in the world. He knew they were watching him closely, he was counting on it! And then comes another example of God’s grace and love for all to see and experience and learn from.
And then Jesus urges, pushes us, to invite—and in order to invite, we’ve first have to be present with those we are called to invite don’t we? And let me say that it’s more than just being welcoming. We can open our doors and roll out the red carpet but without an invitation people are not going to come flooding into our church. Those days have come and gone. We cannot operate as if it’s fifty years ago. So, here’s my homework for you this week. I want you to think of ways that Bethlehem can be intentionally present in our community outside these four walls so that we can not only reflect God’s love to a world that desperately needs it, but so that we can invite all to come and see and experience it, here, in this place, at those baptismal waters, at this table.
Because the ground around this table, is always level, is always equal, and the footing is sure. There’s no kid’s table here. Althooooough, we are all God’s children. So, maybe this is the kid’s table, only everyone’s invited. Because this, is where it’s at. This is where things are happening. Thanks be to God. Amen.