Waimea United Church of Christ

 

Luke 14:1-14         “Jesus Silences”

 

            It is great to have my wife Helen back home from her long trip to visit her mom in Malaysia. It really is. However, I love the fact that when she was away, if I did not want to cook dinner, I did not have to. I could skip dinner any time I wanted to. I could have dinner at midnight. This all made no difference. I was eating alone anyway.

            I bring this up because once again we see Jesus going off to have dinner with someone else, a Pharisee, a leader of the Pharisees no less, once again on the Sabbath. We have to realize that the rules of the Sabbath in those days are such that you are not supposed to prepare any food on that day. Most people who have homes will prepare a double portion on the day before the Sabbath so that they will not have to cook that day.

            If you are Jesus, however, you have been traveling around from one place to another and eating what you can as you are able. It makes perfect sense that Jesus would accept a dinner invitation. In fact this would be a great blessing unto him.

            Likewise, the person who has invited Jesus, and we do not have his name, also receives a blessing because of the Jewish hospitality code. Having a guest on the Sabbath is considered a great blessing on the householder. The reason for this goes back to that story in Genesis 18 in which Abraham host three men who turn out to be angels who bring good news of the pending birth of his son Isaac. You will recall that Sarah actually laughed at the idea. Later it is shown that those three men were sent by God as angels to Abraham and Sarah.

            In Hebrews 13:2 we hear our Christian calling as well. This is related back to that Hebrew story: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Is that not a wonderful sentiment? Maybe God will actually send people who are your personal angels right into your life at that very moment when you need that angel! You will not ever know if you do not invite them into your life!

            A lot of people in Jesus’ time were thinking that he was sent by God. This is a good thing because he WAS sent by God. Although we like to always think ill of all Pharisees, it seems that this might actually be an amicable invitation even though our text says that they were “watching Jesus closely.”

            This also says that Jesus accepted that kind of an invitation from those Pharisees. Jesus is not just going out to the poor people and, you know, “feeding the five thousand.” He is actually taking time to reach out to the upper class rich folk, too. Everyone deserves a crack at getting into the Kingdom of Heaven! Jesus really does not play favorites.

 

            Wherever Jesus went in those days, hundreds of people would be following him. Somehow, one of those people were able to get into the meal of the leader of the Pharisees. He is ill. He has what the bible calls “dropsy.” No, that is not the disease that makes you drop things all the time again and again. Sometimes I do have that problem when I keep on dropping things. That is not dropsy. The word in English comes from the Greek and has been shortened up. It used to be called “hydropsy.” When you hear the “hydro” in that, you will think of water. That is what “dropsy” is; it is swelling because of water in the body. This may be akin to congestive heart failure or pleurisy. In those days, it would have been a clear cause of many deaths. This man may have been having trouble breathing or with the beating of his heart already. Jesus probably should not have waited a day so that he would not cure on the Sabbath. This is clearly more of an emergency than healing the blind man—which he also does on the Sabbath.

            This time Jesus, however, asks the question first: “Should I heal this man on the Sabbath?” Think about the fact that this man might have been wheezing and clutching his chest in pain! Jesus asks: “Should I go ahead and fix this?” This is really a strange thing to ask when we put it in context. Of course Jesus should heal this man. The folks in the room should already be on their knees praising Jesus for his power to heal.

            Yet, in this scene, we see that the room stays silent. Jesus asks if he should heal. The people there seem not to know what to do or say at all. They are not going to stop him from doing it! That means that they consent to his doing it. By the law, silence marks consent. That is how we pass things at business meetings simply by asking if there are any objections. If everyone stays silent, then the motion is passed by consent.

            I have at times asked people, folks who are not believers, if they would like me to pray for them over an issue. I am mostly amazed when folks say in reply: “Well, I guess it does not really matter. It could not hurt I suppose.”

            The Pharisees seem to have this same attitude. “So do it if you think it will help, but do not bother us with this stuff on the Sabbath. The food is getting cold. By the way, I thought you came to bless us, not this guy with dropsy.”

 

            Jesus reads the silence he receives and so tells a parable about the guest to a dinner party that assumes a place of honor at the table, but then is asked to be seated in a lesser position. The idea is that we should not assume honor in this world at all.

            We should also not assume honor in the next world either. Jesus seems to be talking about the feast that will be offered in the end times in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is saying to these Pharisees that when they take the place of honor at their own table, they had better not presume that honor in the world to come. God has invited the man with dropsy and the leader of the Pharisees to God’s feast. Where should the two men sit? The answer is of course that both men should sit humbly before the Lord.

            Everything we do in this world is supposed to honor God, not ourselves. Indeed, if we take honor unto ourselves, then we are missing the whole point. We are being prideful and glorifying ourselves rather than God.

            I recall after I was awarded my doctorate in theology from Fuller Seminary. They marched us all on stage in cap and gown. We were handed the piece of paper. It was all pomp and circumstance. Then, I had the piece of paper and the fond memory, but what good was it? Well, I could put the Dr. in front of my name now, so what?

            Then, my kids gave it meaning. It really had so little meaning to me until I heard my daughters calling me “Dr. Papa.” It is like Dr. Pepper, but really “Dr. Papa.” My children were honoring me. That had meaning to me. It has been a while since they have called my “Dr. Papa.”

            Also, shortly after my arrival here on island, I heard from one of the Kupuna her disfavor of a certain other pastor on-island. I am not sure I fully understood at the time, but I have now come to understand the issue. She was upset that  another pastor on the island who was fresh from the mainland had decided to call himself “Kahu.” Her point was that that is a title that needs to be given by the community of faith. One should not just assume that title. One cannot simply call one’s self Kahu.

            So, having thought about it, and not wanting to offend anyone, I decided to wait to see if anyone else would ever give me the title of Kahu. I waited. And, I waited. Years went by here. I was not yet a Kahu. Then, after seven years we were having an aha mokupuni up at the Hanalei church—the one that recently got flooded—the Waioli Huiia Church. I looked at the bulletin of the Association’s time of worship and noted that I was suddenly listed as “Kahu Olaf.” Somebody else decided that I was finally worthy to be called a Kahu.

            In the end time, for sure, I will give up that title of kahu and give it back to Jesus! This world and all we do is about honoring Jesus. We might pick up  some honor in His name this day, but it is all about giving it back to Jesus. Jesus, you are my Kahu. That means shepherd by the way.

 

            Jesus goes on to tell the people that if you are going to invite people over for dinner, do not do it in the anticipation of a return invitation. It is not supposed to be about being repaid. This is critical to our understanding of the Christian faith. You see, we know that there is simply no way that we could ever repay God for all that God has given us. How do you repay God for all of life and salvation to eternal life through the sacrifice of His son? You cannot!           

            Believing in Jesus is about believing in grace. We get what we do not deserve. There is simply no way to earn your way into heaven. No matter who honors you in this life, your humility before God and Jesus is all that matters to the next life!

            I could be “Dr. Papa.” I could be “Kahu Olaf,” the only name that matters is the name of Jesus. All the honors of my life must belong to him. I could never be good enough to earn my place with God in heaven. It is but by the grace of God that I will find a seat at the table that is being prepared for me in heaven.

            If we are to be repaid anytime, then Jesus states it right: “We are to be repaid at the time of the resurrection of the righteous.”

 

            Amen.