Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
Text: Luke 14.1,7-14: "True Hospitality "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
What makes a good party - the food and drink, the guests, the conversation?
Do you enjoy best the occasions when you mix with people similar to yourself, or do you relish the chance to meet people from outside your normal sphere, or social circle?
A Window on the Text
Jesus is an unusual guest. Here, at the house of a prominent Pharisee, it seems he is being welcomed as a social equal. However others there are just waiting for him to step out of line. He had just cured a man, after asking lawyers present if it was OK to do so, on the Sabbath. Getting no reply, he healed the man anyway. Now he is telling off his fellow guests who are scrambling for the best places at the table. Then he chides their host, for inviting the wrong sort of people! Presumably it is the Pharisee’s own friends, brothers, relatives and rich neighbours who don’t know how to behave! God is not fooled by social-climbers who promote themselves into the place of honour. God wants us to welcome one other as each of equal worth.
Formal banquets in Jesus’ time were occasions used to cement social relationships between equals. There would be an understanding of the obligation to return the favour – sometimes guests declined invitations if they were too obligated already. Socialising across status lines was rare. Pharisees in particular had a permanent association of table fellowship, formed to keep members of the group away from people considered inferior, or ritually unclean.
What is of supreme importance, according to Jesus, is extending true hospitality to the needy, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, not just to those we would normally invite to our homes and special celebrations – the ones who, like himself, have no means of repaying the invitation.
Luke wrote his Gospel for new Christian communities struggling with these issues of social custom, correct behaviour, mixing of different social classes, and inclusivity. (See 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34). The elite risk being cut off by their families and social networks if they are seen in public eating with social inferiors, especially in highly-stratified city life. But Christian social practice is to be very different, turning upside down these conventions and customs.
Responding as a community
- How important to you and your church community is the Mission of Hospitality? Do we explain enough to newcomers about our “table manners” in church – the significance of what we do with bread and wine?
- Is Jesus saying that we should never work out a “seating plan” for such occasions as weddings, formal dinners etc or are his words more concerned with putting other people’s needs before our own?
Share a simple meal of bread and wine and use this Grace from Hawaii:
Bless our home, Father,
that we cherish the bread before there is none,
discover each other before we leave,
and enjoy each other for what we are,
While we have time.
- Hospitality is a strong theme in the Bible, from Abraham’s welcome to the three strangers under the trees at Mamre (who turned out to be angels) (Genesis 18) to the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs that says “A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 25:13) to the life of Jesus himself, who throughout his ministry relied totally for food and shelter on other people’s hospitality – friends or Pharisees.
- In Jesus’ time, guests at a formal meal usually reclined on couches arranged on three sides around a central low table. The place of honour was at the head of the U-shape, next to the host, and the servants would enter on the fourth side to bring food and clear dishes. There would have been three to a couch, lying on their left elbow, and using the right hand to eat. The place at the edge of the U-shape had the least honour.