An Economy of Grace

Luke 14:1, 7-14

[Watch sermon here.]

Jesus enters a dinner party
and immediately offers a critique, saying
“When you host a dinner, don’t invite your friends,
your siblings, your relatives, or rich neighbors.
If you do, they will invite you in return.
Instead, when you throw a party,
invite the poor, the disabled,
those who cannot walk and the blind.
And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you.”


I would not want Jesus at my dinner party.

Jesus actively gives the host unsolicited feedback.
Jesus disrupts the social norms of the dinner.

Why?

What is Jesus concerned about?

Jesus always becomes disturbed
when someone is left out.

Jesus is concerned about those left out of the feast of God.
Today’s parable teaches us something about gratuity and grace.
Gratuity and grace are what have value in the economy of God.

In contrast, the world’s economy operates by quid pro quo.
You do for me; I do for you.
You scratch my back; I scratch yours.
You invite me to your party; I invite you to mine.
It is transactional.
In the world’s economy, there’s a mind toward
accumulating security, accumulating goods, accumulating prestige.
That’s the only direction the world’s economy trends.
In the direction of more.

However, today, Jesus is inviting us into God’s economy.
In God’s economy, there’s a mind toward equity.
There is a wisdom of giving without receiving.
There is a transformational way of relating
instead of a transactional way of relating.
This is why Jesus tells us to invite those who cannot repay us
to the dinner party of God.
Here, at God’s dinner table,
there is a centering of others.
Instead of social climbing, which assumes one needs to ascend,
Jesus proclaims community. Jesus flattens the hierarchy
through this vision of what a different kind of host would do.
A different host would invite everyone to their house.

Don’t exalt yourself, Jesus teaches us;
exalt others with generosity.


Jesus is putting a certain conceit to rest.
We have a self-image of ourselves as unique and gifted.
Perhaps we have a self-image
that we are each becoming better, fitter,
more accomplished,
and wealthier in whatever ways we measure wealth.
Jesus is putting that conceit to rest.
No, there is more loser than winner in all of us.
We are those in the field. Poor in relationship.
Limited in our perception. Some of us are limited in our mobility.

If we all strive to take the highest place of honor,
there will be rivalry, conflict, inequality, and even violence and ruin.
Most of us not rich in worldly sense;
Most of us are not going to sit in the highest seats of honor.
There are too few seats.

Jesus invites us to be the host who brings in the people
from the streets, the fields, the roads, the lanes;
this is a call to solidarity not superiority.
We should be getting that invitation
from the streets, the lanes, and the roads,
because that is who we are.
We act like our uniqueness makes us unique,
like we are supreme, entitled to be supreme and seek what is supreme;
when we do that we are not being who we are;
we are not being God’s people.


Jesus’ challenge calls us to self-examination.
Some of us might say, I am not like the others.
I am not trying to get the most toys by the end of my life.
I am better than others, because I am not striving after ostentatious wealth.
I am seeking to be the humblest, the most good.

It is a dodge.
Still, you are striving.
Still, you are playing a game of music chairs
to see who can get the seats of honor.
Our desire for status can hide in practices of piety;
still, it is there.

It’s hard to wrap our mind around God’s economy.
It is the opposite of a college application,
where you share all of your accomplishments and none of your failures.

It’s hard to extricate ourselves from these instincts.
We want to share our polished self because
that is how societies function.

If I showcase my failures, I will not get ahead in life.
This is true, too, for the world that Jesus lived in.

If you gave up your networking and didn’t care where you sat,
you sacrificed real relational and financial opportunities.
What Jesus is saying is ridiculous.
Don’t take the best seat?/?

Jesus is saying, “You are going to lose. In losing you will win.”

This is the plain reality.
We can’t be the Patriots all the time.
We can’t be at the top of our category all the time.
Striving has a cost.
Jesus is saying it has an impact on others;
It leaves others out in the game of musical chairs;
it leaves us out.

Instead, live gratuitously. Jesus beckons.
Invite anyone and everyone into your heart,
Particularly people who cannot give you tit for tat.

This scandalizes me.

Yet, there is God, inviting us to the banquet,
inviting us into God’s own heart.
There, at this hearth
there is a complete and utter gratuity that God offers us.

I love this.
I love God,
who invites you,
who invites me in
to God’s own home.

Here, in God’s home, there are no strings attached.
No tit for tat. Nothing to be given back.

Come empty handed, and empty minded,
emptied of your striving and statuses.

Bring yourself.
You don’t need to bring anything.
Just your soul.
You soul is loved.
Your soul is love.

Bring your soul to the potluck of God.

Here at the community meal of God,
eat deeply. Drink thirstily.
Then go out and offer yourself to those who hunger
for presence.
Offer, too, the food and real things you have.

This is true humility.
Humility honors the sacred worth of others.
It honors your sacred worth.

Don’t exalt yourself. Humble yourself.
Don’t exalt yourself. Exalt others.

What Jesus is inviting us to
is not a new game to elevate our self-image;
Jesus is freeing us from the game altogether.
Jesus invites us to have a clean heart
and an open space
and a welcome mat for the poor, the least, and the lost.

Humility is about seeing people as they are;
Humility is about people seeing us as we are.
It is okay that we are more loser than winner.
It is okay that I am more loser than winner.
It is okay that you are more loser than winner.
I am invited to this feast, free of games, and so are you.
This dinner party invitation is not at all based on our performance.

That is the good news.
Humility invites us to see things as they really are.
The mess of people.
The irritating press of people.
Perceive how it is.
And then, when we see, we can love.
When we allow ourselves to be seen, we can be loved.
For humility is the opposite of perfectionism,
which is self-absorbed focus on how others will view us. Oh no! Oh no!
Perfectionism is trying to cover the fact that we are all more loser than winner.
Every human.
Humility is accepting the truth that we are all more loser than winner.

Humility is allowing ourselves to lose so that we can win.
So that we can be seen. So that we can be loved. Just as we are.
Allow ourselves to be seen even if we feel miserable, or feel like an imposter, or are simply a quivering mess of anxiety and fear.

Yes, this feast of God is meant for you.
Dear God was so excited to have you here she threw a party!
A party for you!
At this party there is no sense of hierarchy, status, who is sitting where, or what this costs, or where this will get you. All of this is swept aside for a sense of equality, empathy, and love.

This is the feast of God.
This is the economy of God.

Here, Jesus says, stop paying. Stop charging.
Take wisdom, love, and grace.
All of you. Take as much as you want.
Dear lovely ones, it is free.

It is all free.

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