31 August 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Elliott Siteman
Proper 22 C 2016
St. Luke's Anglican Church, Burlington Ontario (Diocese of Niagara.)
Photo Credit: St. Andre Rublev - Jim Forest on Flickr.com

Sermon Text:

I don’t often speak about my family when I preach. I never really want to fall into the trap of always bringing up the examples of my family. My family is just like most families; we have strengths and weaknesses, we share a love that is born out of respect and care, we make spectacular mistakes, and we have equally spectacular successes.

But today, with the lessons that are before us, I simply had to talk about my parents – they’ll be horribly embarrassed but… well they’re not here to stop me so…

The one thing that my parents succeed at most spectacularly is hospitality.  I learned that beloved art of the dinner party from my parents.  My mother has special dishes for special occasions and when I was a child and saw THOSE dishes come out I knew this was going to be a meal of special significance.

I was taught the proper way to set a table, what fork gets used at what time, where to put your napkin, and how to make conversation over an amazing meal.  I learned from my parents the joy of creating a meal for others and then reveling in the enjoyment of our guests.

Most of those meals, though, were for family and friends – people we knew well and loved well.  But the one thing that sets my parents apart is their extreme hospitality.  A few years ago my parents were avid campers – Stuart they would be VERY interested in your new trailer.  Everywhere they went they would find new people to get to know.  People from all over the continent – Kansas, Texas, Colorado, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Yellowknife, etc.  My dad would usually end every conversation with, “Well, if you’re ever in Cape Breton be sure to look us up, we’d love to show you around.”

Every now and then one of those invitations would actually get accepted.  They would receive a phone call from someone passing through and the next thing you would know there would be an Airstream pulling into the yard.  These complete strangers would be welcomed into their home, fed, housed, taken on a tour of the island, and so much more.  They would put their own plans on hold to show the hospitality that is their gift to the world.  And they did it knowing that they would never be repaid by these strangers because they would never see them again.  Driving to Texas was not in the cards for them.

This is the kind of hospitality that I learned from them and the kind of hospitality that I try my best to share.  This is the kind of hospitality that both the writer to the Hebrews and Jesus are talking about today.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends… invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Hospitality is an important theme throughout scripture and especially in the Gospel of Luke.  As with a great deal of what Jesus does in the Gospel of Luke he is turning the social norms of the time on their head. He is tearing apart the strict fabric of social custom and through that is teaching us what is most important.

Jesus is a teacher, and he uses concrete examples, he involves the people he is talking to so that he can teach better and indeed his teachings continue to reach through the ages to touch us here today.

In Jesus day, the closer you sat to the host denoted how important you were in society. If you sat in the wrong place and had to be moved away from the host then you brought great shame upon yourself. So Jesus is offering good advice as well as teaching us who sits where at the table where God is the host.

Jesus is constantly moved by the plight of those who are on the margins of society. He has great empathy with all those who are cast out by society.  He reaches out to all those who society has deemed to be worthless and shows them how important they really are to God.

So it is with today’s Gospel reading.  In the parables that we hear today the meaning underneath the good advice is that one day we will all be at the table of fellowship where God is the host and to use the social norms of the day Jesus is saying that those who will be next to God at that table are the lowly, those who suffer the wrath of society, those who we try to throw away.

It doesn’t mean much to God when we throw great parties for our loved ones but it does mean everything to God when we raise up those who have been cast down.

Now to say this was radical stuff is a bit of an understatement. This was truly astonishing stuff!  Jesus is telling everyone, those who heard it first and us here today, that the people we think are important (even if that’s us) are actually going to be pretty far down the table from the host; and the people we assume are the dregs of society are being called to move higher.

So what do we do with this?  Well apart from going out and inviting the world to our homes which is unreasonable I think we can do something a little radical.

Lately I have been listening to the Tragically Hip.  For those of you who may not know about the Hip all you really need to know is that the lead singer of this ironically Canadian rock band has been called the Shakespeare of Canada.  Gord Downie is a brilliant writer and as I was listening to their new album I came across a song called “What Blue” in which Gord sings these words:

I love you so much, it distorts my life,
What drove and drives you drove and drives me too
When I think I'm clear, I think I'm doing fine, completely absorbed in what blue 

In your eyes, it's what love looks like, it's the longest thing that we do
In your eyes, all the useless nights and all the dreary places and what blue

Now I’m not sure if Gord believes in God or not. I’m not sure if he is a man of faith or not. I don’t know him. But when I hear these words I cannot help myself but think about the radical hospitality of our God and how we can respond to it.

Jesus is tell us today that our love for our God should distort our lives in such a way that we a drawn to all the dreary places; that what drives God, the love of all humanity, is what should drive us; that our whole lives – the longest thing that we do – should be dedicated to showing the loving hospitality of God so that those who are without hope in this world will see the kingdom of God in us.

St. Luke’s is a place to learn about hospitality and then set that loving care loose upon the world.

So go from this place today with your life distorted, be driven from this place today with your mission clear in your mind, and unleash the love that is in God’s eyes upon this unsuspecting world.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends… invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”


21 August 2016

Proper 21C 2016 - Sabbath Healing
Sermon by Canon Stuart Pike
Luke 13: 10-17
Photo Credit: Fr. Lawrence Lew O.P on Flickr.com