Luke 14: 7-11 *This was a homily for the XYZ senior gathering Tuesday morning worship as well as for the Executive and Ministry joint council meeting worship on Dec. 8th at Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village, CO
When I was in seminary I took a class in Chicago where we experienced congregations that had significant community organizing and outreach as part of their ministry model. Many were in impoverished areas of Chicago and dealt with the social justice issues of the context: poverty, joblessness, homelessness, elder care, gang violence, etc. Our professor or spiritual guide as she referred to herself for the two week class as Dr. Yvonne Delk. She had marched with MLK, she had rallied with Jeremiah Wright, and protested with Malcolm X. The phrase that she kept using with us to get us out of our comfort zone and to orient us in our experiences was “what you see depends upon where you sit.”
11 out of our class of 12 were white, middle class students. People of privilege most definitely, so this phrase helped us to gain insight that where we’ve been sitting in society gave us only one view of the culture and of the world. We had only seen the world and ourselves from the position of power, if we were completely honest. Had we really ever sat with the homeless? Or the racially oppressed? Or the undereducated? Or the lonely? Or the abused?
“What you see depends upon where you sit.” In our Luke 14 story, it seems that where one sits is of primary importance and risky all at the same time. Jesus notices where people were sitting, he tells this parable. Now it’s easy to hear these words through a self-righteous or a self-denigrating lens but I don’t think that either of those lenses is what Jesus really had in mind. Yes, we can think too highly of ourselves and think that we deserve a more honorable place than we do and often get our comeuppance when that happens (pride goes before a fall as they say). And yes, we can think lowly of ourselves and put ourselves last. In worse case scenarios allow ourselves to be a doormat. But what if those were not the two choices that Jesus had in mind?
“What you see depends upon where you sit.” Jesus is perhaps inviting us to reflect on ourselves and our role in community in a through a different lens. When we sit in a new place at church or anywhere what happens? We might see someone new, notice a room or building differently, think about ourselves in relationship to new people or new spaces differently. What if we were to sit on a street corner in our neighborhood? What about a street corner in a different neighborhood? What if we went grocery shopping in a different neighborhood? What would we see with new eyes? How would we view our own lives with new eyes? How might we view our neighbor with new eyes?
Jesus came to sit, to dwell with us. God wanted to sit with us on earth and let us know that God really sees us, really is with us and really cares for us by being in relationship with us. Jesus, fully divine, didn’t have to sit with humans in our suffering, in our mess, in our brokenness but knew that sitting with us would reveal how much God cares, would reveal how loved we are, would reveal that we are never alone. Jesus wants us to see ourselves and our neighbor as God sees us-connected to one another, bound by love and grace. God sits with us now and always to see us for who we really are: created in God’s very image and created for unending love. Amen.