Sermon Seeds: Receive the Invitation

Sunday, August 28, 2022
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost | Year C
Proper 17
(Liturgical Color: Green)

Lectionary citations
Jeremiah 2:4–13 and Psalm 81:1, 10–16
Sirach 10:12–18 or Proverbs 25:6–7 and Psalm 112
Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16
Luke 14:1, 7–14

Sermon Seeds

Focus Scripture:
Luke 14:1, 7–14
Focus Theme:
Receive the Invitation
In and With: Treasure in Heaven (Click here for the series overview.)

By Maren Tirabassi

Table manners. Jesus talks about table manners, how to be a guest and how to be a host. The setting was already tension-filled on the journey to Jerusalem, but uniquely here the Pharisees are the “good guys” warning Jesus of Herod’s plot against him. Some Pharisee, maybe Nicodemus, has heard the preaching and wants both words and healing to continue. Then another Pharisee, a leader, invites Jesus to dinner. Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin and therefore a leader. These were both known as followers of Jesus as well as members of the most holy of Jewish groups, but surely there were others who did not agree with the antagonists who often questioned Jesus.
Jesus is enjoying this meal and notices that people are awkward in finding their seats, and it leads him into a parable about table manners. Meals from the time of Sarah and Abraham’s hospitality to three strangers who turned out to be God, through the history of settled and nomadic people basing honor on their willingness to invite and then protect anyone who needed food, to these tense days of Roman occupation, remained a central proof of faith. It was central to staying alive by filling both hunger for food and hunger for community.
Awkward guests do not just come from long ago times. Eating together is still one of the most complicated of human relationships. Tension can be high for a middle schooler finding a table to join in a school cafeteria or for a blended family sorting themselves out at a wedding to support the couple being married. Coffee can be kindly or brusquely served to a lonely person in a roadhouse, and a friendly smile added to the first jello or broth after surgery makes a long-lasting memory. For everyone, past Quinceañeras enjoyed, past invitations unreceived or received, past Christmas joys at a shelter for unhoused people, or a single thoughtless family lack of courtesy can flavor new occasions and behaviors.
In this passage, Jesus, known by his friends and enemies alike as both up-for-anything guest and holy host, gives simple guidance to fill these roles. Both of the roles are hard, and Jesus does not diminish the challenge. A host is to invite the least likely of guests and the guest is simply to accept every invitation and not presume to define it, or their place within it.
This etiquette of acceptance and inclusion that Jesus teaches in this parable is widely present in the gospel through the stories of his presence at such different tables ¬as Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, Simon-the disapprover, Zacchaeus the repentant cheat, Martha, who wanted the James Beard award of her day, and the two Emmaus travelers who threw together an impromptu supper. Later, in the Acts of the Apostles, perhaps the strangest tale is Peter’s dream to include everyone and call no one unclean. Each of these stories are about ordinary eating. Jesus words to the anonymous Pharisee’s party does not foreshadow Communion so much as make inclusive Communion possible because everyone learns to both sit and receive and offer the recipe of love. We, too, receive the invitation, because we have learned to be guests and hosts nimble enough to change those positions with grace because of Grace.

Prayer for Fiesta with God
At the beginning of our journey,
we gather as your people, Lord,
looking for life, for our life.
Thanks for having us in your home
and for opening the doors of your love.

Your Word nourishes us,
hugs from us renew our brothers and sisters,
Your Spirit encourages us
to celebrate – FIESTA!
For your grace abounds
in your eyes and caresses.
We sing, clap, smile
and open the soul to find
your presence and generous solidarity.

We are a happy people
and we want to serve you with joy.
In times of confusion and so many doubts,
in moments of selfishness and ambition,
we walk your ways of justice,
hear your words of release,
learn from your lawsuits serene
extend, like yours, our open hands …

May this meeting to renew in us
the ability to follow you and love you,
every day, wherever you call us.
Gerardo Oberman, Argentina, trans. Katherine Fiegenbaum in Gifts in Open Hands (Tirabassi and Eddy, Pilgrim Press, 2011)

En el comienzo de nuestra jornada,
nos reunimos como tu pueblo, Señor,
buscando vida para nuestra vida.
Gracias por recibirnos en tu casa
y por abrirnos las puertas de tu amor.
Tu Palabra nos nutre,
los abrazos de nuestros hermanos nos renuevan,
tu Espíritu nos anima
y celebramos FIESTA.
Porque abunda tu gracia
y tu mirada nos acaricia.
Cantamos, aplaudimos, sonreímos
y abrimos el alma al encuentro
de tu presencia solidaria y generosa.
Somos un pueblo feliz
que quiere servirte con alegría.
En tiempos de confusión y de tantas dudas,
en momentos de egoísmos y de ambiciones,
queremos caminar tus caminos de justicia,
escuchar tus palabras que liberan,
aprender de tus juicios serenos,
extender, como la tuya, nuestra mano abierta…
Que este encuentro renueve en nosotros
la capacidad de seguirte y de amarte,
cada día, allí donde tú nos llames. (Gerardo Oberman)

Prayers of people who seek food justice
Good and gracious God, you are asking us to see the earth as you do—as so very, very good: trees with fruit, bursting with seed; green plants for food, for humans and for every living creature; as a holy place for everything that breathes and to whom you have given life. We live now in a time of barrenness and winter. But we know, even though our supermarkets are full, others struggle with drought, famine, and hunger. Make us mindful of how we might live faithfully in the wilderness so that we are not dependent on unjust systems and structures that widen pain and deepen hunger. May our fasting help us to experience true feasting. Amen
Michael S. Mulberry in A Child Laughs: Prayers of Justice and Hope (Mankin and Tirabassi, Pilgrim Press, 2017)

Let’s renew life —
wherever hands intertwine,
wherever bread is broken and broken again;
wherever life is celebrated by an embrace,
by an attentive look.
Your love, oh God,
is like the perfume of spring,
the air of September,
that announces the awakening of life,
coloring our dreams and our hopes.
Let’s renew life
throw away the old hue,
let’s paint with new and bright colors
such that we can be your collaborators
in the space where we build
and reconstruct our life. Amen.
Maria Dirlane y Edson Ponick, in Gifts in Open Hands (Tirabassi and Eddy, Pilgrim Press, 2011)

Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent:
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
Two follow:

May our courage to fight for a living wage
Shine bright as the moon in the midnight sky
May the sound of our voices
Reach the peak of the highest skyscraper
And the depths of the lowest valley
May the movement of our hands and feet
Be felt in the boardroom
And celebrated in the throne room
Moving from the assembly line to the picket line
Enveloped in God’s care.
Secured by God’s call
Making a place at the table for all. Amen

Eric C. Jackson in A Child Laughs: Prayers of Justice and Hope (Mankin and Tirabassi, Pilgrim Press, 2017)

On Psalm 146
O wondrous, giving God, we know who you are.
You are the compassionate and merciful One who cares for the poor, the oppressed, and those on the margins. You made us in your image. Therefore, it follows that we, too, should be caregivers, advocates, and defenders of those in need.
We pray fervently as disciples of Jesus Christ that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we may be able and willing to do so. It is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Dr. Devoree Clifton Crist, Spirit Prayers: Praying Through the Pandemic and Social Unrest volume 2

For further reflection
“I used to walk about the world pretending to be so tall. I would lift my chin higher, hopeful that in some small way I was actualizing my desired grandiosity. But I was not grand. I was not good or pure. I was only human. Now, I walk about the world aware of the grandiosity that surrounds me. And instead of feeling overwhelmed or small, I feel invited. Invited to explore a life that offers experiences much greater than any I have had thus far. -Marquita Burke De Jesus” ― Marquita Burke De Jesus
“A beautiful path does not need to invite people; the beauty itself is already an open invitation!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan
“The most sacred invitation that a person can extend to us is to invite us into their pain. But that means that we have to choose to knock on a door that we often prefer to pretend is not there.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Suggested Congregational Response to the Reflection
Invite the congregation to participate in a ministry addressing food insecurity or plan a community meal (observing COVID protocols for your area).

Works Cited
A Child Laughs: Prayers of Justice and Hope (Mankin and Tirabassi, The Pilgrim Press, 2017)
Gifts in Open Hands (Tirabassi and Eddy, The Pilgrim Press, 2011)
Spirit Prayers: Praying Through the Pandemic and Social Unrest (volume 2, Bookbaby) Dr, Devoree Clifton Crist

Maren C. Tirabassi, has been a UCC pastor for forty-one years, author of many Pilgrim Press books serving local churches in innovative liturgy, youth ministry, LGBTQI issues, elder care, and global worship connections. She is a published poet and novelist.

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (, also serves a local church pastor and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities.

You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments on our Facebook page:

A Bible study version of this reflection is at Weekly Seeds.

Lectionary texts
Jeremiah 2:4–13 and Psalm 81:1, 10–16
Sirach 10:12–18 or Proverbs 25:6–7 and Psalm 112
Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16
Luke 14:1, 7–14

Jeremiah 2:4–13
4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the LORD:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
6 They did not say, “Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?”
7 I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, “Where is the LORD?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.
9 Therefore once more I accuse you,
says the LORD,
and I accuse your children’s children.
10 Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
says the LORD,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.

Psalm 81:1, 10–16
1 Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
10 I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
13 O that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 Then I would quickly subdue their enemies,
and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him,
and their doom would last forever.
16 I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Sirach 10:12–18
12 The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord;
the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.
13 For the beginning of pride is sin,
and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.
Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities,
and destroys them completely.
14 The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers,
and enthrones the lowly in their place.
15 The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations,
and plants the humble in their place.
16 The Lord lays waste the lands of the nations,
and destroys them to the foundations of the earth.
17 He removes some of them and destroys them,
and erases the memory of them from the earth.
18 Pride was not created for human beings,
or violent anger for those born of women.

Proverbs 25:6–7
6 Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
or stand in the place of the great;
7 for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

Psalm 112
1 Praise the LORD!
Happy are those who fear the LORD,
who greatly delight in his commandments.
2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
4 They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5 It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
6 For the righteous will never be moved;
they will be remembered forever.
7 They are not afraid of evil tidings;
their hearts are firm, secure in the LORD.
8 Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
9 They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn is exalted in honor.
10 The wicked see it and are angry;
they gnash their teeth and melt away;
the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16
Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. 4 Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6 So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Luke 14:1, 7–14
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”