Our Gospel message comes to us today from the 14th chapter of Luke, beginning with the 1st verse.
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...
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “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; 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. 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. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:1, 7-14, NRSV)
All mighty God, we thank you for your word and the way that you in it revealed to us who you are and what you’ve done for us in Christ. Now, as we open that word, we pray that your spirit may be present, that all thoughts of worry or distraction may be removed and that the Spirit will allow us to hear your voice. And so, oh God, fill us with your spirit through the reading and proclamation of your word this day. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Christians ‘March To The Beat Of A Different Drummer’”
Mike was the kind of person who “marched to the beat of a different drummer.” You could see that at his place of work. Most of the people there had a very pushy, “me-first” attitude. “You’re going to have to look out for yourself here,” he was told when he was hired. “In this company, you must push yourself forward, sometimes step on other people, if you want to advance.” That’s how most people were at his company. But Mike marched to the beat of a different drummer. He worked hard, and he did good work. But instead of having a pushy, “me-first” approach to things, he was humble. Sometimes he got stepped on because of his humility. Sometimes people took advantage of him. But he seemed to be at peace with all that. He was humble. And things went alright for him. He did find for himself. He was someone who “marched to the beat of a different drummer.” He had humility flowing through his veins.
Or, take Elizabeth. She was different too. She was unusually nice to other people. She always went out of her way to help people, sometimes total strangers. She babysat for people. She volunteered. Once when she was standing in line at the store, a lady in front of her didn’t have enough money for her groceries, so Elizabeth jumped in and made up the difference. Most of the time, Elizabeth got nothing in return for her generosity. But she seemed to be at peace with all that. She was someone who marched to the beat of a different drummer. She had charity flowing through her veins.
What is that that can make a person be so humble or so charitable? Jesus talks about that something in our Gospel lesson for today. It was the Sabbath, and one of the Pharisees, one of the head teachers, invited Jesus over to dinner after the Sabbath service. This Pharisee wasn’t being nice to Jesus—he invited him over because he and the other Pharisees wanted to watch Jesus and see if he would do something wrong, so they arrested him.
The house was packed, and the time came for everyone to sit down at the table. Have you ever seen what happens when students enter a classroom on the first day of school? Often there’s a mad rush for the back seats—people are diving and elbowing each other. That’s what Jesus saw at the house of the Pharisee—these grown-ups were trying to get the best seat—it was very much a “me-first” atmosphere.
Jesus noticed this, and so he told them this parable. He told them that when someone invites you to a banquet, don’t show up with a “me-first” attitude. Don’t rush to sit in the best seat. What happens if someone more prominent than you shows up, and then the host has to tell you to get up and move to a lower seat? You’d look foolish in front of all those people. Instead, when you’re invited to a banquet, be humble. Take the lowest seat. And then the host will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place,” and you’ll be honored in front of all the other guests.
Do you know what the main point of that story is? Look at verse 11: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Jesus isn’t just talking about table manners here. He’s talking about our relationship with God. Everyone who is proud before God, who thinks he is better than everybody else before God, who exalts himself—God will someday humble that person. Sometimes that happens here in this world. It will happen for sure in the world to come. But the one who is humble before God realizes that he’s not any better than anyone else, believes that he’s just a lowly sinner, and humbly trusts in Jesus Christ for forgiveness—that person, Jesus says, will be exalted by God. Sometimes that happens here, in this world. It will happen for sure in the world to come. Do you have that kind of humility running through your veins?
After talking to the crowd about humility, Jesus turned to the host and said to him, when you give a luncheon or a dinner, don’t always invite just your rich friends or your relatives. They’ll pay you back, and you’ll get your reward, that’s true. But when you put on a luncheon—invite people who can’t pay you back—the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. They won’t be able to pay you back, but you will be blessed. God will pay you back at the resurrection of the righteous.
What Jesus is describing here is charity. The definition of charity, according to Jesus, is to give of yourself to someone else, and that person can’t provide you with anything in return. Don’t think you’re charitable if you’re offering to someone who will eventually pay you back. Real charity, Jesus teaches here, is one-way giving. Real charity is when a believer in Christ says to himself, “I will give, and it’s OK if I get nothing back. I believe that I will be blessed when Christ raises me from the dead. I don’t need to be paid back right now.” Do you have that kind of charity running through your veins?
Have you ever looked in the mirror and said to yourself, “I don’t look so good today.” Mirrors do that sometimes. The Bible does that, too—the Bible is like a mirror, and as we read these things that Jesus says about humility and charity, and we look at ourselves, our lives, our motives, our attitudes, we can see that sometimes, we don’t look so good. We know we’re supposed to be humble, but isn’t there a part of us that would rather say, “me-first.” Ever since we’ve been little kids, we’ve been saying, “me-first.” It’s “Me-first” in the workplace, “me-first” around our loved ones, “me-first” everywhere. We don’t like to be humble. And what about charity? Giving something without expecting anything in return? Isn’t there a part of us always asking, “What’s in it for me?” Why should I donate some of my money toward that? Why should I volunteer my time for that? Why should I go out of my way for that person? What’s in it for me? Humility and charity—is that really you?
God’s Word is like a mirror—we look into it and say to ourselves, I don’t look so good. It shows us our sins. It humbles us and shames us. But God’s Word also shows us our Savior. The Bible isn’t just a book that makes us feel guilty. It’s the Word of God that brings us comfort and peace, and joy because here in the Bible, we not only see our sin, but we also see Jesus, our Savior.
When you read about humility here, think about Jesus’ humility. When he came into this world, he didn’t scramble to take the highest place. He took the lowest place. A humble birth. A humble life. A humble death. And there is no place more humble than the cross. That’s as humble as you can get, hanging on the cross, dying with the sins of the world piled on your shoulders. Jesus took the lowest place and humbled himself for you and me. And when you read about the charity here, think about Christ’s charity. What he gave to this world—he didn’t just give a portion of his income that didn’t affect his lifestyle—he gave his whole life, something that you and I could never repay him for. That was his gift of charity to you—what amazing love that Jesus would give you himself so that you could be saved.
Do you know what happens when you ponder these things and believe these things? God changes you. He changes you from someone who is proud into someone who is humble. He changes you from someone who is self-centered into someone who is filled with charity. That’s what happens every time you discipline yourself, to spend time in God’s Word—God changes you, and you become this person who marches to the beat of a different drummer.
Remember Mike, the businessman, and Elizabeth, the charity machine? They both marched to the beat of a different drummer. They marched to the beat of grace. “I’m sinful,” they would say, “no doubt about it. But God has shown me grace. Christ died for me. He humbled himself for me. And so I will be humble to others. He gave himself for me. And so I will give of myself to others.” That’s a Christian, isn’t it—someone who marches to the beat of a different drummer.
There is the story told of Booker T. Washington. He was an African American who went from being a child of slaves to the president of a college. While he was president, a woman walked up to him who didn’t recognize him and said to him, “Why don’t you come over here and chop some wood for me.” She probably looked at the color of his skin and assumed that he was an ex-slave looking for work. Mr. Washington didn’t resist. He politely chopped wood for the lady, and after it was all over—it took a while—she gave him a couple of coins and said, “now be on your way.” A few days later, this lady discovered that this man was the local college president. And so she went to the college, visited him in his office, and apologized for treating him poorly. But Mr. Washington was humble. He said, “I don’t mind working, and I had the time, so I was happy to do it. I believe in being humble, and chopping wood was the perfect way for me to be humble that day.” That’s humility. There’s no “me-first” attitude there. Just being humble.
This is the kind of person that God is making you be—humble. And charitable. Christians give and give and give. And oftentimes, we don’t get anything in return. But we’re OK with that because Jesus says in verse 14 that you will be blessed. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. There will come a time when God will exalt the humble, lift them up, and bless them beyond their wildest imaginations. And there will come a time when God will repay those who give so generously while they’re on this earth. Jesus tells us that a time will come when God will honor all those acts of love, on the last day, when he raises you from the dead.
Do you believe these things? If you do, you are someone who marches to the beat of a different drummer. This week, look for ways to be humble. Let God be the one that exalts you. And look for ways to be charitable. Let God be the one who pays you back. May God bless you to be a person who marches to the beat of a different drummer.
O Lamb of God, by your example and precept, instructed us to be meek and humble, give us grace throughout our whole lives, in every thought, word, and work, to imitate your meekness and humility. Mortify in us the whole body of pride; grant us to feel that we are nothing and have nothing and deserve nothing but shame and contempt, but misery and punishment. Grant, O Lord, that we may look for nothing, claim nothing, and go through all the scenes of life, not seeking our own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you.
Let us never speak any word that may tend to our own praise unless the good of our neighbor requires it; and even then, let us beware, lest, to heal another, we wound our own souls. Let our ears and our hearts be ever shut to the praise that comes from men.
Give us a dread of applause, in any form, and from any tongue, it comes. Deliver our souls from this snare of hell; neither let us spread it for the feet of others. Whosoever perishes, let their blood be upon their own head, and let not our hand be upon them.
O giver of every good and perfect gift, if at any time you please to work by our hands, teach us to discern what is our own from what is another’s, and to render unto you the things that are yours. As with all the good that is done on earth, you do it yourself. Let us ever return to you all the glory. Let us, as a pure crystal, transmit all the light you pour upon us, but never claim what your sole property as our own. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)® Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Sermon contributed by Rev. Don Schultz.
We live in a society obsessed with being number one, while following Jesus who calls us to humble, faithful service. To meet the challenge of Jesus’ call, we must “march to the beat of a different drummer” starting from the foot of the cross.