Sermon 28 August 2016   Proper 17

 

We all think we’ve taken absolutely on board Jesus teaching in the Gospel about not taking the best places. Just before meals, when the bell rings, there’s an “after you Claude” race to get in last The Refectory Brothers have again and again to tell brethren to go in first, so as to be able to take care of the guests. In parish churches, there’s often a race to sit at the BACK.

It’s all so obvious, yet so easy to miss the real point.

 

All the readings for today are carefully chosen to back up what Jesus teaches in the Gospel but it’s not exactly about going in first, or last, it’s about pride.

 

Ecclesiasticus, or the wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach, puts it really clearly:  The beginning of man’s pride is to depart from the Lord: his heart has forsaken his Maker… The Lord has cast down the thrones of rulers and has seated the lowly in their place. The alternative reading from Proverbs instructs a young man who might become a royal scribe or official to remember his rank and not put himself forward

 

From the letter to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices  are pleasing to God”.

 

People who have a good education, who speak properly, who dress properly, get attention and employment easily enough. When they come to test their vocation in religious communities, they are welcome. People who have the right nationality, the qualifications we need, the right passports, cross frontiers, get jobs, without difficulty. However, children without parents are left in Calais , in unspeakable conditions.

 

It wasn’t so different in Jesus’ own day, otherwise he would not have spoken out. In Jewish as well as Pagan society, the maimed, lame and blind were spurned.

 

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return and you will be repaid”. That’s what my aunt Mary used to call ”cutlet for cutlet” entertaining. “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”.

 

Jesus has added the poor to the traditional list. We know all this almost by heart but it is not so easy to apply. The re are food banks even in wealthy cities in the south, there are rough sleepers there too. What can we do?

 

The re is the Huddersfield Methodist Mission but, we ask ourselves, what can we do?

 

Here is the chorus of Standing In the Rain by (Sydney Carter)

 

Standing in the rain, knocking on the window
Knocking on the window on a Christmas Day
The re he is again, knocking on the window
Knocking on the window in the same old way

No use knocking on the window
The re is nothing we can do, sir
All the beds are booked already
The re is nothing left for you, sir

No use knocking on the window
Some are lucky, some are not, sir
We are Christian men and women 
but we're keeping what we've got, sir

 

 

        Antony Grant CR