Dave Dodson, Houston, TX

Warm-up Question

What ability do you have which you are most proud of?

It Goeth Before a Fall

It was a warm night in Springfield, Illinois on August 16th when the rapper Twista took the stage to perform in front of hundreds of his fans.  The lights were up, the bass was cranked high, and the notoriously fast rapper was spitting bars in his traditionally rapid-fire style.  There was one thing visible that might have drawn attention away from the rapper, though: On the side of the stage stood a sign language interpreter.  Her hair was buzzed short on the sides, a fiery red on top.  Her clothes were all black (interpreters often dress this way to make their signs easier to read).  She was bobbing up and down with the beat and, to everyone’s amazement, keeping up with Twista’s rapid rhymes.

I think it would have been perfectly natural for Twista to have gone on with his concert without much notice of the interpreter.  After all, the fans had paid money to see him, not an interpreter whom no one knew.  But that isn’t what he did.

Purposefully, Twista strode across the stage, still performing, and stood beside and behind the interpreter.  He made sure everyone’s eyes were on her as he laid down the next few lines of fast rap.  Her deft fingers flew through the words, and she didn’t miss a beat as she signed his lyrics.  Still rapping, Twista gestured to the interpreter and led the crowd in a huge cheer for her amazing skills!

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Twista chose to direct attention away from himself while performing?
  • Think about your family and friends – have you ever been so proud of them that you wanted to show their skills off?

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Proverbs 25:6-7

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Luke 14:1, 7-14

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In cultures around Israel and Palestine, one of the most important virtues anyone can have is hospitality.  The willingness of a person to welcome all of those who would come into his or her home is one of the strongest indicators of that person’s character.  As Jesus gives this metaphor to his listeners, they would have understood that the host in the story would have been obligated to welcome his guests and allow them to sit wherever they pleased.

However, in the metaphor, the first guest makes a critical error: he sits at a prominent seat.  Of course, his host would not argue.  His host would never be so impolite as to deny his guest a seat.  But then, later, someone else arrives whose status is higher than the first guest.  What a disaster!  Now the host is forced to ask the first guest to scoot over, and the first guest is embarrassed in front of everyone else.  (Not to mention a host that is probably REALLY uncomfortable now.)

Even more than hospitality, this story is about pride and humility.  Certainly, we ought to take pride in many things: our family and friends, our faith, and those talents that we have been gifted with.  However, this story illustrates the disaster that can befall us when we seek pride of status.  Let’s take a closer look at the mindset of the guest entering the feast:

Let us consider the first guest, the one who entered and sat at the head of the table.  What was his thought process?  He must have thought, either explicitly or subconsciously, “I am important.  Surely I am the most important person that this host knows.  Naturally, I should sit at the head of the table.”  In this instance, the pride the guest feels is in direct contrast to how he feels about the host.

But what about the second guest?  This guest, the one who sat at the foot of the table, must have thought very differently.  “This host is wonderful,” he must have mused. “Certainly he has many amazing friends and guests.  I will make room for them.”

Often, our pride can make us put ourselves in front of others.  That is the tendency that Jesus is warning us about.  When we think of ourselves as better or more important that others, we cannot serve them.  And remember, Jesus told us that whenever we serve “the least of these,” we serve him.  We must put away our personal pride and take comfort in humility.  We can value others and lift them up.  Then God, our host, will lift us up as well!

Discussion Questions

  • How does being humble make us better servants?
  • Can you think of any other stories from the Old or New Testaments which show great leaders serving others (after all, the humility of great religious figures is an important theme in our faith)?
  • What is the difference between being proud of ourselves in a healthy way and being proud of ourselves in a way that puts others down?

Activity Suggestions

Let’s practice the art of making ourselves humble and, perhaps, a little vulnerable.  Everyone in the group should sit in a circle with an index card.  Write your name on the top, then pass the card to your right.  On the card you receive, look at the name, then write one amazing or wonderful thing about the person whose name is at the top.  Then pass the cards right again, repeating the process until you receive your own card back.  You see, when we prize others, we find ourselves lifted up, too!

Closing Prayer

Heavenly God, your Son humbled himself as he washed the feet of his disciples..He submitted to the judgment of human beings  and let himself be killed by those who should have worshipped him as Lord.  Teach us how to be mirrors of that perfect humility.  Walk with us every day and show us how to serve and lift each other up, as Christ did for us.  In his name we pray. Amen.