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Proper 17 Year C                                                                                                       8/28/2022

Proverbs 25:6-7; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14

Rev. Mark A. Lafler

The collect for today…

Our opening prayer that introduces our readings to us.

Gives us words of hope and understanding.

The prayer is theologically rich…

Guiding us in our worship…

Listen to the words once again…

(Open it up in your bulletin)

Starting off with…

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things:

Of course, it is directed to God…

Who has all power, and all might…

The one who gives us good things.

And because of his all-mighty-power and because he gives good things…

We ask him to do four things.

We ask him to grant us four things.

We ask him to:

Graft in our hearts the love of your Name;

The word “graft” is a horticultural term and also a medical term.

In both instances it refers to inserting something living…

a twig or medically inserting a tissue to another living thing or person.

It has to do with placing something inside something else so that they grow together.

When we ask God to graft in our hearts the love of your Name…

The love of God’s name…

It is because God puts his love into us to love him.

As St. John wrote in his first letter:

We love because he first loved us.

(1 John 4.19)

Sin is so pervasive in our life that we need the goodness of God in our life in order to love him.

Love is a gift of God…

And so, we ask God to insert his love in us.

And then in our collect we ask God to give us more of his good gifts…

We prayed:

Increase in us true religion;

Of course, this comes from a verse in the letter of St. James.

Where he wrote:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:

to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

(James 1.27)

Unfortunately, in American Christian Culture we create a false dichotomy saying that “it’s not about religion it’s about relationship.”

That is not quite true…

it’s actually both…

Not either or…

Religion by definition is the worship of God and how we worship God.

Relationship with God is something God invites us into through his gift to us of faith and love.

Because he invites us into relationship, we practice true religion.

Thus, our collect prays:

Increase in us true religion.

The next line in our prayer is a petition to God:

Nourish us with all goodness;

This is another agricultural term, nourish

meaning to supply the substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.

We need nourishment…

We need our nourishment to come from the Lord who is the author and giver of all good things.

And finally, we prayed:

And bring forth in us the fruit of good works;

Staying with the agricultural terms…

fruit

We ask God to bring forth in us the fruit, the product of good works.

Precisely because we cannot do this on our own.

As Jesus said in the Gospel of John:

I am the vine; you are the branches.

If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;

apart from me you can do nothing.

(John 15.5)

So, we pray that God will bring forth the fruit of good works.

Now, we like to think we are more self-sufficient than we really are.

We like to think that we offer something to God that he needs…

We might fool ourselves in thinking that although God saved us through the power of the cross…

We some how chose to come to faith and belief in God on our own.

As if God did 99% of the work and we did that all important 1%.

But our collect reminds us that it is all about God.

Our salvation, our Christian life, our true religion…

Is by the mercies and grace of God…

The giver of good gifts.

And by his grace…

And through Christ Jesus alone…

He has made us his children.

So, in this collect we see the gospel of grace…

We hear the words of the loving kindness…

the gift of God’s salvation…

It is God who does the work in us…

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name;

increase in us true religion;

nourish us with all goodness;

and bring forth in us the fruit of good works…

Because we are nothing without the Almighty God.

And this brings us to our readings today…

We heard from the Old Testament book of Proverbs in the first reading.

Encouraging us to act diligently and with etiquette in the presence of a king…

In the presence of royalty.

It is better to have the king invite us to be with him…

Rather than to presume our place in the king’s presence…

At the king’s table.

In our gospel reading, Jesus basically gives commentary to this Old Testament proverb…

He gives the idea in story form…

A parable…

Jesus said:

When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody:

‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Embarrassed, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.

So, Jesus clues us into some good strategy here…

He says:

When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place.

Then when the host comes he may very well say,

‘Friend, come up to the front.’

That will give the dinner guests something to talk about!

What Jesus is saying is that if you walk around all high and mighty, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.[1]

Jesus adds another story as well…

This time to the host…

The one who invites the guests…

He encourages them to invite the ones that don’t get invited to parties…

The misfits, the outcasts…

The ones that cannot return any favors.

The blessing comes in inviting these people.

Both of these stories beg the question of asking:

Why do we do what we do?

In other words,

what is our motivation?

In the account of these stories…

The one invited to the dinner party seeks recognition from the host.

In the next, the host is seeking favors from the guests.

And the lesson today for us is what is our motivation?

How often do we seek recognition?

How often do we seek special treatment…

Favor from others?

Or to put it differently yet…

Is our motivation to fulfill our own needs?

Is our motivation to build up ourselves?

Is our motivation really about – me?

Do I come to church on a Sunday morning to worship God…

Or is it more about fulfilling a need that I have?

And I hope the church does it right today…

Do I come to the Lord’s table to receive sacrament…

The body and blood of Jesus poured out for us…

Or do I come to the Lord’s table to take what I need?

Do I come to worship in song, in prayers, in offering…

And leave knowing that God was worshipped…

Or do I leave frustrated because they did not play my song…

Say my prayer…

Recognize my gifts…

You see when our motivation is to serve ourselves and our desires,

we miss out on the true purpose… the true religion of our God.

Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve…

This is why Jesus fed the hungry…

Healed the sick…

Touched the brokenhearted…

This is why Jesus served the disciples…

Washing their feet at the last supper.

And this is why Jesus gave his life for us…

To redeem us from sin and death…

Laying down his own life for us…

By his death serving us so that we might become children of God.

This is grace.

This is gift.

This is true religion.

One of the tenets of our world is that the most important person in the world is you.

Just do an internet search…

See what comes up.

The power and importance of self is one of the most common beliefs that is preached in our world.

Yet Jesus said: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16.24)

St. Paul said: Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (I Corinthians 10.24)

The calling of Jesus is a call to serve.

And this is what our opening collect…

Our prayer speaks to…

Because it is not a prayer expressing my importance,

Expressing the power of self,

Fulfilling my motivational needs…

The prayer is centered on God and not me.

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name;

increase in us true religion;

nourish us with all goodness;

and bring forth in us the fruit of good works…

Not because I am worthy…

But because God is all powerful and mighty… he gives all good things.

Our reliance is upon him.

So, as we gather today for worship…

As we receive communion…

As we are instructed by the deacon to go into this world to proclaim the gospel…

That’s what the dismissal is…

A call to go into the world…

Rejoicing in the power of the Spirit…

We have been filled up in church and now we go and pour ourselves out.

May our eyes be fixed on Jesus and nor ourselves…

May we go to serve others…

Even the least of these…

The outcasts…

The ones who don’t get the invitations to parties…

May we go to serve not for recognition…

Not to fulfill our own needs and desires…

May we serve as Jesus served…

Laying down his life for others.

That is our calling too…

And by his grace, may we go and do likewise.

Amen.

[1] From The Message

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