Saturday, August 28, 2010


1. A confusing and difficult problem or question.
2. A question asked for amusement, typically one with a pun in its answer; a riddle.

Caught in a conundrum, a sticky wicket, a wicked problem. I'm preaching this week about hospitality and humility; specifically the text is 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.

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.
Specifically the condrum hit me this morning when I was composing my children's sermon. I suppose the word was blithely composing my children's sermon. It's titled "Were You Invited to the Party." I'm riffing off of Sermons4Kids -- the one for this week is "Left Out." It's going to be about how one feels when they get left off of a party list. It's a little more than that: I'm going to have a fake invitation for "Big Important People" to a party and ask the kids if they got one too. When they say no, I'm going to ask them how they feel.

Almost immediately after I solidified this (along with the fake invitation), the loving husband calls me and asks if we got invited to XYZ's party on Labor day. It seems it's the talk of our group of friends. All were asked but us. Gee! All of a sudden this theoretical question I was posing for the children's sermon got a Real World Twist and I felt myself get twisted up inside.

As an adult, I know there are a million reasons why we might not have been invited: they might be inviting boys only, there might be just a limited number of spots, they might not be happy with us for some reason. But all I know is that it stings.

In the past, I've had to talk to the kids about "not being invited" to parties. For the most part my answers have been unsatisfactory for both them and myself. I know I've hurt other people's feeling by "leaving them out" (specifically I am thinking of a person I *know* we invited to my post-gradation party, but somehow the invitation got lost. That relationship is now broken.)

I think today's gospel is talking directly to ME. How many groups of people are represented here? 1) The Pharisees (the hosts) 2) The "interesting" guests 3) the ones being left out.

My revelation is that Jesus UN-invites the "interesting people." 'Don't invite them,' he says. I suppose the thought is that they have enough. Not much solace, there. Maybe we need to take away a lesson from the first part of this gospel: For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Dern. Why does this "moving onto perfection" and "working through your salvation with fear and trembling" have to be so dang hard?

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