First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Rev. Toby Jones, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ September 1, 2019

09-01-19 PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Circling towards a Greater Reward
  2. Initial clarifications and elucidations
    1. today’s readings fit together very well. Hebrews reads as a series of life tips, “words of encouragement for the faithful”
    2. Gospel shares a very similar idea through storytelling.
    3. Not just coincidence or selective reading
      1. Both were most likely written about the same time, with the same general target audience – Jewish followers of Jesus mainly living around Jerusalem between 80-110 CE, after the second destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
      2. Both books, therefore, provide spiritual and practical guidance in tumultuous times for their readers.
    4. Pharisees – characters in story, and part of the reading audience
      1. Moderate group,
      2. Good people – moderate, diligent.  Not liked by Sadducees because they weren’t strict enough
        1. Jesus’ teachings were closest to their teachings, Jesus may have been a Pharisee
        2. Not monolithic in their beliefs
      3. after the fall of the 2nd temple their beliefs became foundational basis of Rabbinic Judaism
      4. this is Jesus’ third meal with them in Luke
        1. Invited, but watched closely
          1. Not just negative, a group of them had just warned Jesus about Herod’s schemes
        2. What ears are you using to listen to these readings?
          1. A harsh critique or advice on a greater reward?
          2. As we’ve talked about it before, Try hearing it as an inner group conversation, instead of polar opposites
        3. Jesus, Pharisees and greater reward
          1. Called to make room for others – speaking to the well off
          2. Verses skipped involved Jesus healing another person on the Sabbath,
            1. The gathered Pharisees and guests were silent to Jesus’ questioning
          3. Moving them towards wider definition of mutual love.
            1. Mutual love \ keep loving like family
            2. Philadelphia – fraternal affection and brotherly love
            3. Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia – love of stranger
            4. Both readings are coupling the two together.
            5. Not a conflation, it is an intentional merging
            6. Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.
          4. Jesus addressing the tension in the room – as a loving and honest friend.
            1. In the tension between holiness and healing on the Sabbath, err on the side of healing
            2. In the tension between getting a good seat and maintaining honor, err on the side of modesty
              1. Direct quote from proverbs:
              2. Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. – Proverbs 25:6-7
  • Another sign that this is an insider conversation – Jesus isn’t introducing a new idea, he’s reminding them of what they already know
  1. In the tension between dining with those who can reciprocate and who can’t, err on the side of loving and caring for the stranger
  1. Loving the stranger
    1. You know the reward you’ll get from your friends, family and peers
    2. But the reward you’ll get from caring for those less fortunate will be vastly better
    3. In the time of resurrection And, in the here and now
      1. By entertaining angels unawares we stay open to new gifts from God, in unexpected ways.
    4. The list of who the strangers are changes over time, but the call from God is consistent. Welcome those whom respectable people would turn aside.
      1. Prisoners, the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
      2. Calling the church to move beyond being respectable – wildly loving and welcoming
    5. Specificity of this Gospel story – directed to a well off dinner party
      1. Danger in universalizing humbleness
        1. The downtrodden don’t need the reminder
        2. They need to be reminded they are welcome too.
      2. Balance – talking to the well off
        1. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
      3. About getting peoples to equal footing, raising low, lowering high.
      4. These scriptures are sometimes used to say, “stay in your place” to the low by the high
        1. Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have.
        2. When you have enough. Learn to recognize when that is.
      5. Dining with the poor can help redefine what is needed to be content
    6. Modern day judgments around poor people
      1. When we tighten our borders to keep out people in need because of our fears, we are not living as a Christian country
      2. When we say that only immigrants who don’t need public assistance are welcome, we are not living into Christian values
      3. On this Labor day weekend, let us value the worth of workers, and those who have struggled, fought, and were killed to be invited to the table
  • The importance of inviting those who don’t take an invitation for granted
    1. I don’t know where you put yourself in this spectrum between well off and not
      1. We can say all are welcome – but how many of us have experiences where we were not welcome?
    2. This is an aspect of our white middle class privilege, our ability to walk into places and usually be part of the majority
      1. Have to work to see the same in “others”
      2. Like the Pharisees then, and Middle America now, being Safe, moderate, and quiet, also limits inbreaking of extraordinary
    3. Lifting up the marginalized and oppressed
    4. Entertain angels, or Jesus unawares
  • Circles – Washtenaw County –
    1. Friends in Deed – very similar to Charlevoix Ministerial Association
      1. Director noted that their work wasn’t helping many people get out of poverty – started a Circles program
    2. “Circles USA gathers middle-income and high-income volunteers to support families in poverty. Surrounded by people who have landed jobs, negotiated a lease, or managed credit card debt, people in crisis are more equipped to achieve long-term financial stability.” –
    3. “Circles is a unique program that is based on the premise that developing meaningful relationships across socio-economic lines can have a dramatic impact on the effort to move families out of poverty. … The goal of these relationships is to break the cycle of generational poverty by creating circles of support and connections with people who are committed to making real change in our community.”
      2. Using gifts for the benefits of those who don’t have them
    4. Example – gifts we take for granted
      1. entering an admissions office, applying for a loan
      2. entering into places where they aren’t welcomed
  • Breaking the cycle, widening the circle
    1. When Jesus said to his host that he should invite people that can’t reciprocate – it was also a subtle reference to himself
      1. He has no home, no table to invite him to. At least, not for this kind of meal
      2. Communion table
    2. “The church has an amazing opportunity to be more than a reflection of the world as it is. The church has a chance, however imperfectly, the world as God wants it to be. And that world is one that is full of agape, of caritas, of love and charity.” – Chris Marlin Warfield.


Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 Can be found on page ___________ of your pew Bible.

The letter to the Hebrews continues to speak to the needs and concerns of Jesus’ Jewish followers, including Pharisees like those in today’s reading from the gospel.

13 Keep loving each other like family. 2 Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. 3 Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place. 4 Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. 5 Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. 6 This is why we can confidently say,

The Lord is my helper,

                         and I won’t be afraid.

What can people do to me?

7 Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

15 So let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise through him, which is the fruit from our lips that confess his name. 16 Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.

Luke 14:1, 7-14  Can be found on page ___________ of your pew Bible.

Today’s reading from Luke continues from last week’s reading, where Jesus healed a bent over woman on the Sabbath. In between last week’s reading and today’s reading, some Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod is plotting to kill him.


14 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely.

7 When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable. 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor. Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host. 9 The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give your seat to this other person.’ Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place. 10 Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”

12 Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14 And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”


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