Saturday, September 29, 2007

TRUE RICHES

I Timothy 6:6-19


I think the Beatles said it best – "Money can’t buy me love." That’s right –


Say you don't need no diamond ring
And I'll be satisfied
Tell me that you want those kind of things
that money just can't buy
For I don't care too much for money
For money can't buy me love


I realize that diamond rings are helpful, and I’ve bought a few, but they can’t buy love.

And despite what the Pharaohs thought, you can’t take it with you either! Great pyramids were built to hold all manner of treasure, but those bodies are still there a moldering in the grave, along with all those goods. Sometimes we forget this, but we didn’t bring anything into the world, and we’re not going to take anything out with us!
So, "money can’t buy me love," nor does it buy eternal life. Oh, it doesn’t hurt to have a little, but ultimately it can’t buy happiness. Just read the papers about the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and you’ll see that having "things" doesn’t automatically make you happy. A person can have all the riches and the power in the world and still be as cold as ice. Consider Leona Helmsley who when she died left a sizable portion of her fortune to her cat. I think that says it all!

The author of this little letter that’s attributed to Paul, takes on the question of wealth, and from the context it appears that at least a few members of that early Christian community were wealthy. The writer fears that they might be tempted to walk away from their faith because of that wealth.
1. Futility of Chasing the Money
Be content – that’s the word here – because chasing after money can only get you into trouble. Not only can’t money buy you love, the "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). So, if you’ve got food, shelter, and clothing, be content and give thanks for your blessings, because to do otherwise can lead you down paths you’d rather not go – just ask Paris Hilton, Michael Vick, and Lindsey Lohan.

Of course having no money can be just as destructive of the soul. Frederick Douglass declared that "the want of money is the root of all evil to the colored people." And as Ralph Wood writes of Douglass’ observation:

He saw that humiliating, hopeless poverty reduces human beings to bestial creatures. Even black freedmen, he declared, "were shut out from all lucrative employments and compelled to be merely barbers, waiters, coachmen and the like, at wages so low that they could lay up little or nothing. Their poverty has kept them ignorant and their ignorance kept them degraded."1

2. Seeking True Riches

With Douglass’s warning in mind, we return to the question: If money can’t buy me love and I can’t take it with me, then what should I do with this fact of life – you need money to survive? Being content with what I have is okay, but is there more than simply being content? Is there something I can seek that has true value?

This past Monday I was reminded about the nature of true riches. It was mentioned several times that Mary Ann liked to collect things, such as dolls and all manner of Boyd’s Bears. But these collectibles aren’t the essence of Mary Ann. No, the essence of Mary Ann was found in her relationships with her children, her grandchildren, with Bill, with all of us. If the tangible or physical things can’t define us, then perhaps we should pursue more intangible things – like righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. These are the kinds of things you can’t monetize, and yet they have eternal value.

The focus of this text is wealth. You see this clearly in verses 6-10 and 17-19, which speak specifically about such things as the impermanence of wealth and the right usage of wealth. But right in the middle of this discussion is a self-contained unit that moves beyond the discussion of money. You could remove it and move from verse 10 to verse 17 without skipping a beat, but these six verses belong here because they tell us how to be content. It is because of faith in God that we can resist the lure of wealth. While it’s true that riches can draw us away from faith, faith can also fortify us as we seek to be God’s people.

This passage isn’t all that radical. Unlike Jesus, this early Christian leader doesn’t tell us to give it all away. He just warns us about being held captive by its attractiveness. Still, despite its lack of radicalness, the message is powerful, because our culture continually tells us that we should want more and seek more. Every time we turn on the TV, we see ads for products that we probably can live without, and couples are told that even if money can’t buy them love, their love will be considerably enhanced through the purchase of a diamond ring.
The call is to "fight the good fight of the faith." We’re called to take up the life of faith with vigor and forcefulness and pursue the good. And what is the good? It is the good of all – the common good. We can contribute to that good in many ways – including through gifts of our money to the Reconciliation Offering or Week of Compassion or to the ministries of the church. Contentment ultimately comes as we entrust our lives to the God who has called us to salvation. And salvation isn’t simply about life after death – salvation is about being made whole. And money won’t make you whole!!!



1. Ralph Wood, "A Passion for Lesser Things," Christian Century, 1995



Preached by:
Rev. Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lompoc, CA
18th Sunday after Pentecost
September 30, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

IS THERE NO BALM IN GILEAD?

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

When I last took up this text, six years ago today, it was the second Sunday after September 11, 2001. I think we all have memories of that day, and even two Sundays later, we were still in a state of shock. As I preached that day, I tried to make sense of what had happened just days before. I tried to wrestle with the grief and the anger people were feeling. I reflected on the angry calls for vengeance, which were understandable. I then tried to offer a different perspective, one that reflected the nature and character of the God we know and love in Jesus. That Sunday I tried to make sense of what had happened by using Jeremiah as my lens. As I read this text I heard words of judgement and despair, and then I went looking for words of consolation and hope.

In many ways the shadow of September 11, 2001 still hangs over our nation. The anger, the despair, and the fear engendered by the events of that day remain with us. But it’s not just 9-11 that casts a shadow over our lives. There’s the war in Iraq, Katrina, confessions of moral failure, and the continuing legacy of racism, which is seen in the trial going on Jena, Louisiana. So, we understand when we hear Jeremiah cry out: "My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick." (Jer. 8:18).

Jeremiah isn’t the only voice crying out for the people. There are others, such as the psalmist who cries out:

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long?" (Psalm 13:1-2a).

Then there’s that cry of dereliction that’s found first in the Psalms and then on the lips of Jesus as he hung on the cross.

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1).


These aren’t joyous texts, and yet they express our real feelings of despair and abandonment. Sometimes we think we have to always put on a smiley face before God, but these texts give us permission to cry out and ask why.

I. WORDS OF JUDGMENT

When Jeremiah spoke the words read this morning, the Babylonians were bearing down on Jerusalem. If you read the entire chapter you’ll hear Jeremiah saying to his neighbors – this is the bed you made, and it’s the bed you’ll have to sleep in. Jeremiah says that the events of his day are a sign of God’s judgment on their spiritual sickness, which was seen in their idolatry and in their treatment of one another.

I expect that the darkness of this passage of Scripture makes us uncomfortable. And that’s as it should be, for while the Scriptures bring us good news, the biblical writers are realistic about the world in which we live. Sometimes we need to be reminded that what we say and do can have a negative effect on the lives of others. While I don’t believe God sent those planes into the towers of Manhattan or Katrina, events such as these are wake-up calls of sorts. When things like these events happen, at least for a moment we stop and consider the shadows that hang over our world.
II. THE BALM OF GILEAD

I realize that this may seem like a gloomy message. As most of you know, I’m a pretty up beat and optimistic person. I’m more like Winnie the Pooh than Eeyore. But I know that life has its shadow side. There is, as the preacher says, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to rejoice and a time to grieve (Eccles. 3:1-8). That’s just the way life is.

Even as Jeremiah brings a word of judgment on his people, he also cries out for healing.

"Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?" "O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!"

Jeremiah recognizes that we can’t live in the shadow side, we must move forward and find our healing. The question is, where is the balm of Gilead? Where is the physician for our souls?

There isn’t an answer in this immediate text, but if we continue to read on, past the point when the people go into exile, we hear Jeremiah tell the exiles that a time will come when they’ll return home. So don’t give up, keep hope alive (29:10ff). There is, as they say, light at the end of the tunnel, so keep hanging on.

As we seek a word of healing with Jeremiah, we’re led to Jesus, who is the great physician and the healer of our hearts. If we read the gospels, we know that healing stood at the center of his ministry. Wherever he went, he reached out and he touched peoples lives. He restored hope to those who lived without hope. He restored broken bodies and broken lives.

We see this promise of healing in his own death and resurrection. Hanging on the cross as he did that day, Jesus tasted the bitterness, the pain, and the despair of humanity. He bore on his body the blows of human anger and hatred, and he offered forgiveness in return. We hear the cry: Is there no balm in Gilead? We hear the answer in the gospels – It is Jesus who bring us God’s healing presence.

A number of Sundays back I preached a message on healing, and that sermon has stirred more conversations than any other I’ve preached. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I think it has to do with the fact that we all need the healing touch of God. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual, we are seeking relief from pain and anguish.
I suppose it’s appropriate that we take up this subject when grief is strongly felt by this congregation. Tomorrow we will again gather in this place to remember, to celebrate, and to grieve. We will bid goodbye to one of our own. It’s still hard for me to believe that Mary Ann has died. Just a week ago she was here – a bit tired, but still full of life and full of hope. Two days later she was gone. We as her friends and her family now stand here a bit speechless and needing to be touched by the grace of God.
So, whether it’s the loss of one we hold dear such as Mary Ann, or whether it’s one who at least to us is an unnamed and unknown victim of violence in Iraq, Darfur, Congo or even own neighborhoods, we can find hope for healing in the presence of God. As we hear this message of hope we also discover that we’re to be the agents of that hope.

And so in the words of that old spiritual we sing out:

"There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul."



Preached by:
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lompoc, CA
17th Sunday after Pentecost
September 23, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

PARTY TIME!

Luke 15:1-10

There’s the "in crowd" and the "not-so-in crowd." Everybody wants to be part of the in-crowd, but it’s often difficult to crack that circle. In the wonderful new movie Hairspray, which stars John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, the obese mother to an overweight but determined daughter named Tracy, we see one person’s determination to break down those walls.

Tracy Turnblad has a dream and nothing will stand in her way. That dream is to dance on the Corny Collins Show – a kind of local American Bandstand. She’s a good dancer, but because she doesn’t fit the image of a dancer, she finds it difficult to break in. Only a slip of fate lets her inside, but still her detractors are merciless. Fortunately her determination and spunk make her a hit and she breaks down the walls for others.
There is much to appreciate about this movie, which calls into question our stereotypes and our prejudices, but one of the most important points of this movie is that everyone has value. Edna, Tracy, her somewhat oblivious father Wilbur, and her friend, Seaweed, a young African American dancer, are just as valuable as Velma Von Tussle, a former Miss Baltimore and the station manager, and her daughter Amber. Societal rules may exclude, but in this version of the story, no one is left behind!
1. No One’s Left Behind.

It’s no fun being left behind or left standing on the outside looking in. This is especially true when you have a stigma attached, a stigma or stain you can’t get rid of no matter how hard you try. It’s like a scarlet letter that marks you as undesirable.

Jesus knew what it meant to be an outsider. He was a Galilean and he was fatherless. He was poor and he hung around with the wrong crowd. The better sort of folk didn’t appreciate his work with the other undesirables, because who you hang around with is indicative of your character. If you spend your time with the riffraff, then you must be riffraff yourself. Image, as we know, means everything.

Jesus, of course understands the world differently. Like Tracy he wasn’t afraid to identify with the lost and the ostracized, because he was committed to bringing them back inside the circle. And to do that meant leaving the circle and going where the lost sheep had gone. In fact, Jesus was willing to leave the 99 behind to find the one that was lost. And if someone was misplaced, like the woman’s coin, he would do whatever necessary to find them.
The message of Jesus and the message of Paul is one of reconciliation – of bringing people together with God and with one another. Jesus believed in second chances and third chances and . . . . Well you know!
The religious establishment didn’t appreciate Jesus’ ministry and they let him know about it. They grumbled about his work with sinners and tax collectors – the ones they had decided weren’t worth reclaiming.

In the course of three parables, two of which we’ve heard this morning, and the other one we should all know well because it’s the parable of the Prodigal, Jesus celebrates God’s dedication to bringing everyone into relationship, leaving no one behind.
One parable concerns a lamb that wanders off and the shepherd that risks everything to find that one lamb. The other parable describes a woman who has ten coins, but loses one coin. That one coin is so valuable to her that she frantically searches for it, turning the house upside-down to find it. It’s just a coin, but to her it’s invaluable.
Each of these parables – even the parable of the prodigal – ends with a party to celebrate the return of that which was lost. Indeed, in the parable of the coin, the woman is so excited about finding it that she spends most of the other coins to throw a party.

2. The Seeking God
I don’t know about you, but I find these two parables a bit odd and a great deal enlightening. For instance, why would you risk the 99 to find one lost sheep? You could easily lose a lot more. And, why would you get in a tizzy about one little coin and then spend much more than what was lost to throw a party? Just what is Jesus getting at?

I think Jesus is talking about God’s identity. In each of these two stories, God is the actor behind the parable. God is the shepherd who risks the 99 because God won’t leave anyone behind. God is the woman who isn’t concerned about her dignity as she frantically looks for the coin and then throws a party when she finds it.
I want you to stop and think for a moment about how you picture God’s nature and character. There may be only one God, but there are many different views and pictures of God, even among Christians. Some of these views of God are represented by the religious leaders in this story.

There are those Christians who focus on who is in and who is not, and often God is seen choosing who gets in and who gets left out. The kingdom of God, for them, is an exclusive club. For others, God is a tribal God, a God of nation and race, who blesses some and curses others. If you think that you’re among the chosen, you can take comfort in your blessings. And if you’re not chosen – well that’s just too bad – you get a nice reservation for a hot spot in hell. Very often this God is described in terms of judgment and wrath, a God who guards his honor very closely, and who might even enjoy inflicting pain.

I don’t think that’s the God who is revealed in and by Jesus. I’m pretty sure that’s not the God pictured in these parables, because if I understand these parables and take them seriously, it looks as if God will do everything necessary to find us and bring us home. The God I see revealed in these parables takes risks and isn’t worried about his honor. This is a God who pursues us and engages us with grace and love. The God who is incarnate in Jesus, is a God who will not be satisfied in leaving anyone behind.

3. The Partying God
There’s one more thing we need to remember – this God we worship likes to party. God likes to party whenever anyone is restored to fellowship. God doesn’t just attend the party, God is the host of the party. Cost is of no account!

This means that whenever we come together as God’s people, we come to a party. We come to celebrate God’s presence among us and God’s desire to be in fellowship with us. And you can’t crash the party, because everyone is invited to attend. In just a few minutes we will gather at the Table of the Lord. We will celebrate the feast of God’s presence in Jesus. Yes, we’ll remember that Jesus died on a cross, but we’ll also anticipate the grand feast that awaits us when the kingdom comes in its fulness.
So, let’s dance!!
Preached by:
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lompoc, CA
16th Sunday after Pentecost
September 16, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP

Luke 14:25-33

St. Francis of Assisi was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, a soldier home from the crusades, and a playboy. He wasn’t what you’d call religious, but one day he had a mystical experience that changed his life. This experience was so profound that he exchanged his life of leisure for a life of poverty and celibacy. And at least in the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon, he gets so carried away that begins throwing bolts of cloth out the window of his father's business. He changed so drastically that both family and friends thought he’d gone mad. His embarrassed father even locked him in the cellar hoping Francis would come to his senses. When that didn’t work, Francis’ father went to the bishop for help — maybe to have him deprogrammed! The bishop told Francis to either use his family’s fortune wisely or give it up. And that’s what Francis did. He tore off his clothing and renounced his inheritance. As he read through the Gospel of Matthew, he began to hear a call to be like Jesus and become a wandering preacher. Amazingly, others looked to his example and joined him in his spiritual quest, giving birth to the Franciscan Order.

Deanna also had mystical experiences that changed her life. She was, until recently, a teacher at Cheryl’s school. We had her over to dinner recently, after she shared with Cheryl a change in her life plans. Like Francis she heard the call to give up "normal life" and devote herself completely to God. In her case that means joining a Discalced Carmelite Convent and devoting her life to prayer. If she stays with the order, she will essentially cut herself off from family and friends for the rest of her life. As she shared her experiences with us we could tell that this is a sincere decision, but I must confess it is difficult to fathom.
Both Francis and Deanna heard the call to take up the cross and follow Jesus in radical ways. They counted the cost and decided that the benefits outweighed the deficits.

I. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, HATE MY FAMILY?

Our text this morning is a call to follow Jesus as his disciples. The Good News Bible kind of softens the blow, but in more formal translations like the NRSV, the passage hits us right between the eyes:

"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple."

If you’re like me, you wish Luke would have left that out of his gospel, because it’s so harsh and unrealistic. But it’s this passage and its Matthean parallel that stand at the heart of the decisions made by Francis and Deanna. In fact, Deanna shared that it was Matthew’s version of this statement that helped her understand her calling to devote herself completely to God.

Like I said, there have been attempts to soften the blow of this passage. Consider how the Good News Bible puts it:

"Those who come to me cannot be my disciple unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, etc."

Now that doesn’t sound so bad. Surely I can love God more than my family and my friends. Besides, Jesus was known to exaggerate things. Still, the use of the word hate to describe this contrast between our loyalty to God and our loyalty to family has to make us feel uncomfortable.

I thought Jesus was the patron of family values? Surely he isn’t calling us to loathe and despise our families. I hope that this is hyperbole, but even if it is, Jesus reminds us that being his disciple costs us everything. Bonhoeffer speaks of the call to discipleship being an invitation to death.
Our response to this call can even require a sacrifice from others. Deanna shared with us her brother’s reaction. He’s having a hard time with her decision, precisely because she’s asking him to make a sacrifice that he’d rather not make. Her decision to enter the cloister means that he will be cut off from her as well. I understand completely his concerns.

II. COUNTING THE COST
What I hope we hear in this passage is a call to consider the cost in being a Christian. Being a Christian can cost us our family, our friends, our jobs, our place in society. That’s less so here in America, but in many other places in the world, to be a Christian is to die as far as your family and culture are concerned.

To get his point across, Jesus tells a little story about a builder of a tower. Before beginning this task, Jesus says that the builder will sit down and consider the cost, because no one wants to suffer the embarrassment of getting started and then not having enough money or resources to finish the job. Taking on something you’re not prepared to complete would not be "prudent" as Dana Carvey used to say in imitation of the elder George Bush. You have to count the cost before you head out on the journey of faith.

III. Making Choices

What I hear Jesus saying to us this morning is this: Being a Christian involves making choices. When it comes to making choices, I’m cautious by nature. Just ask Cheryl. She hates to go grocery shopping with me, because I have to analyze all the product codes so we can get the best deal. Why pay more for the same item? That wouldn't be prudent! But trying to be prudent makes shopping take longer.

What’s the cost in being a Disciple of Christ? For Francis it meant becoming a fool for Christ. For Deanna it seems to be the cloister. For Mother Teresa it was the lepers of Calcutta. And for Bonhoeffer it was a conspiracy to end the rule of a tyrant, a decision that led to his imprisonment and his death. Although Bonhoeffer never saw himself as a martyr, nor did Teresa see herself as a saint, their witness has been an inspiration to many.
In the early days of the church, deciding to be a Christian might prove to be the end of your life. Being a Christian in America today, however, is pretty easy. When I hear people talking about being persecuted and oppressed because they can’t pray at football games or display the 10 Commandments in classrooms, I have to laugh. If only . . . So, if we live in a time and place where the cost is minimal, how do we become true Disciples of Jesus Christ? Are we ready to look for an answer to that question in this passage from Luke?
Preached by:
The Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church
Lompoc, CA
15th Sunday after Pentecost
September 9, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

KNOWING YOUR PLACE

Luke 14:1, 7-14

What would Emily Post or Martha Stewart say? Where should you sit if Oprah invites you over for a dinner party at her Montecito estate? Should you try to get there early and try to grab a seat at the head table? Or do you take a seat near the back of the room? Oh, surely it would be more fun and interesting to sit up front with all the important people, but . . .

Proximity to greatness suggests greatness. Think back to the old Soviet era, when we’d read articles about the presumed order of succession. Kremlin watchers believed that the closer you stood to Gorbachev or Brezhnev during a public spectacle like a May Day parade of the troops, the more important you were. Changes in proximity suggested changes in the line of succession. This sense that proximity to greatness can rub off, drives our culture’s craze about celebrities. For some reason we hope that an autograph or a picture with a celebrity will change our lives.

We live in a society that worships success, and nothing breeds success like success. And so even if we don’t have much to show for ourselves, we like to pretend that we do, which is why we have to keep up with the Jones’ even if keeping up will bankrupt us.

But successfully climbing the ladder is an art form. If you’re going to win friends and influence people you don’t want to presume too much, which is the point of this proverb: "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." (Prov. 25:6-7). In other words, if you want to be successful –- then know your place. Be sure to show proper deference to those in leadership and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be noticed.

KNOWING YOUR PLACE

Jesus would occasionally get invited to dinner parties, and usually he was the guest of honor – sort of. I think many of the hosts saw him as curiosity – that itinerant preacher who was stirring up the people. On this occasion Jesus is watching the guests, and he notices how they all seem to be jockeying for the best seat in the house. After all no one wants to sit at the kid’s table!

As he watches them, Jesus makes a comment that seems reminiscent of Proverbs 25: "
When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down in the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host."

Indeed, who wants to suffer the embarrassment of being reseated at the back of the room. Why not start at the back of the room and then hope your host will see you and invite you forward.

There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the advice given in Proverbs and what Jesus offers. The only thing is, Jesus didn’t normally give advice on etiquette. So maybe he’s getting at something a bit different from what we read in Proverbs.

KINGDOM REVERSALS

The key to understanding this conversation is to remember that Jesus isn’t interested in what we should do to get along in society. No, Jesus is concerned about the kingdom of God, and his message of the kingdom usually turns things upside down. Our society tells us to be concerned about our status – where we stand in line – but in the kingdom of God things are different. "For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." In other words – "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

But that’s not how the world works. We know and we believe that if we’re going to succeed in life, we have to promote ourselves. I do it! You do it! We all do it! As parents we teach this to our children from day one. If you sit around and wait for people to notice you, nothing will ever happen. There is some truth to that, and to some degree we have to promote ourselves. The problem is that too often we promote ourselves at the expense of others. If climbing the ladder means climbing over the backs of others, then so be it. After all our national motto is: "Look out for number 1, because if you don’t, no one else will."

The way of the kingdom, however, is different. God is the one who exalts and humbles, which is why the last are first and the first are last. Mother Teresa seemed to understand that, which is why she has been honored by so many. Father Damian of Molokai is another who understood this premise of giving of himself without concern for his status.

Living in the Kingdom isn’t easy, because it requires something of us that’s not easy to do. To follow Jesus is to take up the cross, and taking up the cross isn’t something we find easy to do. So how do we live the way of the kingdom -- besides not taking a seat at the head table?

NO RECIPROCITY

Jesus suggests that one way of living the kingdom way is to invite people to your party who aren’t in a position to invite you back. That’s not the way things are supposed to be – You invite people hoping that they’ll invite you in return. But Jesus says: "Go out and invite the poor, the lame, the blind, the deaf. Open the door wide and let everyone in." I don’t know about you, but I find this difficult to live out.

But the principle here is quite simple. We’re called to live our lives on Sunday through Saturday in such a way that we honor others before ourselves. Instead of climbing over the backs of others, we reach out and help others climb up the ladder. In the kingdom of God, theologian Patrick Henry writes:

Hospitality invites to prayer before it checks credentials, welcomes to the table before Administering the entrance exam.1

The Table of the Lord serves as a sign of God's invitation to the world. In the ancient world, who you ate with was a sign of your social status. We like to invite people to dine with us who will make us seem important. But in the kingdom of God, God opens the table to those who could never hope to repay the debt. Jesus says to the host, when you give a dinner party don't invite your friends, relatives, and rich neighbors, though you know they’ll return the favor. Instead, "invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind," knowing they’ll never be able to repay the debt.

To "know your place" isn’t the same thing as staying in your place. It’s not a call to passivity in the face of injustice. It’s not about not rocking the boat. Instead, it’s simply a reminder to put the other ahead of ourselves. That may not be the American way, but it is the Kingdom way.


1. Patrick Henry, The Ironic Christian's Companion, (NY: Riverhead Books, 1999), 150.

Preached By:
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lompoc, CA
September 1, 2007
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost