O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit,
that we with all creation
may rejoice to sing your praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
O Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not raised in haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters,
with things that are too high for me.
But I have quieted and stilled my soul,
like a weaned child on its mother’s breast;
so my soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, trust in the Lord,
from this time forth for evermore.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 14.12-14
Jesus said 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 neighbours, 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.’
I wonder if you can remember when you last gave or attended a dinner party? For many months now inviting people to share in a meal in our homes has been, at best, inadvisable and, at worst, illegal. Alongside restrictions on our extending hospitality to family, friends and neighbours, there has also been the confusions and difficulties surrounding how we might safely buy food. For those deemed to be the most vulnerable to the potentially lethal effects of Covid 19 there has been a need to develop a reliance on home deliver and neighbourly goodwill. For others it has often felt like Darwin was right: only the fittest will survive! In March decisions were made that should give us pause for thought as we consider the message of today’s reading.
In the ‘good old days’ of dinner parties, wedding receptions and other festive gatherings we used to spend so much time planning guest lists, seating plans and menus. Today, Jesus is asking us to pause and ask ourselves: ‘Why?’ Of course, we can easily construct the argument about valuing and caring for those we invite to dine with us; we can so easily convince ourselves that our motivations are driven by love and respect. However, Jesus asks us to consider whether our argument of justification are, in fact, true.
So often, when we host dinner parties, we do so because we are in a circle of people who take it in turns to entertain each other. Our hospitality is, in reality, an ever-tightening band of self-interest. We, and those we see as being like us, close ranks around the dining table and, like the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s famous story, declare there to be ‘No room’ for anyone else. It is this attitude that Jesus is challenging today. Jesus is asking: ‘What about the others?’
During our months of national crisis we have developed a greater awareness of the needs of those more vulnerable than ourselves. But … is that awareness, and willingness to help, wearing off? Have we developed a different type of ‘dinner party circuit’? Have we created a small and ever-tightening circle of people we are prepared to care for, whilst the ‘outsiders’ remain firmly outside!?
Today, Jesus is challenging us to set aside our need for congratulation and gratification. Jesus is asking us, instead, to lay more places at our tables (both real and figurative) and share his love with all.
Prayers of Intercession
Lord Jesus, you turn the honours of the world upside down. Keep your Church from love of status and pride. Give us a servant heart.
Lord Jesus, you challenge rulers to be mindful of all their people. Keep the nations from cravings that lead to oppression and violence. Give wisdom to all who lead.
Lord Jesus, you give children a special regard and dignity. Keep their well-being and safety at the forefront of our minds and practices. Give strength to all involved in safeguarding and protection; sustain them in their work.
Lord Jesus, you embrace the path of suffering. Keep in your gaze all whose health is ailing. Give peace and hope to all in need.
Lord Jesus, you hold before us the hope of salvation. Keep in your love all who have died. Give eternal life to all the faithful departed.
Prayer for the week
we praise and bless your holy name
for your saints of every time and place
who have served you faithfully in their generation
and have enriched the world by their lives,
their witness and their example.
Help us, by your grace, to follow them
as they followed Christ,
that with them we may be partakers of your everlasting joy;
through the merits of Jesus our Saviour and our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
One Lord, in one great name
unite us all who own thee;
cast out our pride and shame
that hinder to enthrone thee;
the world has waited long,
has travailed long in pain;
to heal its ancient wrong,
come, Prince of Peace, and reign!
George Wallace Briggs (1875–1959)