Trinity 17, 2015

 

The Epistle. Ephesians 4:1-6

The Gospel. Luke 14:1-11

 

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

Humility is one of the primary themes of today’s lessons.  The collect doesn't address it directly, but implicitly once we have read the Epistle and Gospel.

 

In Paul’s continuation of what we heard last week from Ephesians, he says today in short, walk in a manner…or we might say live in such a way, act in such a way or behave in such a way, that you may be considered worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

 

The worthiness here is not being found worthy enough to merit anything from God, but worthy in the sense of not being thought of or looked at as a hypocrite.

In other words, if you say you are a Christian, behave that way.

 

If you don't, you will appear to others to be hypocritical.  And you will not be bearing a good witness to the faith you represent.

 

Paul then lists the ways in which this walk is to look.  Humility, patience, bearing with one another, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

And all of this is because we are called to the one hope that belongs to our call.  In other words, there is no two ways about this.  This is the call.  This is the faith.  There is no other.  We are called to walk this way, and no other way.

 

Other faiths have similar walks of peace, love, joy, tranquility, inner peace, enlightenment, oneness with the universe, emptying one’s self, and so on.

 

But the one true faith that Paul speaks of here, is the One Lord Jesus Christ, the One Faith of Christianity, the One Baptism in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and the One God and Father of all.

 

So to pray as we did this morning that God’s grace may always both go before us and follow us….i.e. surround us… that we may be given to all good works…which are those mentioned above….humility, gentleness, patience, etc, we are asking that we would be led to a life that reflects both the Lord Jesus Himself and a life that demonstrates that we belong to that One faith, One Lord, One Baptism.

 

So what are our examples today?  We have in the Gospel Jesus first going in to dine in the home of a Pharisee. They watch Him, looking always for Jesus to break the Law.

 

Jesus knowing this, sees a man who has dropsy and Jesus asks “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”  They of course say nothing.

 

So He heals the man and lets him go. 

 

Then Jesus asks them.  “If you have a son or even an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you immediately do what you could and get him or it out? 

 

Are you going to stand there and say to yourself, “well, my son has fallen into the well and it’s the Sabbath…the day of rest wherein I am not to do any work.  I will wait until sundown then the Sabbath ends and then go and get him out….or I’ll get the ox out of the well.  

 

The lesson of course shows them the absurdity of observing the Law in such a manner….of observing the Law so rigidly as to ignore one’s neighbor….as observing rituals, observing days and months and seasons and years and yet forgetting the weighter things of the law.

 

This is what Jesus’ point is when he says in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, (you do all the little detailed things of the Law) and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:

justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24 ESV)

 

But Jesus, most likely knowing He has made His point (though some of course will not be humble enough to accept the fact that Jesus has just destroyed their misunderstanding of the Law)…He moves on, not waiting for comments or questions or debate…He moves on to teach them further.

 

He says to them, “I noticed the when others arrived here, some chose to sit in the most honored places in the room….close to the host….prominent places in the room.

 

He says…   But….“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.

But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11 ESV)

 

In each of these cases, humility is at the core.  God hates arrogance and a lack of humility in his saints.  The Proverbs tell us about this:

 

      There are six things that the LORD hates,

            seven that are an abomination to him:

      haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

            and hands that shed innocent blood…”

(Proverbs 6:16-17 ESV)

 

And Proverbs 3: “Toward the scorners [God] is scornful,

            but to the humble he gives favor.

(Proverbs 3:34 ESV)

 

James says: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Quoting that proverb.

And Peter in like manner says. ..and it seems like this might have been a common Scripture to quote among the early followers of Jesus….. He says… “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” [1]

 

Now, Matthew Henry comments on this Proverb about these 7 things that are an abomination to God by reminding us: “God hates sin; he hates every sin; he can never be reconciled to it; he hates nothing but sin. But there are some sins which he does in a special manner hate; and all those here mentioned are such as are injurious to our neighbor.”

 

The first one listed here in this Proverb is haughty eyes.  We don't use haughty much but we all know what is meant here.  It is pride.

Haughtiness is pride, conceitedness of ourselves, contempt for others….a proud look.  Solomon lists 7 things here that God hates and pride is listed first.  Probably not by accident.

Pride is at the root of many sins.  It gives rise to sin.  The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector who both go up to the Temple to pray teach us this point as well.

 

In the end it is the Tax Collector, who would not even lift us his eyes to heaven, but beats his breast and acknowledges his sin, and says God be merciful to me, a sinner….this man is the one who goes home justified…not the haughty proud Pharisee.

 

Psalm 138 says: “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,

but the haughty he knows from afar. [2]

 

Pride (and all other sins) are what God hates, and are what we are to hate in ourselves as well.  Its not just paying lip-service to the idea that something is displeasing to God.  It is asking God that He would foster in us a hatred for the sins we commit….

Beginning with pride….

….foster in us a hatred for displeasing God and also, foster in us a love for what God loves.

This is more toward an inward change…away from sin and toward God.  That transfers over to the outward so we, again, are not hypocrites.

 

But none of this can be done without the grace of God….going before us and going after us.  God must be at the heart of any change or progress we make.

 

We have no power to do this on our own.  He is the one who can make us desire and do ….or to be given to all good works.

 

And these, we could say are the works God desires of us.  Humility at the head.  Humility first. 

 

One last point….. If you noticed, Jesus said to the men in that room, as He noted where they were choosing to sit, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor…..

 

Jesus later says to the man who invited Him something a little different. 

He tells him, when you give a dinner or a banquet, you are to do….but here today, Luke records Jesus saying specifically, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast.  What is the importantce of a wedding feast? 

Jesus was not at that moment at a wedding feast, so why draw our attention to that?

 

Perhaps He might have had something greater in mind at this point.  One of the great last things we hear about in Revelation is the end state of the Christian saint.  He tells us in Revelation through John this:

 

John says, as he is receiving this vision: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

      “Hallelujah!

      For the Lord our God

            the Almighty reigns.

      Let us rejoice and exult

            and give him the glory,

      for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

            and his Bride has made herself ready;

      it was granted her to clothe herself

            with fine linen, bright and pure”—

      for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

      And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19 ESV)

 

What is happening here?  This is the great and final and eternal banquet that is being prepared for us now.  And as we go down through this we see how it all looks. 

First, John says that there is present here at this Great Marriage Supper, the voice of a great multitude.

 

This is the voice….the combined voice of the saints of God (a chorus that we will one day join) that is so multitudinous and so loud that it is described by John as sounding like the roar of many waters….like loud peals of thunder…crying out and praising God…..

 

They are excited to announce that the Marriage of the Lamb has come. And the bride…that is the Church ….that is us….we are the bride….has made herself ready.

 

The bride of Christ is the Church.  She is pictured here as making herself ready but also being made ready….so we might picture something from a period piece or a Downton Abbey where the lady is being dressed by her lady servant dressing her…lacing up the corset.  

 

But the woman is said to be getting dressed, but she is also being dressed by another.

 

The Church is being prepared by the Spirit of God.  We are being prepared for the Wedding Feast by God Himself….going before us and behind us.

 

John says, “It was granted her to clothe herself

            with fine linen, bright and pure”—

      for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

 

We see here then if we can bring in our exhortation to purge ourselves of haughtiness and pride as works of the Spirit, then these are the righteous deeds God works in us….or working out of us.

 

Not perfected in this life, but certainly in the next.  The life that seeks to purge itself of the things that God hates, is the proper response to us being declared Justified.

 

Justified people gain access to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in the Kingdom because they are Justified by God, yet the good works we do are the noncausal necessary condition of our entrance….the good works we do are not reason we are granted to enter, but still are the necessary attire for the Banquet.

 

      This is why Paul exhorts us today “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

 

Walk this way, for it is the manner worthy of our calling.  If we are going to the Feast, why not put on our best attire?  Access to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is granted to us on account of the garment of righteousness that Christ places on us.

 

Our own soiled haughty, proud garments must first be removed.  But since the invitation is in our hand, why not prepare today, for the Banquet that we will enjoy for eternity?

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Pe 5:5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ps 138:6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.