Since I spend so many hours each week preparing sermons, I think that quite a few of my posts will rise from those hours and experiences. Hopefully this will help those in Fellowship who read this blog to begin preparing during the week for our time of worship on Sunday. Mom and Dad will get a little insight into what I’m preaching about. The rest of you…well…maybe these tidbits will serve a devotional purpose.
Today’s post are selected excerpts from this past Sunday’s sermon. My text for the sermon was Luke 14:7-14, where Jesus went after the Pharisees at dinner and told the guests to not seek the seat of honor but to voluntarily sit in the seat of low honor and he told the host to next time not invite people who would repay him, but to invite those who could not repay and did not receive invitations. Overall, the theme was to live a generous humility.
Table manners and etiquette are an interesting phenomenon in our own and across other cultures. I guess it is because we are created with the need to eat regularly and continually throughout our life that that we make eating an event and that virtually all civilized cultures have developed certain habits, and manners, and rules of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable that all revolve around eating. Rules of Etiquette.
Now, if your family was anything like mine, in everyday life we didn’t operate according to proper rules of dining etiquette. I learned much more about the proper way to order food at the local burger place than I did about the proper rules of preparing, serving, and eating. Still, even at the Ken Kream in Kenedy, TX, we had some basic rules of dining. Children were at one end of the table and adults were at the other end. Do not start eating until either everyone has their food or Paw-paw gives the OK to go ahead. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t throw French fries at each other. Do not shoot the straw wrapper at each other, which Paw-paw always did and Maw-maw always scolded him for.
On those rare occasions when we did attend a nice dinner or a wedding reception there were whole other modes of etiquette that I have still yet to master. Proper seating. Proper utensil placement. Proper use of utensils. Proper size bites. Proper topics of discussion. Proper posture. Proper placement of hands and napkin, etc, etc. The list literally goes on and on.
In Jesus day there was proper etiquette for dinner parties as well. As we see in these verses, there was a proper way to act at these parties. There were proper places to sit. There was a proper way to address others and a proper way to be addressed. The Pharisees were all about rules in every aspect of life, and their eating habits were no different.
Church, we have certain etiquette and certain table manners, so to speak, when it comes to how we do church. We have deacons, and committees, and leadership positions, and by-laws, and business meetings like we’re having today, all of which are good and needed to help our Church function properly and move forward as efficiently as possible with vision and integrity. But, may we never get so caught up in our etiquette or our own practices that we vie for each other and against one another for places of perceived importance. May we never become so entrenched in our man-made rules and procedures that we contend with one another for position and authority and control.
May we always be practicing with each other and with our world humility and generosity. Seeking to serve one another, to listen to one another, to work with one another.
There are churches who resemble in form and practice fine dining etiquette. Lots of proper ways and means and rules. My dream for our church is that our etiquette is more like that I grew up with at the Ken Kream in Kenedy. Where our rules and procedures are boiled down to a bare minimum, and where fellowship rules the day. Where Paw-paw waved us all forward so he could pay for all of us and did so joyfully. Where we kids could laugh and be loud and no one cared. Where we propped our elbows on the table if we wanted and were very real with one another. Where we were so caught up in each other that no rules of proper form, style, or behavior mattered. Where we were so fulfilled by each other’s company in Christ that we laughed with food in our mouths, and told loud stories with no concerns of being proper. Where we even shot sweet tea out of our mouths and noses occassionally in response to a really well-timed joke or comment.
That, to me, is a picture of Christian community. Laughing, and living, and serving. Community runs deep in such times.
Friends, May we love each other in humility and generosity. May we look outward into our community and into our world and love people into our fellowship no matter who they maybe. Church, may we go out and shatter the broken misconceptions and negative perceptions people have of the church. May we show people Jesus. May we surprise people with our genuine humility, which flows from Christ within us. May we surprise people with our genuine generosity, which flows from Christ within us. May we be a welcome bit of peace and refuge and acceptance and grace and mercy and redemption in a world in Chaos. May we be Christ to the world. Amen.
Friends, Can you imagine a Church that learns how to boil down etiquette and procedure to the bare minimum and learns to let go of the rest of it and simply be present with each other? Imagine it. Live it. Thank you for stopping by. Grace and Peace to you as you go through your week.