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THE HUMBLED GUEST


This seems to be a fairly straightforward commentary on humility.
Set your sights low and be pleased that you do better, rather than aiming high and reaping disappointment.
It is an ethos that is in direct collision with the ways of the world, where we are told to aim high and to achieve.
It is the high-flyers who receive the glory and the rewards; the big bucks and the praise of others.
It is the successful church, bursting with young members which receives the plaudits.
It is in church that we are told to focus on an eternal life of glory; to aim high.
Jesus seems to be speaking against all of that.

Yet I struggle with a church which has no aspirations,
content to stumble along, accepting the Lowest Common Denominator.
Surely we are meant to be looking for that other mathematical function,
the Highest Common Factor, for Jesus also said "seek".

Thinking a bit more deeply we can see that this parable is, in fact, about pride.
Your pride is damaged if you take a higher place than is right for you and get kicked down.
The increase of your personal satisfaction lies in the reverse situation.
Yet the latter could show such lack of integrity .. pride in humility.
Pride in being a forgiven sinner, or lowly state that suits you.
The school of the infamously humble Uriah Heep

There is nothing wrong with self-worth but we also need to recognise our indebtedness.
Value those who made us what we are, which includes both man and God.
We are whom we are thanks to God's grace and man's tutelage.
We might even be proud of it. Jesus was.

So why is Jesus telling this story, or Luke reporting it?
Maybe this is part of Luke's focus on promoting the peasant society,
pointing out that present humility can result in future glory,
comforting those on the bottom rungs of society.
Maybe it is a simple snipe at the Pharisees,
in their pride of birth and position.

Maybe it is a political threat against those who sit in positions of power;
those who will, after the glorious revolution, face the axe, cell, or slavery;
when the Kingdom of God on earth (Israel) is freed of the yoke of Rome.

Often we stumble through our Bibles in sublime innocence and ignorance,
unable to think or feel the reality of the world in which the words were written
for the "New Testament" is no longer new, and we can not see the life portrayed in its pages.
We seek for timeless values, where the Bible reports merely on local issues of which we are ignorant.
In our innocence, we see divine intent where human interests, or misunderstanding, masks our viewpoint.
Yet we can try to seek the places of higher understanding, discontented with our blindness,
and pray for our eyes to be opened to a new vision of the divine banquet.