Sermon for August 29, 2010

Luke 14:7-11 (14th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

August 29, 2010

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

Our text is from the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 14:

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “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.”

            Growing up, one of my family’s favorite vacation spots was the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Most often we would stay at the Quality Inn, New Market, VA.  On the hotel site was a gift shop called Applecore Village.  One of the things I remember there, and am very thankful my parents never bought, was labeled “Attitude Adjuster.”  Basically it was a piece of flat wood with a handle—it was a paddle to be used for “adjusting attitudes” by presumably applying the adjuster to one’s fanny.  Perhaps our Gospel text this morning can be viewed as a better means of adjusting attitudes.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord teaches us to follow His example of true humility, avoiding ungodly pride in our lives. 

            Humility is always the proper position before God and others.  Humiliation, however, is never seen as a virtue in the Bible.  Jesus illustrates how pride leads to humiliation.  “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.’”  Certainly, humiliation is one way of having our attitude of pride adjusted.  And it is just as painful as any Virginia Attitude Adjuster would be.  But there is another way of having our attitude adjusted.  It is accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit through the example of Jesus Christ so that we learn true humility before God and one another. 

            We must remember, however, that Jesus is more than just an example of humility.  He demonstrated humility, but He also is humble.  We read in Matthew 11:28-29 the precious words of Jesus, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart.”  Jesus is gentle and humble in His person and work as our Savior.  He not only sets forth an example to follow, but helps us learn from Him to be humble in heart ourselves.  His work of salvation accomplished this for us and in us. 

            In Philippians 2, St. Paul writes that Jesus Christ “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Christ, although He is true God, became fully human so that He might take our place and save us from our sins.  Christ, the Word of God that spoke creation into existence, endured poverty, contempt, and persecution in His earthly life.  2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”  At His birth Jesus had only strips of cloth and a manger.  Herod tried to murder the infant Jesus, but He escaped to Egypt.  In Nazareth the people tried to throw Jesus down from the brow of the hill.  In the temple they picked up stones to stone Him. 

            Jesus, throughout His earthly life, went through what we go through.  Even though He is the only divine Son of God, the Bible tells us in the Book of Hebrews that Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin. He is able to sympathize with us in our weakness.  Jesus understands life’s troubles and trials and temptations. (Heb. 4:15)  Christ understands the temptation to ungodly pride.  Remember our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness?  “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’. . . Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:2-4, 8-10)

            Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations to pride.  Jesus humbled Himself and took on human flesh in order to overcome temptation where we have failed.  He would not allow the devil to turn Him from His mission of saving the lost with His perfect obedience as our substitute in keeping God’s commands.  Jesus did not allow His position and authority as the Son of God to be filled with devilish pride, seeking His own glory.  Jesus was looking only for our glory and that meant His suffering and death on a cross. 

            Our glory, our exaltation, comes through the work of Christ in His perfect life and in His perfect death.  Christ humbled Himself to suffer and die for our sins on the cross so that we might be exalted before the presence of God Himself because our sins are forgiven.  Through the saving work of Christ, we stand before God in righteousness and holiness since we are covered in the righteousness and holiness of Jesus.  Through the saving work of Christ, God the Father says to each one of us, “Friend, move up higher,” as we are invited by grace to sit at the banquet feast of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. 

            Because Christ humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross to save us from our sins we are empowered to live our lives following His example, living as Christ lived.  We live each day in the forgiveness of Christ.  We live each day as disciples of Jesus Christ who imitate and look like our Lord and Master.  That includes living a life of humility in Jesus’ name. 

            You could say that we have come to the point where the Word of God in our text intersects and applies to our daily lives.  Because Jesus Christ has died and won our forgiveness and has given us that forgiveness through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament by the working of the Holy Spirit, “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16b)  Our attitudes have been adjusted.  The Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ through the forgiveness of sins transforms us.  And once the Gospel transforms us and makes us into God’s new creation, God calls us through His Spirit to greater service.  We live differently having the mind of Christ.  We now live for Christ, in Christ, and with Christ in humility. 

            Romans 12 encourages us in our transformed lives “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”  Philippians 2 begins, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:1-5)

            By the power of Christ in us through the Holy Spirit, we who have the mind of Christ imitate Christ’s example of humility.  That means that in our relationships with other people we do not consider ourselves most important.  Christ who is true God didn’t count Himself better than you or I, did He?  No, He humbled Himself and became fully human so that He could redeem us from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil.  Jesus, who had every right to claim superiority, did not.  And so we who are in Christ and have the mind of Christ do not claim superiority, but live lives of true humility and humbleness before God and other people. 

            This applies to each one of us in our calling in life.  Husbands and wives act humbly with each other.  As we are told in Ephesians 5, husbands should sacrifice for their wives the way Christ sacrificed for His Church.  Husbands, your wives come before you.  Wives, Ephesians 5 reminds you that you are to relate to your husbands as you relate to Christ because your husband is to model Christ to you and for you.  Imagine the joy and blessing our marriage relationships can bring when we show Christ to each other and live humbly, putting the other first.  Now I want the children to listen.    “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1)  Humbly respect their Christ-given authority over you which is for you good, even when you disagree.  Show them the humbleness and respect you show Jesus and your relationship with mom and dad will be healthier and happier.  Moms and Dads, don’t provoke your children to anger.  Love them in Christ.  As you raise them, bring them up by modeling true humility, by modeling Christ. 

            By His saving death on the cross, by the gift of His Holy Spirit given to us in the Gospel by Word and Sacrament, our attitudes have been adjusted.  When we are tempted in our relationships to ungodly pride, when we are enticed to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, and when we are lured to treat others—spouse, child, friend, co-worker—as if we are better, have the mind of Christ among you.  Take the lowest place in your attitude and in your actions, following the example of Jesus who did the same for you.  Let God say to you, “Friend, move up higher.  Come to my banquet in my Kingdom and celebrate my love for you which is yours in Christ.”  Now that’s an attitude adjustment we can all live with.  Amen.