Am I the Bad Person?
There is a place on the Internet where people go to find out if they made the correct decision about something they feel somewhat bad about.
I remember reading a case where the person is wanting the Internet's input about an experience they had on a plane. When they arrived at their seat, which was a window seat, they saw that a child was sitting there. They told the child that they were sitting in their seat, but the child's father tried to convince the person to sit in the aisle seat, wanting the kid to have the experience of looking out the window during the flight. The person had chosen their seat. The person had paid for their seat. So the person does nothing wrong. They want to sit in the window seat. The child starts crying, the dad asks them to move, the person sits in their assigned seat and the dad looks at the person like they are the most ego centrical and evil person in the galaxy. Is this person a bad person?
The author of the book Meeting Jesus at the Table says that Jesus’ parable of seating arrangements brings to her mind memories of meals shared with her family, where there are assumptions about who sits where. Usually, Poppy sat at the head of the table, but when the grandparents came to dinner, who would sit at the head of the table?
We live in a world that has assigned chairs. You can choose where to sit and pay for it. You can earn a place to sit according to your age and according to the title you have in your family. You can even look at someone funny if they sit in your pew at church and might even remember where the matriarchs and patriarchs of the church used to sit.
But, at the end of the day a chair is just a chair. A place to sit is just a place to sit, and we are the ones who decide whether that place is the right place or the wrong one.
Jesus chooses to sit in the wrong seat
“On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely.”
Jesus is being watch by the Pharisees once again. And once again he makes choices that challenge the costumes and religious traditions that he has grown up with. He basically chooses the wrong chair several times during this meal.
He chooses to heal a man with edema during Sabbath.
He challenges their definition of Sabbath, saying that they are flexible, when it is convenient.
He questions those that are trying to choose a place of honor during the meal and tells them they should sit in the lowest place. To be humble.
And he tells folks that instead of inviting the people they like or people that they want to take advantage of, they should invite “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.”
All these answers are wrong for the religious authorities. What the Pharisees don’t seem to notice is that they are not the only ones that are watching. Jesus also has his eyes open, noticing all the dynamics that are happening.
And, as Raynal states “Once again, Luke inverts the traditional etiquette of the banquet; he elevates the lowliest to the new royal welcome in the kingdom of God and urges the social climbers to become the lowliest, on the chance they might be invited higher up!" 1
It is interesting that this week I was having a conversation with someone about the Sabbath. He was watching Tic-Toc videos about how people find loopholes for celebrating the Sabbath. For example, they leave the lights on before Sabbath begins so that they are not in the dark during Sabbath (they cannot touch those switches). I have to say that I find no issue with this, and that I know that human beings in every religion can and do find loopholes. But, as someone who is not extremely religious, his issue was not with finding loopholes. His issue is with people that act as if they are engaged in a faithful practice of their religion, and then share on Tic-Toc about how they find ways to not do it in the way they represent.
Jewish and Christian siblings are on the same boat. We say that we are humble, but we want to have power over others. We say blessed are the meek, but we believe in justifying war. We say that we want the lowest place, but we try to find ways to sit in the places of honor. We find loopholes that are self-beneficial.
But Jesus once again, invites us to evaluate our table manners. The author of Meeting Jesus at the Table says that Jesus is inviting the Pharisees and us to move from transactional relationships to transformational relationships.
“To move from survival-based, get-what-I-need kinds of relationships, to table-turning, 'reign of God' kinds of relationships. Relationships where traditional tables are flipped, and doors are opened, and the leaves come out, and bread is broken—together—with all of God’s children.”
Chairs at the reign of God, are totally different than the ones that we value and covet. Humility is key. Sitting at the lowest place is key. We sit at table not to network, or to talk to shareholders. We sit at table to connect, to reconcile, to value, to build, to dream and to love.
Mr. Rodgers On Being Humble
Tomorrow is Mr. Rodgers day once again in the Presbyterian Church. And he is one of the best examples of transformational and humble relationships that we can find.
Usually, when we look at history, we always look for those that sit in the place of honor. Once, a high school student asked Mr Rodgers what the greatest event in American History was. Here is his answer:
I can't say. However, I suspect that like so many "great" events, it was something very simple and very quiet with little or no fanfare (such as someone forgiving someone else for a deep hurt that eventually changed the course of history). The really important "great" things are never center stage of life's dramas; they're always "in the wings". That's why it's so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial.”
I suspect that Jesus would have given his seat to that little kid, giving him or her the chance to look at the sky, whether he paid for the seat or not. I suspect that that he noticed the little things, like Pharisees trying to find the best seats. I suspect that he shared Mr. Rodgers opinion: it is essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial. And I suspect that he wants us to choose the wrong chair…every single time.