Nov 11, 2018 – Stranger Things

 Luke 14:1-14 

 What would it be like to have dinner with Jesus? Would you invite him over? What if you heard he was in town,

and he was going to be doing some preaching? Would you invite him over? How well would you have to clean

house for Jesus? Perfect. Exactly. What would you serve Jesus for dinner? You might want to rethink those

pork chops. You can understand why Marthwas so stressed when she had Jesus to dinner.   


We’re looking at the Gospel of Luke at one of those times that Jesus gets invited over to dinner.

This is an awkward dinner to be sure. We heard part of this story earlier in the service. We continue in the

14th chapter of Luke, and we’re talking about what it means to be Simply Church, getting back to the basics

of what we, as the church, have been called to do and be. We are nearing the end of the series. One of the

surprising things that I’ve saved for the end is the directness that the church is supposed to have. Jesus

expressed it in a way that that really shocked people. As we learned over the summer, Jesus is not meek

and mild. He is often challenging and direct. 


A Pharisee invited Jesus over for dinner on the Sabbath, and all the people there were watching him closely.

This is because there was a man there who had a malady termed dropsy in our Bibles. This was a swelling of

his arms and legs. We don’t know why they were swollen. All we know is that it looked abnormal compared

with the rest of his body, and it was quite noticeable.  The first question is why would a Pharisee invite Jesus

over for dinner? To trap him? To be cruel? It’s actually a law, part of the command the God gave, that the Jews

were to perform acts of righteousness. These acts of righteousness specifically meant giving money and taking

care of those that are poor or on the margins of society. 


The Sabbath meal was one of the most important times that you would do that. The Sabbath meal is on Saturday

when the Jews are performing no work whatsoever, so instead they are able to focus on honoring God by

performing acts of righteousness. 


Once rabbis reached the age of maturity at around 30, they would begin to travel around the country to establish

their “yoke.” This is their interpretation of scripture. You may recall Jesus saying, “My yoke is easy and my burden

is light.” (Mt 11:30).  It was a religious obligation, a full command, that you host and care for these rabbis and their

disciples. So, the Pharisees are not just trapping him or just trying to be nice. In their minds they are fulfilling a

religious obligation, but this dinner obviously is not going well. They have planted a person with a medical malady.

We don’t know what it is specifically, but he has swollen body parts that makes for an awkward dinner. 


Everybody’s gathered. Everybody’s watching, and we have this poor guy probably with gang green or something.

He needs help. It’s never a good idea to try to trap or to trick Jesus. Finally after everybody’s finished the small

talk, Jesus asks whether it is permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day or not. This is what they had

come up with to trap Jesus. Think about it for a second. There is a person who obviously is suffering, obviously

has a medical condition. However, he had obviously been living with this condition for a while. It wasn’t an

emergency like when someone has been wounded badly and is bleeding profusely or like when someone has

an extreme allergic reaction and is going into anaphylactic shock. In those cases if someone doesn’t do

something immediately, the person is going to die. However, this man is obviously suffering tremendously. 


Jesus is illustrating the focus of his message. This is something we need to focus on and practice as the church.

Jesus did not come to abolish the law. We sometimes act that way. Certainly as Gentiles we are different than

Jewish people, but he did not ever pretend the Jewish people should not follow the law. Instead what he was

doing was focusing them very clearly on the intent. When you practice the law, when you do something, why

do you do it? What did God actually intend to teach you by this? You see the Pharisees had become quite good

at keeping the law, doing what they were supposed to do, but it wasn’t changing them on the inside. 


They were just performing the act. I invite somebody over for dinner, but I’m still a jerk on the inside. Jesus

was hyper focused on God’s intent behind giving the law. What are you supposed to learn? What choices are

you supposed to make that are different because you’re doing these righteous acts? And so, we get to the crux

of that argument right here. Jesus is in essence asking them what’s the point of the Sabbath? You are supposed

to have this day of rest, and you’re supposed to perform these acts of righteousness. So here, there is a person

who is sick. What was God’s intent behind all of this? The Pharisees just want to catch Jesus making a bad

choice. They just want to catch Jesus sinning because it’s violating their understanding of the practice of the law,

but look what he says, in verse four. “But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and

sent him on his way. 5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the

Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.” On the surface, it would

seem like Jesus just sinned because according the Pharisees he performed an act of work on the Sabbath. 


But Jesus is not sinning. He’s getting at the heart of what the law was meant to do. Teach us to be like God.

Teach us to love, to have mercy, to be compassionate, to help those in need. They were humiliating this person

with swollen body parts. Jesus fixed it and sent him out. Jesus asks them questions, but that they have no answer.

The Pharisees have an answer for everything except of course when Jesus puts them to shame. This awkward

meal continued. Jesus tries to teach to his disciples. There’s sort of a fight going on as to the seating arrangement.

Seating arrangements would show social standing. Jesus should have been at the right place to receive the first

portion of meat as it went by, but he’s not given that honor. However, he doesn’t address the real issue until we

get to verse 15.

One of the hearers in the crowd has heard Jesus talk about his Kingdom and wants to be a part of it. 


So, beginning at verse 15 Jesus says,  

“When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who

will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing

a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to

tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike

began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.

Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my

way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t

come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house

became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town

and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what

you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go

out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.

24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” 


Let me put it in sign language. *smack* That was a smack on the part of a rabbi. Jesus just told the Pharisees

what? You’ve gone through all of this… We should stop and say feasts and meals are big deals whether they

be the Sabbath or harvest festival like last week’s celebration dinner, or a wedding ceremony. People will

prepare and celebrate for a long time. You read about these in Scripture, these wedding celebrations that go

on for a week. I don’t know how you celebrate for a week, but it must be intense. So they’re big big big deals.

The average person was not eating meat daily. They were living off of olive oil and bread mixed together. So,

a time to celebrate, to have large amounts of meat, wine, other fine selected breads is a big big deal.  


So, the Pharisees have noticed that there is this religious obligation to invite someone over, but it doesn’t

teach them to be kind and better people. It’s just an excuse for them to be more righteous looking. Jesus

is beginning to warn them that the Kingdom of Heaven is a giant feast prepared, not just for you, but for

others. When you make these excuses, when you fail to learn the lessons, there comes a point in which God

will spread out to other people. That God will send a message out to others and invite them, and you will be

excluded. Is that possible? Is that Jesus saying that he is going to give up on you? Is Jesus saying I’m done

with you? It’s easy for us to imagine maybe with the Pharisees, but there’s a larger lesson that we have got

to get as a church.  


To give another analogy, there is this belief that comes out of Isaiah in the Old Testament that says Jerusalem,

as a city, will never fall. God’s name resides in the Temple there, and he will not allow the Temple to fall. This

had been proved historically. There was a very large as Assyrian army that had besieged the capital, Jerusalem,

under the famous Assyrian king, Sennicherib. He was renowned for his siege works. They would tunnel under

walls, dig them out, and they would collapse. Then the army would kill everybody in the city.  


In rather spectacular fashion Isaiah describes a plague. An angel of God is sent, and a plague broke out and

destroyed a major part of the besieging Assyrian army. The Assyrians had never lost a siege up to that point, so

they retreated. Jerusalem was saved. (2 Kings 18-19) So after that people thought, Our city is perfect. God will

always protect it. It doesn’t matter what I do. The city will be protected. Was that right? Did Jerusalem ever

fall? Yes, within 40 years of that siege, Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. 


We get into this habit of thinking, if we do X,Y, and Z, then God has do what we want. The Pharisees were getting

into that mode. I keep the law. I invite people over, so God has do what I say.  


When Jerusalem finally fell to the Babylonians, it was a horrible time, and one that scarred the Jewish psyche

for generations. Yet Jerusalem fell, not because God changed his mind. Jerusalem fell because the terrible

choices people were making. They were no longer listening to God. They were worshiping other gods, and

they did dreadful things. 


They were worshiping Cainite gods, Baal and Asherah. 2 Kings tells us they were burning children, infants, alive.

They sacrificed them to the god, Baal. King Manasseh, the king of Judah will do this! This is why God turns

from them. This is why God sends the Babylonian army to destroy Jerusalem.  


The choices that we make matter. God doesn’t want us just do the laws, do the things. It has to impact who we

are. So as a church, we can never ever afford to get away from this. We must continue to ask the question, “Why

do we do what we do?” Why do you come to church? Why do you pray? Why do we send our kids off to learn?

Why do you volunteer? They are worthwhile, of course, but what’s going on in here inside you? Are you getting

better? Are you making better choices? Are you becoming closer to God? The truth is God will teach us one way

or another, just as he warned with the parable of the festival feast. If you won’t come to the feast, I will go and

some other people. But, we as a church can never forget this. We are being transformed for a good life now, but

also for a good life in eternity. If you cannot make good choices here, you will not make good choices there. It is

a lot to take in, but I think an important point.  


This is this guy, Kurt, who grew up in El Paso with his grandparents, and he learned this lesson of making good

choices.  He says that everybody should have an overbearing grandmother. That can certainly help for learning

some kinds of lessons. One of the greatest things he did for his grandparents was play soccer. You know, the

other football.  


So at the beginning of the season Kurt needed new cleats. He had a toe sticking out of one of his cleats. When you

played soccer in El Paso back then, they didn’t have these beautiful grass fields. They played on dirt and rocks,

which really met you had to have cleats. If you just had regular shoes, you slid all over the place. 


Cleats would let you get in the dirt and do some good stuff. So he told his grandma, “Look at my hole. I need

new cleats,” and she took him out and bought him some Adidas. He felt so good. He had his new cleats, and

he thought he even played better. So he’s out there playing, but there’s some downtime between soccer matches,

so he and his friends loved to kick the rocks that were on the field into the goalposts. They had metal goalposts

because that is what you do in El Paso, and they were a lot of fun just to kick and make a nice *ching*.  The only

problem is this wore a hole in his cleats kicking these rocks. So a couple weeks into the season Kurt had a new

hole in his cleats kicking these rocks. He thought, It’s no big deal, right?  He walked up to his grandmother and

said, “*Ahem* Hole in the cleats. We need to go to get some new ones.” 


His grandparents grew up during the Depression. Where they grew up, being frugal was a virtue from God. She

took his cleats, and … can you guess … she put duct tape over the hole. Not so cool for Kurt. Really, Grandma?

Can we go shopp … eh … This goes on for a couple more weeks. He thinks up a new plan and leaves his cleats

out of soccer field one time. Lost them altogether, and he thought he really had her this time. She’s got to go

get more cleats because I don’t have any. Next week, he was wearing his tennis shoes sliding over the field

like he was skating downhill. He made his choices to try to manipulate the situation, but Grandma had it all

figured out. 


Do we do the same thing with God? We take the grace that God gives us, and we think it’s in the bag. I figured God

out. There’s a predictable pattern the God has got to follow because I’ve done my thing. Please, hear Jesus talking

to the Pharisees. It does not work that way. Our spiritual life cannot be learning to manipulate God. That’s not

changing us. It tries to change God. It makes us God in our own eyes. We have got to learn to be like God in this

life not be God. God’s preference is to do it through meals and celebration, in blessing. But, if it does not work

that way, he will find another way because his love never gives up on us. So always, as a church, let us ask,

Why are we doing this? What are we learning?  


Today, we celebrate Veterans Day, one of those times at which we, as a country, can remember the people who

fought for us. We can know that there are times in which evil has arisen, and we as a country have been called to

fight it. Our country is not perfect, by any means, but we have had our times when we have been called to protect

others. We celebrate veterans. Why? What does it teach us? We’re appreciative because they fought for us? It’s a

good reason, but every country does that. Why should we celebrate the Veterans on this day?  


Let me tell you a story about something that happened from 1948-1949. It was only a couple of years after the

end of World War II. After the war control of Germany was divided among the four Allied powers: Britain, France,

the United States, and the Soviet Union. Britain, France, and the United States merged their areas into what

became West Germany. The Soviets maintained exclusive control of what became East Germany. The capital,

Berlin, was divided in the same way, but it was located in the part controlled by the Soviets.  


The Allies introduced a new currency into West Germany including West Berlin to help stabilize the economy.

The Soviets who didn’t necessarily want the economy stabilized for their own reasons, told the Allies to

withdraw it. They refused, so the Soviets put up a blockade around West Berlin. They allowed nothing in or

out, not food, clothing, heating fuel, nothing. It was the first major engagement of the Cold War. The Allies

responded with the Berlin Airlift flying in hundreds of planes on a daily basis to ensure that the 2 million

people in West Berlin did not starve. 


“Lieutenant Halvorsen was one of the [many] pilots. His role in the Berlin Airlift was to fly one of many C-54

cargo planes used to ferry supplies into the starving city.[12] During his flights he would first fly to Berlin, then

deeper into Soviet-controlled areas. Halvorsen had an interest in photography and on his days off often went

sightseeing in Berlin and shot film on his personal handheld movie camera.[3] One day in July, he was

filming plane takeoffs and landings at Tempelhof, the main landing site for the airlift. While there, he saw

about thirty children lined up behind one of the barbed-wire fences. He went to meet them and noticed that

the children had nothing. Halvorsen remembers: “I met about thirty children at the barbed wire fence that

protected Tempelhof’s huge area. They were excited and told me that ‘when the weather gets so bad that you

can’t land, don’t worry about us. We can get by on a little food, but if we lose our freedom, we may never get

it back.'”[13] Touched, Halvorsen reached into his pocket and took out two sticks of gum to give to the children.

The kids broke it into little pieces and shared it; the ones who did not get any sniffed the wrappers.[1] Watching

the children, so many of whom had absolutely nothing, Halvorsen regretted not having more to give them.

[14]Halvorsen recorded that he wanted to do more for the children, and so told them that the following day he

would have enough gum for all of them, and he would drop it out of his plane. According to Halvorsen, one

child asked “How will we know it is your plane?” to which Halvorsen responded that he would wiggle his wings,

something he had done for his parents when he first got his pilot’s license in 1941.[15] 


“That night Halversen, his copilot, and his engineer pooled their candy rations for the next day’s drop. The

accumulated candy was heavy, so in order to ensure the children were not hurt by the falling candy, Halvorsen

made three parachutes out of handkerchiefs and tied them to the rations.[16] In the morning when Halversen

and his crew made regular supply drops, they also dropped three boxes of candy attached to handkerchiefs.

They made these drops once a week for three weeks. Each week, the group of children waiting at the Tempelhof

airport fence grew significantly.[17] 


“When word reached the airlift commander, Lieutenant General William H. Tunner, he ordered it expanded

into Operation “Little Vittles,” a play on the airlift’s name of Operation Vittles.[18] Operation Little Vittles began

officially on September 22, 1948.[4] Support for this effort to provide the children of Berlin with chocolate and

gum grew quickly, first among Halvorsen’s friends, then to the whole squadron.[16] As news of Operation Little

Vittles reached the United States, children and candymakers from all over the US began contributing candy.

[19] By November 1948, Halvorsen could no longer keep up with the amount of candy and handkerchiefs being

sent from across America.[16] College student Mary C. Connors of Chicopee, Massachusetts offered to take

charge of the now national project and worked with the National Confectioner’s Association to prepare the

candy and tie the handkerchiefs.[20] With the groundswell of support, Little Vittles pilots, of which

Halvorsen was now one of many, were dropping candy every other day. Children all over Berlin had

sweets, and more and more artwork wasgetting sent back with kind letters attached to them.[21] The

American candy bombers became known as the Rosinenbomber (Raisin Bombers), while Halvorsen

himself became known by many nicknames to the children of Berlin, including his original moniker of

“Uncle Wiggly Wings,” as well as “The Chocolate Uncle”, “The Gum Drop Kid” and

“The Chocolate Flier.”[22] 


“Operation “Little Vittles” was in effect from September 22, 1948 to May 13, 1949.[4] Although Lieutenant

Halvorsen returned home in January 1949, he passed on leadership of the operation to one of his friends,

Captain Lawrence Caskey.[23] Upon his return home, Halvorsen met with several individuals who were key

in making Operation “Little Vittles” a success. Halvorsen personally thanked his biggest supporter Dorothy

Groeger, a homebound woman who nonetheless enlisted the help of all of her friends and acquaintances to

sew handkerchiefs and donate funds.[24] He also met the schoolchildren and “Little Vittles” committee of

Chicopee, Massachusetts who were responsible for preparing over 18 tons of candy and gum from across the

country and shipping it to Germany.[25][26] In total, it is estimated that Operation “Little Vittles” was

responsible for dropping over 23 tons of candy from over 250,000 parachutes.

[5] (From <> ) 


Thinking about the big picture. It is the perfect balance of what Jesus calls us to. We have to resist evil.

Sometimes you have to fight evil to have it stop, but when the evil is contained, there’s room for love,

incredible love. Who does this? Who loves the enemy’s children? We do.  So today let’s celebrate Veterans

. Honestly, why do we do it? Because that can come out of us, that makes an enemy an ally. That is loving

God and loving neighbor. That spreads the Kingdom of God. 


Now, let us all say the Jesus Creed together as found in your bulletins … 


Love the Lord your God 

With all your heart, with all your soul, 

With all your mind, 

And with all your strength. 

And love your neighbor as yourself. 

Only Holy Love 


Let us pray. O gracious Lord, our God, we do give you thanks that you continue in our world. You

continue even when it’s hard, even when some of us decide that doing terrible things is the best way

to go forward. Help us, O Lord, not to react out of fear to that and become that which we hate. Instead,

O Father, teach us to be strong where we must, to defend the defenseless, to stand up for those that

cannot. But in the next breath, O Lord, teach us to be merciful, to be kind.  Help us to understand

what we do within our hearts is truly the source of the Kingdom of God. Teach us to release our anger,

our fear, our frustration, our bitterness. Teach us to be able to rely on those next to us when we’re hurting,

and may we be there for them when they hurt. Most of all, O Lord, continue to fill us with your word.

Continue to be our teacher and ask us over and over why do we do what we do. What do we learn when

we do? May we learn to be like you, Holy like you, set apart as you called us. We know we are the light

and the salt for this world not just the United States, but all places. May we take our blessing and bless

those around us until that day when you come for all of us, and we exist in the heaven with you. Help

that be so. In your Sons holy and precious name we pray. Amen.  


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