August 29, 2010
I have found this passage really difficult this week. Sometimes, understanding a text is really easy. Sometimes, I have to dig and dig in the commentaries and on the internet and in prayer before I really get a feeling what the text says for us and to our world. Other times, like this week, after all of my research and prayer, I’m still scratching my head, standing outside the text asking questions.
Instead of forcing a message based sermon here, today I want to invite you into the questions I’ve been asking. I am honestly not sure about all of the answers, but maybe just asking the questions will give God space to work among us. Sometimes questions are better than answers - especially when I don’t have the answers to give!
What I’d like to do here is talk about a few of the things I’ve learned as I’ve studied this text. Then, as we work through the text, I’ll share some of the questions I’ve been asking.
The first thing we need to understand is what is going on with the guests. In ancient Hebrew culture, where people sit at a dinner is “a public advertisement of one’s status.”1 So, when each person enters the room, they start mentally calculating their public value compared with the other guests: “Well, I’m more important than him. Her farm is twice as big as mine. His father is a Rabbi, but I’m the host’s cousin.” There is the sub-verbal or even open measurement of each person’s status and “value” to the community. Then, people are seated like a ladder of importance, with the most important, most connected people sitting closest to the host.
That phrase “a public advertisement of status” really struck me, and it got me asking some questions. What are the “public advertisements” of our status? How do we try to show other people how important we are? ...
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