Sunday, September 01, 2019

Sermon: Etiquette


         Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters” suggests that 90% of throwing a good party is preparation
—that a host has to nail down some basics in order to get people to gather well—establish a purpose of the gathering,
invite the ideal number of people for what they want to do,
make clear rules for the event,
create an alternative world that the guests are stepping into,
and have a clear ending.
         The major point Parker makes is that etiquette isn’t dead, in fact, it is necessary to keep chaos at bay, but the particular rules have to fit with the purposeof the gathering.
         And today, we can looking at how Jesus gathers us, the kind of etiquette Christ calls us Christians to, the purpose of our being together.
         Today we look at the Rules of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the Etiquette of the Kingdom of God
Kingdom Etiquette.
Let us pray

         These rules of etiquette that Jesus calls us to would make no sense to the Romans who occupied his country. Roman Rules, Roman Etiquette, were rules of reciprocity & boastfulness.
         This was true from the Emperor on down… talk of humility would be laughable
—projecting as much power and prestige as you could was the order of the day, being seated at the head table, an end in itself. 
         The purpose of an invitation, the purpose of throwing a party, was to curry favor. Friendship itself was seen as an insurance policy of sorts
—I scratched your back… now you owe me! 
The only time you’d invite someone who couldn’t invite you back was to ask them to do your dirty work. 

         Similarly, this Kingdom Etiquette would challenge the imagination of many of Jesus’ fellow Jews. When his contemporaries wrote about the kinds of communitiesthey were forming, and also about the kind of worldGod was making through them
—what the feast at the end of this world they read about in Isaiah would look like
—the General Resurrection
—when they thought about table fellowship and etiquette…
they explicitly wrote about who would be excluded—“the fool, the blind, the lame, the crippled, the deaf, and children,”
for their presence would offend the holy angels.
         The purpose of such a party was maintenance of holiness and the exclusion of disruptive forces.

         And such etiquette,
rules of excessive holiness and exclusion
rules boastfulness and reciprocity
—they are not for us…
ours is aKingdom Etiquette.
         As guests, we are called to humility. When we get together with people it is natural to want to know the pecking order, to know where you stand vis a visother people. It can boost your ego and buttress your self-worth… but if Jesus’ Kingdom is real, that’s not where our ego or our self-worth comes from…
it comes from being made in God’s image and claimed as a member of God’s family in Baptism. 
         Then you can look around at that same group of people and really seethem!
If you’re not trying to see who is above you, you can look your fellow guests in the eyes and get to know them as actual interesting individuals…
and guess what, they may even start to respond in kind! Etiquette can be infectious.
         As hosts, we are called to invite those who can not repay us
—called to break with assumptions of reciprocity in the name of generosity.
This is not an easy calling
—what if they take advantage of your generosity? What if people look and see who you invite and start to associate them with you?
         As Christians, we are to ask a different question, what happens to them if we do not?
If they are excluded from the banquet, what will happen to them? 

         Perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself
—I’ve jumped straight to the clear rules of the event—the etiquette—without the why of it…
We act this way, because in a myriad of ways Jesus, has met us in our lives…the Bridegroom has been generous, the Bridegroom has invited us up.
         We came crashing into the limits of our honor and Jesus invited us up anyhow.
         We were confronted by the uncomfortable truth of our own inadequacies crying, “Lord, I can not repay,” and were confronted still more stunningly with the truth that Christ is kind-hearted!
         We are gathered together at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, all of us and so many more still, invited to honor him with our humility and our welcome, called to be what we are his Body in the World.
         That is Kingdom Etiquette. A+A