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Did you know that tickets for this upcoming season opener for the Packers range in price from $138 to $25,002. Can you imagine, $25,002? That is a seat of honor, a seat not everyone can sit in. I know I’ll never be in that seat. I might be able to make it into the scrabble for the $140 seats if I’m lucky, but not the $25,002 seat. It is a place of honor.
Text: Luke 14:1-14
Preached by Vicar Roy Askins

Did you know that tickets for this upcoming season opener for the Packers range in price from $138 to $25,002. Can you imagine, $25,002? That is a seat of honor, a seat not everyone can sit in. I know I’ll never be in that seat. I might be able to make it into the scrabble for the $140 seats if I’m lucky, but not the $25,002 seat. It is a place of honor.

Jesus in our text speaks of a seat such as that. He speaks of the first seat, the seat of highest honor. This seat you are not supposed to sit in unless someone brings you to it. I can’t imagine the guy who paid $25,002 will allow anyone else to sit there. So also with the wedding feast, there is a seat of honor and it belongs to someone.

Did you know that pews were once like these Packer seats? In early American history, it was not uncommon to accept payment for pews. One church’s historical website records the seizing of one pew from one parishioner who failed to pay his pew taxes. They then sold it to another member who could actually pay the pew tax.

While I don’t know whether or not churches continue the practice, and I certainly hope they don’t, the truth is, in almost every aspect of life, we are trying to get a better seat. Jesus deals with this in the text. Practically, his advice makes sense. It’s better to take a lower seat and have someone to invite you to a higher one rather than take the high one and be humiliated in front of one’s fellows. This makes sense.

Jesus, however, isn’t overly concerned about where you’re sitting at the table. He’s not too worried about the seat you're in, or your neighbor, or the seat I’m in. He’s getting to a deeper problem, a root problem for the Pharisees. He’s rooting out the source of your assurance.

For the Pharisees who invited Jesus over to their dinner, their assurance grew from their keeping the Sabbath. Hence their concern with Jesus when the man with dropsy came. They wanted to know if Jesus would do ‘work’ on the Sabbath. Jesus did work; he did a saving work. He healed the man of bodily and spiritual infirmities. He did this to show them their unworthiness, but they missed the point.

They still tried to jostle each other around, vying for a better seat. They placed their source of worth in themselves, thinking they deserved a better seat. Further, if they grasped a better seat, it might increase their worth even more, especially in the eyes of their fellow men. Here they sat in the presence of the God Incarnate, quibbling over seats of honor. And Jesus warns them, he says, “Do not take the seat of highest honor, lest you rule the lowest seat in shame.” When your source of worth you place within yourself, you will not rule over your fellows from the king’s right hand, but your kingdom will only consist of the lowest shame-filled seat.

So this begs the question: what is your source of worth? Why do you deserve to sit at the seat of highest honor? Is it because you can buy the $25,002 Packer tickets? Is it because you have served the church faithfully, doing everything asked of you for 30, 40, 50 years? Is your claim to the highest seat based on all the good things you’ve done, obeying your parents, working hard, and all those sorts of things? Does your claim to the best seat stem from your every Sunday attendance at church? Is your claim based on the 4.0 GPA, or your name on the Dean’s list?

Jesus here roots out the source of the problem. No matter what we think, we are not worthy of the seat at His feast. We are even incapable of comparing ourselves to one another because we are all equally sinful. The person sitting next to you has not sinned any worse than you. Each sin is equally damning, each sin is worth the master of the feast taking you from the highest seat, and kicking you out of the feast entirely. No human being deserves any seat at this feast.

Yet Jesus does something we don’t expect. You see, he doesn’t really care where you sit, because He has taken the seat of shame. He, the host, went from the seat of highest honor, the place of greatest wealth, and became human. He made Himself human in order to be shamed by those He came to save. So when He, the bridegroom of the wedding feast, sees you sitting at the place of lowest honor, He says, “Come, take the seat of highest honor, I’ve already taken your place of shame.”

For the seat of greatest shame takes the form of a cross. On this throne of shame, Christ dominated and destroyed shame itself. He, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8) This is the seat of shame.

Now, no longer does shame attack you. No longer do you have to be concerned with putting yourself forward in the presence of the king or standing in the place of the great (Proverbs 25:6). For you have already been told, Come up here (Proverbs 25:7) in the presence of all the nobles of the earth. You have been brought from your seat of shame for it no longer belongs to you. The seat of shame, the cross, has already been taken. Christ has already hung on that piece of wood.

Cursed is everyone who hangs from a tree! (Galatians 3:13) Adam by the tree in the garden fell, and all humanity with him. Christ, by the tree outside of Jerusalem, brought humanity back to God. He brought reconciliation by that tree, and now you, in pews of wood, sit and receive the gifts He gives in His Word preached to you. You do not pay for your pews as some churches used to practice. No, your pews do not cost you anything. Neither does the place at the wedding feast of the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

Where is this feast? How are we to know it when we see it? Where does this feast take place? A foretaste of the final feast occurs for you every Sunday. This feast occurs here. And you have been given the seat of honor, the best seat in the house. This seat $25,002 cannot buy. This seat no gift given by human beings can purchase. This seat no one is worthy to claim but Christ alone. Yet Christ comes down to you and brings you from your seat of shame and gives you the seat of highest honor.

This seat is also made of wood. From the same forest, no doubt, as your pews. This seat is the communion rail. The greatest seat on earth. A spot next to the President, a patch of turf on the sidelines with the Packers, a seat next to your favorite singer, or perhaps a lazy chair with your grandchildren on your knee are not as wondrous and glorious - not as honor-filled - as this seat right up here in the presence of God, in the presence of Jesus.

The worth of this table and your place there is not based on yourself. It is not based on anything you have done. Your worth, in fact, derives from the host and the food He gives. The Host: Jesus. The food He brings: Himself, for you. You are, as pastor said in last week’s sermon, The joy that was set before Him, so that He endured the cross, despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

And from this seat of power, from the right hand of God, Christ gives to you a feast, a foretaste of the eternal feast to come. Christ has spoken to his servants and has said, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” (Luke 14:21) That is what you once were. Poor, crippled, blinded and lame from sin, Christ healed you and gave you the seat of honor. Christ does not say to you, “Give your seat to this person,” (Luke 14:9) but rather he says to you, “Friend, move up higher.” (Luke 14:10). And he gives you a feast.

Can I let you in on a little secret? He’s going to give it to you again. He gives you this fabulous feast every Sunday! He takes you from the humble seat of your daily vocations where you live to serve Him. He takes you from the vocations that at times might humble you. For the father and mother who spend time cleaning their baby’s dirty diaper, to the nursing care assistant that cleans the aged and infirm, to every vocation, from here Christ brings you every Sunday to give you a feast. From this feast He gives you the strength and ability, power and desire to continue in the vocation where He himself placed you. Come, He is inviting you to take the place of honor; He is inviting you to the communion rail! He is inviting you to the feast of His own body and His own blood. Let us celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb! Amen.