By Kristen Gunn
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 14:1-11
1 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. 2 Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had edema. 3 And Jesus asked the experts in the law and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?” 6 And they could not reply to this.
7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host, 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
It’s a refrain that occurs, worded differently, throughout Scripture: “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Why?
Well, for one thing, it would seem to describe in a nutshell the main problem of the human condition, and also the way in which God is patiently teaching us to walk in order to be healed.
I think it was C.S. Lewis who first introduced me to the idea that pride is the capital sin from which all the others flow; but this notion is all over earlier tradition. Since at least Augustine (who quotes the 10th chapter of Sirach) if not before, Christians have interpreted the first sin in the Garden as humanity’s attempting to exalt itself, or in Genesis’ idiom, to “be like God” (3:5) in a way we weren’t meant to be, trying to bypass him in order to seize something.
Of course, the whole point of the gospel is that God does want us to be like him — only he wants us to do so with and in him. And so he gave us Jesus, who, as the vintage praise song goes, “came from heaven to earth to show the way.”
And what way did he show us?
As Scripture says elsewhere, “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Phil. 3:8). In becoming as no one and as nothing, he showed himself to be very God — Lord of the universe, yet meek enough to become an embryo and humble enough even to die. “Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 3:9).
There is no way to God other than through this one, the humble and lowly. And he didn’t become humble so that we didn’t have to, but so that we could do so freely. And that in doing so we might find the greatest of joys: union with himself.
Kristen Gunn is a lay leader and has an M.T.S. from Nashotah House Theological Seminary. In her free time she enjoys learning Latin and kayaking as much as possible.
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