Tag Archives: pride

The Life of the Party [OR The Sabbath is for Delight, Worship, and Laying Aside Ordinary Work]

 

**sermon art: Pentecost Dance by Glenda Dietrich Moore at glendadietrich.com/brighter-pentecost-dance-web/

Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on June 2, 2024

[sermon begins after two Bible readings; there’s also one at the end of the sermon]

Mark 2:23 – 3:6 One sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
3:1Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

[sermon begins]

I love a good party. Party clothes. Party food. Party drink. Party people. Laughter. Music. Dancing. New People. Longtime friends. Friendly strangers. I am still me, of course. We’re talking pretty chill parties. Party timing can be tough for us early to bed, early to rise peeps. One of my personal favorites was a sunrise party in late summer complete with classical guitar. Regardless, I love a party.

In our reading today, Jesus helps us imagine what it’s like at God’s party. God’s party, a.k.a. the Sabbath, was originally for Jews until the Christians crashed it. “From sundown on Friday until Saturday’s sunset, Jews encouraged one another to enjoy a day of delight (Nehemiah 8:9–12; Isaiah 58:13–14), worshiping the Lord (Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 46:3), laying aside ordinary work (Amos 8:5), and fighting only in self-defense (1 Maccabees 2:29–41).”[1] God’s party was a group identity. You knew who you were when you showed up. It said something about the Jews because the sabbath said something about God. For thousands of years before Jesus was born, it was quite unique that the sabbath was for every Jew and their animals and the strangers in their towns. The party wasn’t just for the fancy people. The party was for everyone.

Observing the Sabbath and keeping holy made the list of THE 10 Commandments. More than a recommendation to nap, the sabbath command is a surprising call to delight, to worship, and to lay aside ordinary work. 500 years ago, our denomination’s namesake, Martin Luther, argued that Christian worship is a celebration, not a sacrifice. For today’s purposes, I’d like to suggest that worship is a party. Granted, our style of worship makes for a pretty chill party, but it’s a party, nonetheless. See? Party clothes. Party food. Party drink. Party people. Laughter (even if it IS hiding behind our quiet smiles). Music. Dancing (can we call swaying “dancing?”). New People. Longtime friends. Friendly strangers.

Worship is a wide tent party. No invitations needed although invitations mean more people know that they can come to the party. Along that line, please note your announcement page for PRIDE events coming up. So many of our queer family, friends, and friendly strangers have a hard time trusting that the Jesus party is for them. And with very good reason as their lives have been threatened for much less. Yet even Jesus says that the sabbath is meant for humankind. God’s party is for everyone.

Here at Augustana, we say that, “Celebrating God’s grace, we welcome everyone to worship Jesus.” For us, God’s party IS a Jesus party. Each of us may have a slightly different idea about who Jesus is, but it’s possible that we could agree that Jesus is the Life of the Party. In that regard, it’s been interesting planning my Festival Blessing and Rite of Installation that we’re celebrating this Saturday. Some of our party guests are unchurched. Some of our party guests are multifaith, meaning they are a part of other religions that not Christianity. Is it possible to throw a Jesus party that is comfortable for everyone? Unlikely. But can we throw a Jesus party that gives non-Jesus people a glimpse as to why we throw a Sunday morning Jesus party every week? Maybe. We’ll see. We’re certainly going to try. It is really nice to have something fun to celebrate with a party Spirit.

My installation, just like every Sunday morning, will be traditionally Lutheran. And just like every Sunday morning, all of us Augustana folks are both guests and hosts. Guests because it’s really a Jesus party. We come for ourselves, to delight in God’s love and mercy for us. And we come to be challenged by God’s love to love our neighbors as ourselves as we confess where we fall short. More than guests, we are also hosts because we are a public church. Anyone can come to worship. Just like when we throw a party at our home and stick around to make sure that snacks are refilled and that extra ice is available, we as a congregation host new visitors and family members and neighbors who may walk through the door not knowing what to expect.

It may be hard to fathom but my pastoral conversations with people here run the gamut from people who are showing up to the Jesus party for the very first time to people who can trace their family’s generations back to small German churches where Martin Luther once preached. Those of you who have been around awhile, imagine not speaking the theological language of grace that we take for granted. Words and ideas that seem so simple are actually layered with subtext, interpretations, and complex theological histories over centuries, generated by brilliant academic minds and, we can only hope, faithful hearts.

Those dear Pharisees in the Bible story today were highly regarded in their Jewish communities. They were the keepers of the tradition in the first century, the patriarchs of rabbinic Judaism through which Jesus learned the Torah, what we call the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. The Torah contains the 10 Commandments including our First Reading from the Bible’s book of Deuteronomy. The Pharisees reaction against Jesus’ teachings parallel our own reactions when our theological hackles are raised. It’s easy to understand their conspiracy with the Herodians to rid themselves of the free-spirited Jesus when we too conspire against people’s ideas that seem the opposite of our own. And once we attach unwanted ideas to other people, it makes it easier to kick them out of the party. Instead of greeters to the celebration, we become bouncers. And it happens, just like that [snap].

So we hold our host status lightly at the Jesus party. After all, we are only hosts as Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. Five years ago, we were barely talking about livestream worship. Three Augustana folks began a quiet conversation about it in the summer and fall of 2019 in order to better serve our home-centered folks. The discussion and the quality of the cameras picked up steam when the pandemic hit. If you had asked me five years ago whether I’d be presiding over communion, in which livestream worshipers were invited to commune at home with bread or cracker and wine or juice, I would have said “no” and questioned the theological premise for such a thing. Today, I talk to people who utterly depend on livestream worship to be a part of our Jesus party. Their gratitude knows no bounds. I talk with other people for whom livestream worship is how they find us and get comfortable worshiping before they ever step through the doors. In a world where the church has done so much harm, it’s helpful for some to find a quieter worship entry.

We still need to be in person together as much as possible – to sing, to serve and receive communion, to greet, to usher, and to welcome new people to the party. Robust and thriving worship means showing up together and being community together. And…AND, much to my surprise, we’re trusting that the Holy Spirit can expand the Jesus party, the party food, into people’s bellies we don’t get to see or haven’t met yet. As the writer of Second Corinthians puts it, “For it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; but we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

In other words, what’s to stop the Holy Spirit from blowing where it will to include people in the Augustana community that we here in person don’t get to see? Nothing. The Holy Spirit will stop at nothing to shine God’s light into the darkness. It goes a long way to remember that we are both guests and hosts of the Jesus party on the sabbath. All of us enter the party by the grace of God. Every single one of us. It can be hard to remember that we host on behalf of the One who calls us to the sabbath to delight, to worship, and to lay aside ordinary work – the Holy One who is the Life of the Party…or, more accurately, the Life – Death – Life of the party. Thanks be to God. And amen.

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[1] C. Clifton Black, Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ. Commentary on Mark 2:23—3:6 – Working Preacher from Luther Seminary. For June 2, 2024.

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2 Corinthians 4:5-12 We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.

 

Luke 14:1, 7-14 “Jesus Stole the Table”

Luke 14:1, 7-14  “Jesus Stole the Table”

September 1, 2013 – Caitlin Trussell

Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO

 

Luke 14:1, 7-14  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.
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.” 12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

 

 

Picture this with me…you’re in a school cafeteria… … …do you have that picture?  Picture the other kids.  Who are they?  Where are they sitting?  More importantly, where are you going to sit?  You have your tray or your brown bag or your lunchbox and you’re standing there, trying to act chill but you’re not feeling chill at all.  Picture it…where are you going to sit?  You see a few open seats at one table but you’re not friends with them.  You see another seat but the person sitting next to it kind of scares you or intimidates you.  You see another open seat next to a kid you talk to sometimes in History class.  You’ve been standing awhile now and so you bee-line over to that seat, plunk down and start eating.

Now you know and I know that finding a seat in a busy cafeteria full of other kids is tricky.  It’s about who you know, who you don’t know, who you don’t want others to know that you know…it’s tricky.  It’s also about strategy.  If you’re headed toward more popularity, you sit in those seats.  Less popular, sit in those.  See?  Still tricky.

Let’s make it trickier.  I was talking with some kids recently who were talking about teenage jobs and which ones were cool and which ones weren’t.  When I asked how this all gets figured out and why even talk about it, one of them said to me, “Well, grown-ups are the same way about jobs.”  This led me to thinking about jobs, meetings and this TED video I watched recently about who gets a place at the table, literally, when important decisions are being made.[1]  Are you starting to get an idea about how my brain works?

Anyway, one would think that the metaphor of the table and the actual table itself would be completely cleared of all helpful meaning but evidently we’re not tired of talking about it or sitting around it. This table thing is here, there, and everywhere.  21st century?  1st century?  Doesn’t matter.  People love to talk about the table and, more specifically, who gets to sit where.

Dinner at a leader of the Pharisee’s home sounds much like the tables in the school cafeteria.   The seating ranges from not-so-good (read: humble), good, better, and the best.  Jesus sees the situation for what it is and begins to talk about it almost as if to say that to find the best seat, look for the least appealing seat and sit there.  Which of course, when you’re involved in seat-shifting shenanigans only serves to flip them in the opposite direction, creating a whole other kind of seating hierarchy but a hierarchy nonetheless.  So the labor for a good seat continues, only now the question becomes one of identifying as the most humble among us all which, ironically, is just the other side of the pride coin.  There is nowhere to sit and nowhere to hide.  So what in heaven’s name did Jesus just do?

Well, on this Labor Day weekend, I’d like to suggest that Jesus just ran away with the table, the seats, and our labor to make sense of ourselves in the way we stack up over and against, or under and against other people. This is Jesus as his prankster finest.  Ashton Kutcher’s efforts pale in comparison to what Jesus has up his sleeve.[2]

My own life as a prankster was cut short in kindergarten.  I thought it would be really funny to pull the chair out from under someone as they were sitting down and it was straight to the principal’s office for me.  A failed attempt at replicating the old pepper-in-the-face gag to make my little sister sneeze ended even more miserably – for her and for me when my mother caught wind of it. Still today, my discomfort with pranks is so high that I’m often moving fast away from the one organizing the prank.  What I’m trying to say, albeit not very well, is that it sometimes takes a prankster to spot one.

And in this story, I spot Jesus pulling a prank as he gives us nowhere to sit at the table without consciously thinking, “Is this humble enough?  How about this?  Or this, is this humble enough?”  And as we stand there wondering where to sit, we catch sight of ourselves in the mirror hanging on the wall… …  Caught again…

Caught again in our own labor to create meaning by stacking ourselves over and against our fellow humans in whatever way our seat assignment at the table defines our rank and defines our selves.   Without the table there, we see ourselves and each other in this mirror.  If we’re not really careful, this exposure to our own shenanigans and each other’s shenanigans can lead us to an easy cynicism about other people’s motives.  Seeing them clearly, so trusting no one.

All we had to do to see this cynicism in action this week was open a newspaper, news website or your favorite blog to check out the latest on Miley Cyrus.  Everyone’s taking sides, mostly in critique of her although there are a few writers who come to the table dance with a bit of compassion.

However the conversations go, the table, the chairs and the seating chart are in place and we think we see the shenanigans fully revealed.  If there’s anything to be learned after the week’s news about Syria was overshadowed by the week’s news about Cyrus, it’s that the move to easy cynicism has become a chair in which many find themselves seated.

But the prank that Jesus pulls by removing the table isn’t his final move.  It’s not simply about mischief making that exposes our humanity.   It is about God entering humanity in Jesus and replacing the tables of our own making with one of his own.  Replacing the table through that same humanity. [3]

It is this table, brought to us by Jesus’ decent into death from the cross, which levels the seating.  We tend to picture the mighty falling and being replaced with the humble at the seat of honor, which would be the way we might see if it were our table.  But this table exalts the humble even as the lofty are humbled so that no one can claim to be above the line or push anyone else below it.  This is the table from which we can see the cafeteria game for what it is.  It is also the table the beloved Reverend King marched from with a multi-ethnic, multi-religious band of people to declare our common humanity.  Some table!

Jesus shakes up the way we labor over our seating and gives us each a place so that we all may come to his table at communion and hear that Jesus is “for you.”  Jesus replaces the tables of our own making – seating shenanigans and all – with one of his own and says, “All are welcome…including you.”

 



[1] Sheryl Sandberg, TED Talk: “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.” December 2010. http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

[2] Ashton Kutcher, Punk’d on MTV.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punk’d

[3] For those of your reading this, I move from the preaching spot to stand at the communion table.