More / Book of the Month / A Reputation by Any Other Name / Luke 14:1–14 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 28th 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

A Reputation by Any Other Name / Luke 14:1–14 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 28th 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church




A Reputation by Any Other Name / Luke 14:1–14 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 28th 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday August 24th 2022: Season of Pentecost / Luke 14:1–14 "A Reputation by Any Other Name"

One Sabbath, when [Jesus] went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching Him carefully. And behold, there was a man before Him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then He took him and healed him and sent him away. And He said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.

Now He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

He said also to the man who had invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends.

          “[He] Who steals my purse steals trash;

                    ‘tis something, nothing;

          ‘Twas mine, ‘tis his and has been slave to thousands;

                    But he that filches from me my good name

          robs me of that which not enriches him,

                    And makes me poor indeed.”[1]

This is a line from Shakespeare’s play Othello and it’s a quote about reputation. As a Christian what are we to make of reputation. What impact does it have on our life, where is our reputation centred? As a Christian do you have a good reputation or a bad reputation? Is your name “good” or is it “bad” and in whose eyes is it “good” or “bad,” what does your reputation afford you and what does it disadvantage you, and with whom? Keeping with Shakespeare for a moment here’s one from his play Romeo and Juliette, a quote that you likely know well, this one is spoken by Juliet Capulet to herself while on her balcony, but overheard by Romeo Montague, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,”[2] which is to mean a bad reputation in the eyes of some does not change who it is that you are in truth.  

A good reputation is part of what we hear about both on our Old Testament Reading and in our Gospel Reading today it’s also woven through our Reading from the Book of Hebrews.[3] In the Book of Proverbs we heard King Solomon, King David’s Son say, “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”[4] And in our Gospel Jesus says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you.” Then Jesus says one of His very memorable proverbial teachings, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” And that is a teaching about reputation. It’s always better to strive toward humility and to put off pride regardless of your personal reputation in the eyes of others. Think on what King Solomon teaches in the book of Proverbs when he writes,

         “Pride goes before destruction,

                   and a haughty spirit before a fall. [And]

          It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor

                   than to divide the spoil with the proud.”[5]

Luther lists good reputation as a gift of God given in our daily bread alongside food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home and many other important things like a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government even good weather, peace, health, good friends, faithful neighbours.[6] Next to a good reputation Luther puts self-control and Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatian Christian’s lists self-control as a fruit of the Holy Spirit along with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness against which Saint Paul says “there is no law.”[7] Self-control is part of what Jesus teaches too, that a person would quell their personal pride and opinion of them self and refuse the temptation to take the seat they think they deserve in favour of the least honourable seat at the table. This takes courage and humility. 

The setting of our Gospel Reading today is a Sabbath day dinner at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. Now I want you to think of a table … for those of you who remember Sunday dinner with family, think of what the table was like: There is a head of the table, in fact some dining room sets even have a different chair for the head of the table, it’s the one with arms to set your elbows on, the rest of the chairs do not have this feature. And who sits at the head of the table, the place of honour? It is reserved for the head of the family, or that’s the way it was, the way it went for many years. So thinking of this Sabbath day dinner at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees who should be sitting at the head of the table? The one throwing the party, that would be expected maybe even by him, but what if there were a more distinguished guest? Who then, by virtue of their true identity, would be entitled to the place of honour that day? Jesus would, because He is the very Son of God. In fact He is their God in the flesh with them at the dinner table, but Saint Luke tells us that Jesus told the parable about where to sit at a wedding feast to those who were invited when He noticed how they chose the places of honour. So even though Jesus as the Son of God could have claimed the place of honour over and above the ruler of the Pharisees who had thrown the party in this case I imagine Jesus did not; also at this point, regardless of His reputation in the eyes of some who were there, like the man He healed at the party—a man who likely had a very high degree of esteem for Jesus after he was healed—, Jesus’ reputation may not have been that good with everyone present that day, remember they were watching Him carefully perhaps because they were unsure of Him and His growing reputation.

Now I want you to think again about the table and Jesus: Jesus is without sin, He is the Son of God, God in the flesh, He is the Word of God and as Saint John says “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”[8] There was literally no one more deserving of the place of honour and yet Jesus taking any other seat at the table would free up the seat of greater honour for someone with less honour, and if He were to take the lowest seat He would free up all the other places for everyone else at the table. Maybe you’re catching on to where this is going remember when James and John His disciples, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus and said to Him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And Jesus said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.”[9] Basically they were asking for the very best seats next to His and He say to them that they don’t understand what Him seated in glory means. They didn’t know that they were actually asking for the worst seats in the house by human reckoning because those seats would be filled by the men who were crucified with Jesus one at His left hand and one at His right hand. The lowest seat at the table was filled by Christ at the Cross where the guest of greatest worth was treated in the most worthless way, where the rulers of the Pharisees, the Scribes and the Elders of the people, where the Chief Priests and the most respected people in Jerusalem, those with the best reputations in the eyes of the people never said to Jesus, ‘Friend, move up higher,’ ‘come take the seat of honour,’ ‘Come up here,’[10] and because Jesus showed humility in the face of such disregard and pride He now and the resurrected and ascended Lord at the Right Hand of the Father now gives you a seat of honour at His table. With forgiveness in His nail pierced hands He says to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’         

As a Christian Baptised into Jesus your identity is now wrapped up in His. His reputation is your reputation for all His has is now yours as an heir of heaven. You now look forward to the time to come and the New Jerusalem.[11] Yet in this day and age there are many who despise Jesus and would crucify Him all over again if they had a chance and so they look down on your for your faith and for the name of Jesus that has been placed on you in your baptism. Dear ones remember what Jesus says, “If the World hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the World, the World would love you as its own; but because you are not of the World, but I chose you out of the World, therefore the World hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than His master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.”[12]

Your good reputation is in Christ Jesus and regardless of what the World thinks your true identity is grounded in Him; a reputation by any other name would not save, in fact “there is salvation in no one else [but Christ Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”[13] Your good reputation therefore is a gift from God. Now all gifts can be misused and squandered, all gifts can be stolen and vandalized and this can be done at the hands of the recipient of the gift and at the hand of others. On the one hand if people in this World work to falsely tarnish your good reputation as a Christian gifted to you by God on account of Christ Jesus remember that God knows the heart and He can see through a false accusation; on the other hand if you have dragged your good reputation gifted to you by God on account of Christ Jesus through the mud in sin and then try to save face in the eyes of the World then God can see through that too. You must be honest with God about your sin and in humility seek His mercy and forgiveness on account of Christ Jesus. And if you are the perpetrator of bringing ruin on the good reputation of your neighbour then you have sinned and you need to remember that “the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” As Saint James says, “with it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”[14] This is why we believe teach and confess that we as Christians not to tell lies about our neighbour, we must not betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.[15]

So in everything we say, do and think we need to watch for ways to be humble, to rest in the good reputation given to us by God not based on our own good works but in the good work of Christ Jesus in our stead; and therefore look always for words and ways to take the lowest seat and give others more than they deserve, more respect than they warrant: this is grace and mercy, and the grace and mercy we receive from God in Christ Jesus we want to extend to others not by glossing over sin and evil but by extending the same grace and mercy and forgiveness to others that has been extended to us when we have been evil, when we have sinned in thought word and deed. In so doing it won’t matter what the world calls you, you will smell sweet to the Lord, in the eyes of the Lord the World cannot truly rob you of the good name He gives you for the sake of His Son, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and He who humbles Himself will be exalted.” Jesus has humbled Himself, and has been exalted; He now exalts you, look for God pleasing ways to exalt others. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Othello (1602-04) Oxford Treasury of Sayings & Quotations 4th Edition, Oxford University Press 2011, Page 386-87.
[2] William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Romeo and Juliette (Act 2, Scene 2).
[3] Hebrews 13:1-17
[4] Proverbs 25:6–7
[5] Proverbs 16:18–19
[6] The Lord’s Prayer, The Fourth Petition: Give us this day our daily bread, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Page 21.
[7] Galatians 5:22–23
[8] John 1:3–4
[9] Mark 10:35–37
[10] Proverbs 25:7
[11] Revelation 3:12
[12] John 15:18–20
[13] Acts 4:12
[14] James 3:8-10
[15] The Ten Commandments, The Eighth Commandment: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Page 14. 

Photo Credits: Main photo detail of Rose from pexels; detail of Illustration of victorian pickpockets from wikimedia commons; detail form roses from unsplash; detail of best neon light from unsplash; detail of table setting from pexels; detail of Christ crucified from pexels; detail of gossiping from pexels; and detail of person in chair with roses from pexels.  


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