Jesus went to a Sabbath-day dinner party.
A nice affair, it was.
In the home of a prominent religious leader.
They’d all been to worship … now it was time to eat.
Everyone was watching Jesus.
What is he gonna do next?
What is he gonna say?
Jesus doesn’t waste any time.
He asks the religious leaders: Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?
They say nothing, of course.
Why should they?
Who’s Jesus to be asking THEM a question?
They reply with stony silence.
They give Jesus the cold shoulder.
Jesus then takes hold of a man in the crowd.
A man with dropsy.
A circulation problem.
Fluid builds up beneath the skin and in the abdominal cavity, around the heart and in the lungs.
Right then and there, Jesus heals the man.
Love doesn’t wait.
Mercy and compassion are always in season.
And with that, Jesus does some people-watching.
Ever go to a mall to watch people?
Or sit on a Venice Beach bench?
Tourists gawking and hip hop artists selling their CDs … psychic readers with Tarot cards and crystal balls.
Muscled women and men pushing iron in the outdoor gym … kids with chocolate ice cream dripping down their arms … a weary barefoot lady searching through a garbage barrel for some small treasure … a man with a haunted face asking for spare change.
Or a Dodger game, and there’s a lull in the action (and there seems to be a lot of lulls these days for the Dodgers), and ya’ sit back for a moment, sip some beer and munch a peanut, and look around at all the shapes and sizes and styles of people.
It’s a lot of fun.
Jesus does a little people watching at the party.
And he notices folks pushing their way to the best seats in the house, places of honor – close to the host … where the food is served first.
I can only imagine Jesus standing back watching the commotion.
Like cows in a barn.
Donna’s Dad was a Minnesota cattle dealer … we’d go home to Minnesota, and I’d spend time in the barn with him … cows to move, from one pen to another … out to the yard for feeding, or into another pen for tagging and shipment.
A dozen or so had to be moved from one part of the barn to the other …
Through a doorway two-cows wide.
And they all try to go through at once.
Banging and smashing.
Grunting and bellowing …
The barn took quite a beating, but finally, shoulder-to-shoulder, noise and dust, they finally make it through …
It’s not in a cow’s nature to say, “After you.”
But always “me first!”
Like cows in a barn.
I think Jesus might have laughed at the dinner party.
Folks pushing and shoving their way to the front … like cows in a barn.
You’ve probably seen the bulletin by now - the cartoon I found … a crowd, pushing and shoving … and who knows what it’s all about …
A friend of mine entered a contest on the Internet and needs folks to vote for her … she wrote, “Until this contest, I never realized how competitive I am.”
Sure, we’re all competitive.
Whether it’s the best lane on the 405.
The quickest checkout at Trader Joe’s.
Or as my friend, the Vintner says of his former work with a huge entertainment corporation: what counted was your title, the size of your paycheck and the size of your office.
We’re all competitive.
And that’s what Jesus saw at the dinner party.
And it isn’t a pretty picture.
I wonder … what do we look like to Jesus?
What does God see when God steps back to watch you and me?
Jesus tells them:
Slow down, you’re going too fast.
Take a quieter approach to things.
If ya’ push and shove your way to the front, it won’t work.
You’ll only end up embarrassing yourself.
Trust the host to seat you properly.
I think of the egg man in the news these days.
Jack DeCoster …
What a tangled story …
Tainted feed, tainted chickens, Salmonella.
Terrible working conditions, environmental violations.
The local sheriff says: DeCoster’s been picked up "dozens of times" for driving without a license and "doesn't pay a lot of attention to traffic laws."…
The man has been repeatedly fined left and right for all kinds of violations … but he’s got the money … egg money, so to speak … to pay the fines and stay in business … until now!
I wonder about the egg business.
How does this come about?
And what about the people who work in those hideous hen houses?
What about the chickens? … God loves them, too … all creatures, great and small.
And the health issues for the nation.
The money and the power.
Trust the host.
Trust the host to seat you properly.
Don’t push so much.
Hold the door open for others.
Make room, and do it right.
Don’t sell your soul for a seat at the table.
Trust the host.
I wonder …
What would a godly egg business look like?
If God were in charge of the eggs?
Christians, we need to put on our thinking caps.
We need to pay attention.
Do some people-watching.
What does it mean to “trust God”?
Right now, in America, we’re all a little edgy.
Folks are uneasy about the future.
Hoarding is on the increase.
Folks fill their basements and attics and bedrooms and dens and dining rooms and rented storage units with more and more stuff.
Every day, new ads: get this, buy this, use this …
Playing into our fear: will there be enough for us?
Just like the rich fool who thought bigger barns would solve his anxiety.
It’s a dangerous time for a nation.
Nations get goofy when they worry about the future.
Worried nations always find someone to pick on.
Look at France right now – deporting Gypsies.
Look at our own immigration issues.
And our reaction to the proposed Islamic Community Center in New York City.
Remember the “Red Scare” of the Fifties?
Joe McCarthy and Hollywood blacklisting?
Hitler and the Jews?
Nations get goofy when times are difficult.
But if nations get goofy, what about us?
Here we are in a place called Covenant.
The very word “covenant” is powerful.
An agreement between God and you and me.
I will be faithful to you, says God.
I will be your God.
My word and my Spirit are yours.
And you will be my people.
A covenant worked out in the blood, sweat and tears of the centuries.
And worked out in the blood, sweat and tears of Jesus.
At the last supper, lifting the cup of blessing, Jesus says to us: This cup, poured out for you, is the new covenant in my blood.
Covenant … Covenant Presbyterian Church.
A remarkable word.
Centered in God’s grace, we are.
God’s sovereign goodness.
God’s providence and God’s provision.
We are not our own, but we belong to a faithful Savior … in life and in death, body and soul, now and forever.
There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
What does it mean to trust God?
To trust the host for a decent place to sit?
To trust God:
When it comes to our paycheck and our Social Security?
Our investments and the way we live?
Our medical care and the end of our life?
Tomorrow morning … the world.
Back to work and back to all the stuff of life.
As it should be.
Tomorrow, we will work hard.
We will work hard and do our best.
We will make plans and chart the best course possible.
We will do some people-watching.
We’ll see some folks behaving just like cows in a barn.
And for a moment or two, we’ll be tempted to join in the basing and the bellowing.
But something deep within us will give us pause.
Because today, we have spent time with Jesus.
And that makes all the difference in the world! Amen and Amen!