August 28, 2022 – Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – Luke 14:7-14

A week ago, I decided, yet again, that it was time for me to be more mindful of the balance
between calories consumed and calories expended . . . which is just a more discreet way of
saying I decided that I need to lose some weight. Even though saying it that way – being
mindful of calories eaten vs. calories burned – might be to cover some embarrassment on my part, it also is an accurate way of describing what I’m trying to do because it’s all about

There are all kinds of fancy diets out there, but the only thing that has worked for me
in the past is changing the equation: either decreasing my calories or increasing my physical activity or both. So I’m doing a lot of counting these days with the help of a handy app on my iPad called “Lose It.” Every time I put anything in my mouth, I enter it into this app which calculates my daily calorie intake – and then I figure out whether or not I can have that piece of peach pie after supper – the answer is always NO, incidentally, not without going over my budget of calories for the day. So thank goodness, we finished the pie!  But the counting continues.

We all do so much counting every day. We monitor the balance in our accounts. We check
our watches to gauge when we will have to leave to make it to our appointments in time, and to analyze whether we will get through our daily to-do list. We count how many cars are ahead of us in the drive-through, how many people are in front of us in the check out lane. Though it’s not in numbers, we calculate the response of others to the things we say and do. We count so much, calculate so much, that we hardly even realize that we’re doing it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a toll on us. All this counting we do because we believe that there isn’t enough: not enough money, not enough time, not enough good will, not enough prestige, not enough recognition, not enough resources – you name it, there’s just not enough.  And so much in our culture reinforces this notion. It’s what drives our economy. It’s the basic premise behind advertising. It’s at the heart of our competitive natures. That belief, that fear even, that there’s not enough to go around can suck the life right out of us.

Perhaps this is why, at dinner, Jesus tells this strange little parable. He’s watching how all
the guests are coming in to the dinner and calculating how to get the best seats because, of
course, there are only so many good seats to be had. Jesus’ words sound, at first, almost like an etiquette lesson, or maybe just common sense: when you get invited somewhere, don’t take the best seat in the house. First of all, it’s bad manners. But more importantly, it could be quite embarrassing if that seat was reserved for someone else and you get bumped, and publicly humiliated. Good advice? Probably. Worthy of being preserved in Luke’s gospel as something of significance to our faith? Maybe not.

But then, after Jesus finishes the parable, he turns his attention to the host of the dinner
and tells him: when you host a party, you should only invite people who can’t repay you by
returning the invitation or doing you some other social favor. You see, then, perhaps even
more so than now, the wheels of society were greased by who owed who what. And to know who you owe and who owes you – and how much – means you have to do a lot of calculating.

There’s a limited amount of social capital to go around, or so you think, and you never want to come up short.  So the receivers of hospitality seem to be thinking, “There’s only so much to go around. I’d better grab what I can.” And the giver of hospitality appears to be thinking, “Since there’s only so much to go around, I can’t waste invitations on people who can’t pay me back in some way.” And Jesus says: STOP.  Stop counting. Stop calculating. At the resurrection of the righteous – at the great banquet feast in heaven – you will be paid because there is enough for all. Stop worrying. Stop fretting.  Stop trying to get ahead. In God’s kingdom, even right now, there is enough. And more than enough. For we have a God who abundantly blesses us.

There is a prayer, attributed to St. Theresa of Avila, a 16 th century Spanish nun and
contemplative, which very simply expresses God’s abundance and our lack of need to count how much we’ve gotten or given. It goes like this: Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you, All things pass away: God never changes.  Patience obtains all things.  He who has God Finds he lacks nothing; God alone suffices.  We who have God lack nothing: God alone suffices.  And so I ask: Knowing that we lack nothing, knowing that we are children of God with all the dignity and worth that goes along with that relationship, what if we were able to see others, not as competitors for scarce resources but as partners, even siblings, commissioned by God to distribute the riches of God’s goodness and grace? 1 It could mean protecting our money a little less. It could mean being a little more generous with our time. It could mean simply extending the limitless supply of love and grace that we have been given to everyone we meet, whether we see them as deserving or not. It does mean giving without counting the cost.

There’s plenty of counting that must be done in this life. I’m going to need to keep counting my calories, and we’re all going to need to keep watching over our bank accounts and trying to manage our time. But we needn’t portion out our love because, in Christ, God has given us an endless supply. Here at this table, receive God’s abundance. Here at this table, there are no seats more or less honorable, and invitations are issued to all. Here at this table, we taste the promise: that when we have God, we lack nothing.



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