St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-28-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-28-2016

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Jeremiah 2:4-13, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14:1-14

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I find it very interesting to see how we can often read the same Bible text over and over without noticing anything new each time. To a large part, it is because we have been pre-programmed to find something in particular and our minds will, time after time, revert to that meaning and never question it nor search for anything different, new, or additional.

Another thing that can either get in the way of finding new information or inspire us to find it is our personal situation at the time we read it. An example might be; if we’ve been thinking about how blessed we are we may tend to find more blessings in the text that we hadn’t seen before. Or, if we’ve been feeling depressed we might notice something uplifting that we hadn’t noticed before.

And, yet another problem we might encounter when trying to get all we can out of a piece of Scripture is the way we tend to determine the beginning and the end of that particular reading.

Case in point: today’s Gospel reading that was designated by the Common Lectionary to be “Luke 14: 1, and 7-14”.

Before beginning to write this sermon I looked at verses 2-6 to see what the lectionary left out just in case I would find that important also. I didn’t, and, knowing that we would have to read the entire Gospel of Luke to get every nuance into the reading, I decided to stay with what I had before me. I had my Sermon focus chosen and even began an outline to develop.

But then, after an encouraging though unrelated email exchange with a dear friend interrupted my train of thought, I went back to the text at hand and found something I hadn’t noticed before. My mood had changed, my focus had changed and with it, my entire sermon plan changed. And, when I found this new focus I also found that verses 2-6 were important to the reading and to my revised message. In fact, I found that this ties to the reading from last week about the leader of the Synagogue who became indignant over Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath. That reading ended with the words “When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing”. (Luke 13:17) “…all his opponents were put to shame…”

From that point, a full chapter before today’s reading, all the way through the end of Chapter 14, that we’re working in today, no one challenged Jesus! They were put to shame and put to silence. And, therefore I included verses 2-6 where we read the emphasis on their silence. Verse 3, “And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?” Verse 4, “But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away.” Again in verse 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?” and verse 6, “…they could not reply to this.”

 In fact, the only other person to speak through this whole chapter and a half, besides Jesus, is another guest at the luncheon who says, immediately following today’s reading, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (14:15 b).


The idea that starts coming across to us is the silence. And it’s not that the Pharisees and other guests weren’t bothering to listen to Jesus speak; it is written right in the beginning of this reading “…they were watching him closely.” We might assume this to mean that they were looking for something Jesus says or does that they could use against him, we hear that in other parts of the Gospel, but Luke doesn’t write that here. Maybe it’s so, or maybe we are to get the idea that the Pharisees have learned that they have to listen first, before they respond to Christ’s words and actions. That other guest, the only other to speak, seems to have figured that out; he listened to what Jesus had to say and his response wasn’t critical of what he heard, he spoke words of praise, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”


To drive home his point, all the way at the end of this chapter, Jesus wraps up this part of his teaching with the words, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

But even there, it doesn’t end. The next two verses, the first verses in chapter 15 read, “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Okay, so the Pharisees weren’t getting the idea after all; but the “tax collectors and sinners” were getting it. They were listening! And they were listening not to respond with some contradiction but listening to understand!


This is how we need to read the Bible; we must listen to the word of God to understand. If we listen to the word of God to affirm our previously instilled understanding, like the Pharisees, we cannot find all the meaning that’s there. And if we, like the Pharisees, read the Bible to affirm our position against someone else’s, like the Pharisees we will be deaf to everything else that we can learn. We must listen to the word of God; first to understand; then to respond with our lives to what it tells us to do. This is what Jesus is trying to teach us in these chapters; yet, as a part of these chapters, as a part of today’s reading itself, Jesus gives us more!

In today’s reading, the part that the lectionary assigned, Jesus gives Kingdom advice as well as some good practical life-advice to the luncheon guests when he talks about not taking the place of honor at the table lest they be embarrassed by the host asking them to move further down. Rather, he advises, take the lowest place that you will be exalted if the host invites you to move up! And he does the same for the host when he tells him to invite the lowly rather than the wealthy, thus giving him the admiration of the community and the reward of the Kingdom.

In this way, Jesus ties his teachings to life as we know it and to the kingdom. What he tells us is not only about the rewards of Heaven, but also the rewards of living in a Kingdom manner in the here-and-now. If we pull this together with what I was saying about listening we find yet another lesson to be learned. Not only do we need to listen to God’s word to understand, we also need to listen to our brothers and sisters to understand, not to respond.

Just as the Pharisees and their kind missed so much Good News because they were listening to Jesus with the intent to respond rather than to understand, we will also miss what we can learn from, and about, our fellow travelers if we don’t first listen to understand.

Every person you have ever, or will ever, cross paths with has a story to tell. And in their story is enlightenment; understanding of paths traveled other than your own; understanding of life-shaping experiences other than those you’ve had; and understanding of the needs, weaknesses, and strengths created by their experiences as well as the gifts they can offer through those experiences.

When you engage the word of God, listen to understand and be surprised at what you learn.

When you engage your fellow humanity, listen to understand and, again, be surprised at what you learn.

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”



Jeremiah 2:4-13
2:4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel.
2:5 Thus says the LORD: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
2:6 They did not say, “Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?”
2:7 I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.
2:8 The priests did not say, “Where is the LORD?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.
2:9 Therefore once more I accuse you, says the LORD, and I accuse your children’s children.
2:10 Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing.
2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit.
2:12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD,
2:13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.


Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
13:1 Let mutual love continue.
13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.
13:4 Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.
13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
13:6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”
13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
13:15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.


Luke 14:1, 7-14
14:1 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.

14:2 Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy

14:3 And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?”

14:4 But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away.

14:5 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?”

14:6 And they could not reply to this.
14:7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
14:8 “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;
14:9 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.
14:10 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.
14:11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
14:12 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.
14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
14:14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”