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Trinity 17 – Luke 14:1-11

by pastorjuhl ~ October 13th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Minnesota nice.” People from the state of Minnesota, or any upper Midwest state for that matter, tend to be polite to the point that they are overly polite. When you are offered a beverage in someone’s home, it is “Minnesota nice” to reject the offer at least twice before accepting it. That way you are not so eager to have something to drink, yet appreciate the gesture. Even when accepting the offer of a beverage, it is appropriate to make a remark about how the person offering the drink shouldn’t put themselves out by making the beverage.

To some people, “Minnesota nice” could come off as false humility at best or frustratingly annoying at worse. That’s just the way people are from that part of the country. They have been conditioned to think of themselves as nothing and others as something. Everything in their lives points outside of self. That’s a wonderful way to live, but it can be seen as an act by those who are not used to overt politeness.

One thing remains true: No one has reason to be proud and arrogant, to rise above others, or even against God and His Word, and to claim salvation based on his works. This is not to say that “Minnesota nice” is an attempt to be “holier than thou.” Nevertheless, when you exalt yourself, you rob God of the honor due Him and incur His displeasure as well as His disgrace. Proverbs 16 says, everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD. God makes sure that those who exalt themselves are humiliated, as His only-begotten Son teaches you in today’s Gospel:

WHOEVER EXALTS HIMSELF WILL BE HUMBLED.

            Before Jesus tells the parable about humiliation and exaltation at a banquet, Jesus is tested by the Pharisees, one of whom invites Him to eat bread on the Sabbath in order to watch Him closely. The Pharisees wish to trap Jesus. They are looking for an excuse to do away with Him and His teaching. A certain man with dropsy is laid before Him. Dropsy today is better known as an edema, an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or in one or more cavities of the body that produces swelling. If Christ heals this man, then the Pharisees would accuse Him before the people of desecrating the Sabbath. If He would not heal him, then they would accuse Him of ruthlessness. The Pharisees thought in their self-presumption that Jesus could not escape the trap.

So it goes with those who set their own wisdom in the place of Wisdom that comes down from above. No wonder Christians are reviled in the world. So many people who claim to follow Christ do not let His Word lead them. They place their own wisdom first. They twist the Word of God around to fit the faith they want to lead. Perhaps you have done the same. Perhaps you have winked at sin, thinking the Lord will let you get by this time. Perhaps you have purposely set your priorities in life to exalt what you want and need above what you actually need. Attending Divine Service regularly each weekend becomes something that happens only if there is time. You have so many other things that have to be accomplished. After all, there’s always next weekend for Divine Service.

The Lord notices the cunning and the plan of His enemies. He notices when you put everything else before Him, too. Against the wisdom of God, all wisdom is folly. Within God’s wisdom lies hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Within your wisdom lie deceit, trickery, and idolatry. Just when you think you have Jesus over a barrel with your ideas of what He should do for you, Jesus un-changes your change of rules, just like He does with the Pharisees.

Jesus counters the Pharisees’ question in the man with dropsy with a question of His own. After healing the man of dropsy, Jesus asks, Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day? Saint Luke writes that they could not answer Him regarding these things. Bulls-eye! If they answer “yes”, then they have supposedly violated the Sabbath. If they answer “no”, then they are ruthless fools.

The Word of the Lord is always powerful, chastising, and convicting the enemies of the Truth. Earthly wisdom never triumphs over the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit. No matter how smart you are or how brilliant your plans, they are folly before the Lord. He knows every step you take. He knows how many hairs are on your head. When you put your agenda before His, or when you believe what is best for you is also what the Lord wants for you, your self-presumptuousness is your undoing.

This does not mean that merely practicing “Minnesota nice” will give you forgiveness and eternal life. What this means is that humiliation is a good thing, when you understand what it means to be truly humble.

Humiliation seems to be a dirty word among proud American citizens. No one will humble us. We are strong, free, and proud people. Civically speaking, that is well and good. Before God, it sounds like braying goats and bleating sheep.

Proper humiliation is to submit your wisdom under the Wisdom that comes down from above, the Wisdom of God in the person of His Son Jesus. The Word of Christ in His parable about where to sit at a wedding banquet exposes pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness to be what they are: idolatry. Humbling yourself under the mighty Hand of God allows His Word to slay your pride, arrogance and self-righteousness. Having these vices cut to pieces is far from making you a 98-pound weakling. No, with these vices cut out of you by the Word of Christ dwelling in you richly, you are ready to be made strong in the grace of God. You submit to His Wisdom and walk with Him guiding your steps. When Jesus leads the way through this life into life everlasting, your steps are made sure. There is a place at the banquet table of eternal life for you.

The Wisdom that comes down from above applies His saving grace in His Word. His Word declares you forgiven. You are free in Christ. You are no longer a wandering rebel, seeking shelter where you can find it. You have a home with Jesus, for He sets the solitary in families. Won’t it be something when you are sitting at the banquet of eternal life and those who trust in their own wisdom and cunning try to take their seat at the head table? They will learn the most bitter disappointment and deepest humiliation when the Master comes to them and asks them to leave. Only the humble who humiliate themselves and want to be saved by grace shall be exalted and enter into the kingdom of grace here and into the kingdom of glory there.

Only the humble have a reservation at the Father’s banquet table. You have this reservation because of Jesus’ humiliation upon the cross for your sin. He was brought low in order that you may be exalted. Humble exaltation, you might call it. That phrase sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s the way of sinners redeemed in the blood and righteousness of Jesus. His death and resurrection is not merely a display of “Minnesota nice.” They take away your sin and bestow forgiveness and righteousness that comes from above; true Wisdom that confounds all that the devil and the world throws at you.

Solomon says in Proverbs chapter 25: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear. I cannot speak about an earring of gold but I’m sure many of you ladies can. When you wear a fine earring or any other jewelry, you feel dressed up. You feel special, beautiful, dressed up and loved. If fancy ornaments, fine clothes, tasteful hair and make-up, and coordinating shoes make you someone special, consider what the Lord’s Word of pardon and peace are for both men and women. His Word is always fitly spoken, declaring repentance and forgiveness of sins. His Word, friend, go up higher, is His summons that delivers you from death and perdition to life and immortality. It’s not “Minnesota nice.” It is His doing for your sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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