Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-6; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
The Rev. Drew Brislin
When Allison and I arrived in Montgomery, we were delighted to discover that we lived so close to the Capri Theater. While living in Tuscaloosa we often would go to the Bama Theater to watch movies or see various shows. There is something nostalgic about watching movies in these old theaters. Sitting down with a coke and popcorn one is almost taken back in time to an era gone by. Last weekend we took the opportunity to see a film that had been advertising for some time titled ‘Mrs. Harris goes to Paris.’ Now the movie is still playing at the Capri this weekend so I’ll not give any spoilers away, but the story is set in London in the 1950’s. Mrs. Harris is a lonely war widow and humble cleaning lady living a hand-to-mouth existence, when she has a chance encounter with what dreams are made of: a ravishing, A-line tea-length Christian Dior dress. The very modest Mrs. Harris embarks on a romantic quest to purchase her first haute couture gown. (I did have to ask Allison what a haute couture gown was…) She is determined to get her hands on this delicate, precious slice of perfection of a dress and live her own fairy tale. As the story progresses one thing leads to another and subsequently Mrs. Harris finds herself in seductive Paris, France, and the legendary House of Dior on picturesque Avenue Montaigne. After a surge of good fortune that opened up to her the opportunity to not only make the trip but also provided for her a means to procure the dress. As with most stories the main character, Mrs. Harris, faces ups and downs throughout her journey, however, what struck me most was her humility. Her ability to not be star struck by those whom she encountered. Not only did she dare to dream for herself but also for all those whom she encountered. She was a selfless person who did not hesitate to empty herself in an attempt to give others opportunity. She wanted to help others realize their dreams, even if that was to the detriment of her own.
Our Gospel reading this morning informs us that the setting of our story is the house of a Pharisees where Jesus has been invited to dine. The scrutiny which Jesus finds himself is continuing to grow as we learn that he is being watch closely. I’m not sure what Emily Post writes in her books on wedding etiquette, however, I have a feeling that the advice Jesus gives is not seeking to follow the same rules. Jesus first instructs those gathered to not seek a place closest to the host which would have been considered a place of honor as the host might have to ask you to move but rather wait to be invited. The gathering is also instructed not to invite friends and family and those who can in return invite you to meals but rather invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Again, this is not instruction intended to provide etiquette lessons but rather to give us guidance regarding the Kingdom of Heaven and what we here on earth in our mortal bodies can do to build up the kingdom. These rather divine rules regarding etiquette are drawn from Proverbs 25:6-7 which reads ‘Do not put yourself forward in the kings 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.’ We also can draw comparisons to Mary’s Glad Song, the Magnificat where we hear ‘He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.’
What Jesus is asking of us this morning is not what we would typically think would be in our own self-interest. We are being called though to live in such a way that others can see that we are reflecting the presence and the peace and the promise of God. When discussing this lesson during children’s chapel for Ascension Day School, I told the children that its not that Jesus does not want us to enjoy being with our friends and loved ones but that he wants us to think about people who don’t have friends or people who don’t have family and to maybe invite them to our parties. Jesus wants us to be members of communities but when we gather together as the body of Christ, we are called to seek out the least of these, the sick and the lonely to draw them into our community as well. Not only are we to serve the less fortunate but we are called to include them in our lives in the life of our church. One way I see this clearly here at Ascension is through the New Beginnings ministry. Not only do we offer those served a meal each week, but I see relationships developed. As individuals have worked with children over a period of years those relationships have grown as well. I wonder how else we might take this model further out into our larger community.
As I reflect on Mrs. Harris and her story, I found her relationships with those whom she encountered most moving. While her quest for her fairy tale Christian Dior dress was emotional to watch unfold, I discovered that this quest was the catalyst for the many relationships she develops along the way. In each relationship that exists or unfolds you discover that she is a woman full of deep love in her self-emptying actions. Throughout the story Mrs. Harris models for us the love I think that Jesus seeks to instruct us to act out in our Gospel reading this morning by seeing each person she encounters as worthy of her attention and love regardless of their status. From the homeless guy sleeping on a bench to Christian Dior himself she shows both the respect they are due as human beings. How do these lessons in divine etiquette instruct us? How might we seek to live more fully into the relationships that present themselves to us? Are there ways for us to challenge ourselves to more fully reflect the love of God into the world?