The Last Shall Be First

The Last Shall Be First

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Frank Basler is a mystic, a psychotherapist, and the facilitator of an ecumenical community of practice for senior ministers.  He does supply preaching regularly.

Scripture: Luke 14:1, 7-14  (NRSV)

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.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.  "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; 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. 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. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

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.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." 

 

Reflection: The Last Shall Be First
 

 

In The Sum of Us Heather McGee quotes two Harvard Business School professors talking about those at the back of the banquet hall of life:

It turns out that the average white person views racism as a zero-sum game….  If things are getting better for black people, it must be at the expense of white people.¹

People at the next to the bottom rung of the socio-economic scale fear changes that would put them at the bottom.  So, they resist efforts to improve the lot of the bottom group even if those policies would benefit them as well.  An example is white resistance to a universal basic income of $1000/month.²

Jesus’ position is the direct opposite.  He tells people to humbly take the lowest place in the banquet hall.  Francis also asked his followers to humble themselves.  Franciscans tied their robes with a simple cord to demonstrate they had no money. (Their contemporaries fastened their robes with money belts.)
 
What would it be like to adopt a Franciscan lifestyle, to downsize into a smaller home, drive a smaller car or none at all, to give away all but your most necessary possessions?  What would it be like to have downward mobility be your watchword?
 
John Wesley said, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  Imagine using “downward mobility” as your next stewardship season theme. You could ask parishioners to go beyond giving sacrificially to giving all they can. 
 
If they gave all they possibly could, that would provide your congregation the resources to give all it can to projects empowering poor persons in your area.  For example, Bridgeport’s Shiloh Baptist Church has developed a faith-based, nonprofit community development corporation (or CDC) that is a catalyst for capacity building, transformation and development through partnerships in housing, education, sustainability, and technical assistance and training.

 
¹ Heather McGee, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (New York, One World, 2021), p. 6
² Hannah Gilberstadt, “More Americans oppose than favor providing a universal basic income for all adult citizens.” (www.pewresearch.org)


PRAYER

Holy One, stretch our imaginations as to what could be possible if we intentionally moved down the socioeconomic ladder.  Inspire our parishioners to give all they can so that our congregations can develop amazing projects for empowering those at the bottom of that ladder.  Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the family and friends of The Rev. Fletcher Van Parker, who died July 19, 2022. Fletcher enjoyed a 40-year+ career as a parish minister, and has served in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, September 24, 2022, at 11 AM at the First Church UCC in Windsor, 107 Palisado Avenue, Windsor, CT.
  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~27,800 gun violence deaths in the US this year.
  • For those whose health and livelihoods continue to be impacted by COVID-19

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For those who give up their seat for others
  • For those who help empower those "at the bottom of that ladder"

This Week in History:

August 24, 79AD (1,943 years ago): After centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death. [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Confucius

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Frank Basler

Rev. Frank Basler is an ordained minister in the CT Conference, UCC.  He is a “dialogue partner” with clergy and facilitates two communities of practice for senior ministers.

August 22, 2022
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