Week of Proper 26: Monday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  A Girl Begging in India

Image Source = Steve Evans

The Divine Preference for the Poor

NOVEMBER 1, 2021


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Romans 11:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

The gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.  Just as formerly you were disobedient to God, but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so now, because of the mercy  shown to you, they have proved disobedient, but only in order that they too may receive mercy.  For in shutting all mankind in the prison of disobedience, God’s purpose was to show mercy to all mankind.

How deep are the wealth

and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!

How inscrutable his judgements,

how unsearchable his ways!

Who knows the mind of the Lord?

Who has been his counsellor?

Who has made a gift to him first,

and earned a gift in return?

From him and through him and for him all things exist–

to him be glory for ever! Amen.

Psalm 16:5-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6  My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7  I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

8  I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9  My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10  For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11  You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Luke 14:12-14 (Revised English Bible):

Then he [Jesus] said to his host,

When you are having guests for lunch or supper, do not invite your friends, your brothers or other relations, or your rich neighbours; they will only ask you back again and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a party, ask the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind.  That is the way to find happiness, because they have no means of repaying you.  You will be repaid on the day when the righteous rise from the dead.


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The brief reading from Luke occurs within the setting a dinner party at the home of a leading Pharisee.  This party occurs on the sabbath, a day on which scandalizes his host by healing a man with dropsy.  Then our Lord cautions against seeking the place of honor.  Now, in verses 12-14, Jesus says that the party guests ought to be the kind of people most of us might prefer to ignore–the poor, marginal, and vulnerable members of society.

In other words, check for the absence of pedigree, not the presence of it, when compiling a guest list.

This is radical material, by the standards of most human societies, yet not in relation to the rest of the Bible.  More than one Hebrew prophet condemned kings and societies for the sin of gross economic inequality and exploitation.  Some of those prophets were also marginal people who acted strangely; Jeremiah comes to mind immediately.  I think also of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, as well as of the first verses of James 2.  (Read them for yourself; you will see what I mean.)  I could continue, but I have made my point sufficiently.

St. Laurence of Rome (died 258 C.E.) understood the meaning of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 14:12-14 well.  Emperor Valerian had ordered the execution of Pope Sixtus II and seven deacons on August 4.   St. Laurence met his own martyrdom four days later.  Laurence, in charge of the church’s relief funds, had given them away to the poor.  When the prefect demanded that St. Laurence demanded information about the church’s treasures, the soon-to-be-martyr pointed to the poor and said (in Latin, of course), “These are the treasures of the Church.”  I will spare you, O reader, the gory details of how the saint died.

Paul wrote of the inscrutable, unsearchable, and deep wisdom and mercy of God.  This mercy applies to all, rich and poor alike.  Perhaps the Bible speaks of showing mercy to the poor so much because they have received so little of it from their fellow human beings.  They make the rest of us uncomfortable because they remind us of how vulnerable we really are.  Sometimes we justify not helping poor people when we can; that bum is undeserving, we tell ourselves.  “Bum” is a word many people use far too often.  Yet God’s economics are not ours, and Jesus’ vision of the ideal dinner party is far removed from any most of us have attended.  God’s thoughts indeed are not ours.

Jesus, by his words and deeds, points out to me where I keep falling short of his standards.  This day’s reading from Luke 14 fits into this category.  If Luke 14:12-14 makes you uncomfortable, O reader, do not flee from the discomfort; embrace it.

In the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.



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