Justin Bieber and Jesus (8/28-8/29 Message)

THE HAIR!
So, there’s this singer who some people LOVE, and some people HATE, and some people love to HATE. He looks like he’s about five, but apparently he’s 15. His name is Justin Bieber. You may have heard of him, or you may not have, but in July of this year his popularity reached a peak, at least on the computer, as he was top search of anybody, anywhere, even Jesus.

His popularity, while it IS online, may be familiar to those of you who remember the craze around Elvis, people screaming for the Beatles, rock star bands like Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, New Kids on the Block. All those guys. The people that would stand in line for hours, waiting to see them. The people that would pay thousands of dollars, just to own a guitar they had touched or played. And now it’s happening again, with this fifteen year old boy named Justin Bieber.

He’s been described as a controversial Canadian pop-R&B-Gangsta rap singer, which sounds like a joke, but is pretty accurate, weirdly enough. His songs are….well…I’m old, but I’d say they’re catchy, sweet, he has a nice voice, although it’s starting to change, poor guy. People either want to adopt him, marry him, or just look at him. And that HAIR! In the true pop-idol fashion, he’s got awesome hair.

There are stories after stories about how people get their picture taken with Justin, how they meet him for five seconds, and they transcribe the conversation: He said “Hey.” I said “Hey.” He said “how you doing today?” “I said, fine.” OMG!

So. With all this, basically fans will do just about anything, again in the long history of pop idols, to get into a show, to get a meet and greet, to get backstage passes. They’ll write letters, they’ll yell, they’ll stay up all night in line, whatever!

But a few months ago, there was a different Justin Bieber contest. This was around Christmastime, and he said that among some California schools, whoever could bring in the most food for a food pantry would win a free concert. Well, I can only imagine that the middle school kids were out in force and that the canned food was gone off the shelves, because they donated a total of ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND pounds of canned food. 150 THOUSAND. That’s a lot of love for Justin Bieber.

And recently, he did it again. He announced that the fan who donated the most canned food from the Albany, New York area would get to MEET. JUSTIN. BIEBER. Backstage passes, the whole works. This time, they collected five TONS of food, eleven thousand pounds, and the top donor who won the prize had donated 1400 pounds of food.

That’s a lot of food. That’s a lot of hungry people fed because people love Justin Bieber so much that they would do anything just to meet him, including an act of charity that is so amazing that most churches would have to fund raise for years to meet a goal like that!

I think, no, I KNOW, they did it because of love. You could argue that these teenage girls and boys who asked their parents to drive them to the store to buy a thousand dollars worth of canned goods didn’t have exactly the right motivation to help people….but if I were hungry, would I care WHY they bought it? Nope. I’d only care that I could get some food to make a Christmas dinner for my family. I’d only care that I could have a place at the table…..that’s a Bieber song reference, if you didn’t know….where there was food available and even plentiful.

Using his fans’ love and devotion, Justin Bieber did what lots of stars aren’t able to do…channel their love for him into actual, tangible, food to feed the hungry. Cool.

Now I may very possibly be the first person in history, or at least since 2009, when Justin Bieber exploded onto youtube as a phenomenon, to compare Justin to Jesus. And I only ask that you hear me out.

In today’s gospel, Jesus seems to be giving people an etiquette lesson at first glance. He seems to be telling people how to act at a dinner, which certainly they already knew, but then he adds his special Jesus, turn the world upside down touch.

He’s been invited to the dinner as a guest, but he sees something different when he looks at the table. He sees a story; he sees a vision of the kingdom of God, that thing that he keeps talking about and seeing in everyday places, in everyday people, all over the place. That thing that if we look hard, we can see too, or maybe sometimes it shocks us by being right in front of us. A picture of who God is and how God loves us.

Jesus sees a table, and he sees people jockeying for position about where each person is going to sit. There’s no question that there are good seats, and bad seats, and Jesus watches the people, who, by the way, have just watched him heal a man right in front of their eyes and even grumped about it because it wasn’t the correct day. So anyway, then THEY’RE all thinking that they get the best seat! So Jesus is watching, and they’re watching HIM, and finally he says, look, here’s what I think about this whole situation.

We’re all hungry, we’re all invited, and yet some of us are still arguing because we want a better seat at the table. And Jesus says, don’t do that. Just don’t. Just go ahead and take the lowest seat, the worst seat….for Lutherans, that’s right here in the front row…and then perhaps the host will say to you, “Friend, move up higher. I’ve saved this seat, just for you.”

What a picture of the kingdom of God. Can you see it? EVERYONE has a seat at the table. Everyone! There’s no need to fight about who gets the best seat, because we all get fed. When the time comes, God says to the called ones, the chosen ones, the lowest and least ones, MOVE UP. Move up close to me, because you are the one I love, the one I’ve saved this seat for in the banquet.

So, there’s this singer who some people LOVE, and some people HATE, and some people love to HATE. He looks like he’s about five, but apparently he’s 15. His name is Justin Bieber. You may have heard of him, or you may not have, but in July of this year his popularity reached a peak, at least on the computer, as he was top search of anybody, anywhere, even Jesus.

His popularity, while it IS online, may be familiar to those of you who remember the craze around Elvis, people screaming for the Beatles, rock star bands like Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, New Kids on the Block. All those guys. The people that would stand in line for hours, waiting to see them. The people that would pay thousands of dollars, just to own a guitar they had touched or played. And now it’s happening again, with this fifteen year old boy named Justin Bieber.

He’s been described as a controversial Canadian pop-R&B-Gangsta rap singer, which sounds like a joke, but is pretty accurate, weirdly enough. His songs are….well…I’m old, but I’d say they’re catchy, sweet, he has a nice voice, although it’s starting to change, poor guy. People either want to adopt him, marry him, or just look at him. And that HAIR! In the true pop-idol fashion, he’s got awesome hair.

There are stories after stories about how people get their picture taken with Justin, how they meet him for five seconds, and they transcribe the conversation: He said “Hey.” I said “Hey.” He said “how you doing today?” “I said, fine.” OMG!

So. With all this, basically fans will do just about anything, again in the long history of pop idols, to get into a show, to get a meet and greet, to get backstage passes. They’ll write letters, they’ll yell, they’ll stay up all night in line, whatever!

But a few months ago, there was a different Justin Bieber contest. This was around Christmastime, and he said that among some California schools, whoever could bring in the most food for a food pantry would win a free concert. Well, I can only imagine that the middle school kids were out in force and that the canned food was gone off the shelves, because they donated a total of ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND pounds of canned food. 150 THOUSAND. That’s a lot of love for Justin Bieber.

And recently, he did it again. He announced that the fan who donated the most canned food from the Albany, New York area would get to MEET. JUSTIN. BIEBER. Backstage passes, the whole works. This time, they collected five TONS of food, eleven thousand pounds, and the top donor who won the prize had donated 1400 pounds of food.

That’s a lot of food. That’s a lot of hungry people fed because people love Justin Bieber so much that they would do anything just to meet him, including an act of charity that is so amazing that most churches would have to fund raise for years to meet a goal like that!

I think, no, I KNOW, they did it because of love. You could argue that these teenage girls and boys who asked their parents to drive them to the store to buy a thousand dollars worth of canned goods didn’t have exactly the right motivation to help people….but if I were hungry, would I care WHY they bought it? Nope. I’d only care that I could get some food to make a Christmas dinner for my family. I’d only care that I could have a place at the table…..that’s a Bieber song reference, if you didn’t know….where there was food available and even plentiful.

Using his fans’ love and devotion, Justin Bieber did what lots of stars aren’t able to do…channel their love for him into actual, tangible, food to feed the hungry. Cool.

Now I may very possibly be the first person in history, or at least since 2009, when Justin Bieber exploded onto youtube as a phenomenon, to compare Justin to Jesus. And I only ask that you hear me out. But I think it’s true. Both ask their followers to help feed hungry people because of their love for the host, not because the hungry people deserve it or because we have to love them so much. It’s simply for the love of the host, the one who asked us to.

In today’s gospel, Jesus seems to be giving people an etiquette lesson at first glance. He seems to be telling people how to act at a dinner, which certainly they already knew, but then he adds his special Jesus, turn the world upside down touch.

Luke 14: 1, 7-14
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.7When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8When 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; 9and 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. 10But 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. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12He 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. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Jesus has been invited to the dinner as a guest, but he sees something different when he looks at the table. He sees a story; he sees a vision of the kingdom of God, that thing that he keeps talking about and seeing in everyday places, in everyday people, all over the place. That thing that if we look hard, we can see too, or maybe sometimes it shocks us by being right in front of us. A picture of who God is and how God loves us.

Jesus sees a table, and he sees people jockeying for position about where each person is going to sit. There’s no question that there are good seats, and bad seats, and Jesus watches the people, who, by the way, have just watched him heal a man right in front of their eyes and even grumped about it because it wasn’t the correct day. So anyway, then THEY’RE all thinking that they get the best seat! So Jesus is watching, and they’re watching HIM, and finally he says, look, here’s what I think about this whole situation.

We’re all hungry, we’re all invited, and yet some of us are still arguing because we want a better seat at the table. And Jesus says, don’t do that. Just don’t. Just go ahead and take the lowest seat, the worst seat….for Lutherans, that’s right here in the front row…and then perhaps the host will say to you, “Friend, move up higher. I’ve saved this seat, just for you.”

What a picture of the kingdom of God. Can you see it? EVERYONE has a seat at the table. Everyone! There’s no need to fight about who gets the best seat, because we all get fed. When the time comes, God says to the called ones, the chosen ones, the lowest and least ones, MOVE UP. Move up close to me, because you are the one I love, the one I’ve saved this seat for in the banquet. And Jesus is right there, taking the worst seat FOR us, so that we can move up closer to God.

It’s like a giant potluck, where everyone loves the host so much that it doesn’t matter that the guests might be your crazy Uncle Phil with his different political beliefs or that your neighbor with all the cats is there or that person….that one you just can’t forgive….is sitting right across from you with her Jello salad. At our wedding, there were people everywhere that were from all kinds of places, but they all were there together because they loved us and wanted to wish us well. It’s like this wedding banquet that Jesus wants us to throw both at the end of time, AND right now, maybe with some canned food like Justin Bieber, or a pot luck, or something wonderful. But the thing you have in common is that you love the host, and because of that you’re all invited, you’re all called! We all have a seat at the table, and when we’re feeling terribly low and lowly, God says to us, my friend, one whom I love, move up higher. Move up higher, and come be in my presence, with your family, here in the kingdom of God. Amen.

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