When I was young, my father insisted on making sure I was appropriately experienced in “high” culture. We went to ballet and opera. My dad said that we were sitting in the Grand Tier (still sounds a bit grandiose). This was the tier above the Opera (i.e.,floor) Seats, and below the Upper Tier, and certainly not the box seats. This would be so we had the best seats to see everything.
He was right. We were just high enough that barring a really tall conductor (I remember one), our view of the stage allowed to see everything from the top of the sets to the artists’ feed (really important for ballet, not so much for opera). Oddly, the Opera seats were more expensive, and the crane-your-neck-uncomfortably-for-hours box seats were even more so.
Which seats were the right seats? That depends on why you were there. For those in the box seats, sure there were those for the arts. There were those that were there to be seen. There were those who were there because it was expected of them.
Depending on the individual and event, what seat a person might choose to sit in changes. For some people, going to a party is a high-stress environment, and they’ll gravitate toward a “safe” person (if there is one) or a dark corner or wall to “hide”.
There’s also that person who will jump to the center of the room because they are the life of the party, or they will be.
When Jesus talks about the seating at the banquet, it about a lot of things. What we often don’t talk about in this parable is the parallel to Gentile life. This may have been less about the “honor” seating, but more about how the “pure” “religious” “sanctified” Jews were emulating the behavior of those they despised and feared.
This a jump for sure from the text to the context. However, when we see the behavior of the powerful or popular there is a strong tendency to emulate it. Romans were in charge. This is how the Romans behaved; therefore, it seems reasonable that the oppressed would copy it, not because they wanted to, but because it’s a natural response to avoid gaining the wrong attention of those in power.
If this is indeed the case (again, which is reasonable), then we have a possible case of syncretism, a combining of two different (often competing) worldviews and/or religions.
When a person was given the seat of honor due to their religious position in a non-religious setting or honor due to their secular position in a religious setting there is a mixing of two different worldviews that should be in tension with one another, and not in harmony.
1) Where do you see your political worldview and your religious worldview in harmony? Where do you see them in conflict?
2) Are you comfortable where your politics influence your religion? Does your religion affect your politics?
3) Do you evaluate people’s religious affections based upon their politics? Do you assume a person’s politics based upon their religion?
Jesus, help us surrender our will to you, that you are the Lord of our religion and our politics. Amen.