Sermon illustrations

Social Status

The Boodle Feast

In his helpful book Peace Catalysts, Rick Love shares a poignant example of how sharing a meal can break down the familiar walls of status, power, and economics:

In 2011, my wife, Fran, and I went to the Philippines to minister at a Vineyard conference. One evening our Filipino hosts set up over twenty dinner tables end to end with no chairs around them. There were no forks, spoons or knives. An assortment of delicious dishes served as the centerpiece for what they call the Boodle feast. We stood across from each other, ate with our hands and talked.

This tradition was popularized by the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City and is primarily done as a form of fellowship and camaraderie between officers and military personnel, no matter what rank.

A similar practice is common when Filipinos go camping. They take their packed lunch and put it on a table or the ground over some banana leaves and share it with everyone around. The kingdom of God may not be a matter of eating or drinking, but in the Philippines, eating and drinking serves as a wonderful way to break down barriers and build bridges. Hospitality like this is one way we can pursue peace. I think that’s why much of Jesus’ ministry took place over food.

Taken from Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities by Rick Love Copyright (c) 2014 p.30 by Rick Love. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Kin and Kindness

…I started reading The Kindness of God by Catholic theologian and philosopher Janet Soskice. In her examination of the etymology of the word kindness, Soskice helped me see it for the first time as a strong virtue rather than a weak one. “In Middle English,” she writes, “the words ‘kind’ and ‘kin’ were the same—to say that Christ is ‘our kinde Lord’ is not to say that Christ is tender and gentle, although that may be implied, but to say that he is kin—our kind.

This fact, and not emotional disposition, is the rock which is our salvation.” I paused after reading this sentence to try to take it in, to try to peel the sentimental layers off my definition of kindness and replace them with this fact: to be kind meant to be kin.

The word unfolded in my mind. God’s kindness meant precisely that God became my kin—Jesus, my brother—and this, Soskice said, was a foundational truth about who I was. Not only that, but for speakers of Middle English, Lord had a particular meaning—a lord was someone from the nobility, the upper social classes. To say “our kinde Lord” was to say the difference in social or economic status between peasants and nobility was also erased through Jesus the “Lord” being of the same “kinde” as all, landowners and peasants alike. Jesus erased divisions that privileged some people over others.

Amy Peterson, Where Goodness Still Grows: Reclaiming Virtue in an Age of Hypocrisy, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

Learned Snobbery

Culture, like the air we breathe, is a powerful force that cannot be seen but felt. In this short excerpt, the British writer George Orwell describes in The Road to Wigan Pier how his education included not just fields of study, but also biases against those of different social status:

When I was fourteen or fifteen I was an odious little snob, but no worse than other boys of my own age and class. I suppose there is no place in the world where snobbery is quite so ever-present or where it is cultivated in such refined and subtle forms as in an English public school. Here at least one cannot say that English “education” fails to do its job.

You forget your Latin and Greek within a few months of leaving school—I studied Greek for eight or ten years, and now, at thirty-three, I cannot even repeat the Greek alphabet—but your snobbishness, unless you persistently root it out like the bindweed it is, sticks by you till your grave.

Taken from George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (London: Penguin Classics, 2001), p.128.

The Three Orientations Towards Work

In his landmark work, Habits of the Heart, the sociologist Robert Bellah describes thee distinct orientations people take with respect to their work. The first orientation is to see your work as a job, a paycheck that takes care of the bills. The second orientation is to see your work as a career. Here, climbing the proverbial ladder in search of status and wealth are central. In the second orientation, the way you feel towards your work is primarily based on how successful you are in it.

If your career is waning, it may feel as though your entire self-worth is on the chopping block. The third orientation is seeing work as a calling. This sense of calling is firmly established in the life of faith. If you have received a call-then someone must have made the call in the first place. That person is God, and because God is sovereign, our work isn’t simply what we want to do.

A call is made and we are there to answer it. The worth of your work therefore, is not dependent on your success, but rather your faithfulness to the call that God has made. Sometimes, that even means that a failure in the world’s eyes can be the greatest success in God’s.

Stuart Strachan Jr, Source Material from Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart