St. Mary-the-Virgin, News for Sunday 1st September 2019: Sitting in the right seat.

I am sure you will have (at some time) attended a service at a different church; or been to the doctors or a hospital appointment; or even visited family or friends … and you’ve walked into the room and you’re not sure where to sit. It’s quite a dilemma, and for some people it can be very awkward. Even if the seat was empty when you arrived, was someone already sitting there? What are the tell-tale signs: a bag on the adjacent seat or a jumper or jacket over the back. In church, you might spot a hymn book or service card that someone has taken with them to the pew. Some people can get so upset over “their usual place” if a newcomer dares to sit there! Yes, we may all be creatures of habit and we like our “usual” spot; but is that more important than making someone feel welcome?  

On Sunday, the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, St Luke writes in the Gospel how Jesus tells a parable because he has noticed how the guests picked the places of honour. Jesus tells them: “When you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured.”

As August draws to a close, for many this coming week will mark a new start as students and teachers embark upon a new academic year. Those who are starting new schools will, in all likelihood be entering their classrooms with some trepidation and will almost certainly be wondering about where they ought to be sitting! We wish them all well, along with our young people who are starting (or returning) to University.

It’s never easy starting something new; but often a new start brings new challenges and new opportunities. And we can be sure of one thing – that Jesus will be walking alongside and advising us on our journey. We won’t always get the right seat first time round. But bear in mind these words of Jesus: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.” .

David Griffiths