Summary: As follows of Christ we are commanded to go "into all the world" making disciples, and that may include some mightly "low places."
“Friends in Low Places”*
by the Reverend Bennett Wayne Dean Sr.(The RevChief)
This is another in the series of sermons based on popular music. It has been a somewhat controversial series, I’ll admit to you, but a series nonetheless. Like Paul used the “unknown god” to point the people to the “one true God”, we are often called to use the secular to point to the sacred. Most people we encounter outside the stained glass - out in the world - do not listen to Christian radio or CDs - but secular - yes, even country, rock or rap.
The message this morning is inspired by Luke’s gospel and Garth Brook’s famous song from the early 90s, “Friends In Low Places.” I’m sure some of you - maybe most - are familiar with this song - however just in case a few of you have never heard it or to refresh the memory of the rest of us, let me play a few verses.
Now friends, just what kind of folks is Garth singing about? He’s singing about friends who frequent places “where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases his blues away“. He’s singing about not being “big on the social graces” so he was going to “slip on down to the Oasis” one of the “low places” where his friends were.
Doris asked me when I first told her what the subject of this message was going to be if it was going to be about all of my old friends - and a friend of mine in Mobile,Alabama who works with me writing skits for a Carnival organization, when I told him the subject of the sermon asked me to, please, if I used him as an example not to mention his name. So I told Louie I wouldn’t!
But, no, this sermon message is not about all of my old friends - or even about my current friends - it’s really about Jesus’ friends. For you see, Jesus had “friends in low places” and He loved them dearly - so dearly that He went to the cross at Cavalry for them.
Why were tax collectors, as we just read in the scriptures, thought of people in “low places”? You see, because the Romans assessed taxes by districts, they would sell the right to collect the taxes to private contractors, who then charged enough to make a profit. But because many charged extremely high tariffs and their methods were so oppressive, they came to be despised by the people and were classified with other gross “sinners” such as prostitutes and other social outcasts of ill-reputation. 1 So you see, when Jesus set down to eat with the worst of the worst of people in “low places”, He broke all social convention. By doing so He showed His ability and desire to forgive even the worst of sinners, the lowest of the low. Friends, only those who recognize their need of forgiveness can be forgiven. Jesus knew this. Jesus said “they are the one with the need for forgiveness” and to be able to teach them that they had this need, Jesus had to associate with them.
That Jesus was “eating and drinking with tax collectors (some translations say publicans) and sinners” (Mark 2:16) was one of the dreadful charges brought against Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees - dreadful in their view - thinking they had pressed on Him a crown full of thorns - but it was to become instead a crown of honor.
Now, of course, there is a way in which we may meet, mix and mingle with people in “low places” and with immoral lives that would truly merit rebuke. When one associates with such people so as to descend to their own level and be one with them in spirit and companionship, he puts himself into their class and under their condemnation.
But this was not the nature of the fellowship Jesus had with these people. The Pharisees and scribes knew this. Jesus associated with His “friends in low places” only as a good man or woman such as those in the church may mingle with their “friends in low places”, even the worst - in the slums of the large cities - on the broad ground of human kinship in order to build a relationship to gain their confidence and lead them up into a better life.
Jesus mingled freely with all classes and conditions of people. If we go to the root words of the Hebrew and Greek He most likely even, from time to time, had a glass of fermented wine with them - and yet He was no more contaminated by these people than is the sunlight that mingles with a murky fog or the slime of a swamp. For we know that Jesus was without sin.