Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today's Sermon - Trinity 2

Trinity 2 – Luke 14:15-24 – June 13th, 2010

In the Name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
When we hear Jesus teach this morning, He has been invited to dine at a house of the rulers of the Pharisees, where they were watching Him closely, eyeing Jesus for any mistake Him might make so they could lambaste Him. This the same meal where Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, where he teaches “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” It’s an interesting situation, and Jesus continues to teach, using imagery of the eternal feast of God, when finally, one of the people there jumps in with, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Oh, yes Jesus, when God shows His power and might, how great it will be to be there. Here’s the thing – this fellow didn’t realize how right he was, and yet how wrong he was. He was thinking of some sort of earthly-kingdom where we’ve driven out the Romans. He had visions of the victory party over earthly foes. He didn’t realize that Jesus is pointing us to something higher, something better.

But [Jesus] said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” So here is the set up – a long expected party is about ready to be held. And people have known it is coming, have been looking for its coming, and then finally the messenger is set – the time is now! Come to the master’s feast!

And yet, there are problems. But they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought 5 yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ And excuses are made – and shoddy ones at that. This is the long awaited celebration! Your field can wait! It will be there tomorrow. So will the oxen, you can look at them tomorrow. And as this is the long expected feast, you wife ought to understand and rejoice as well that it is time! Because, that’s the thing – these excuses, they aren’t very good excuses. Think of it this way – if you were invited to your niece’s wedding and said, “eh, I just bought a field, I can’t show up” would anyone buy that excuse? Lousy excuses are given. So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ The master knows he’s been blown off, but he is determined to have his house filled for the celebration. So he orders that those who were looked down upon be invited in, the poor, the lame. Bring them. And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you command has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ And when there is still room, when the poor of the city can’t fill it up – go find the strangers and travelers on the highways – go find the criminals and robbers hiding behind the hedges – go find anyone and everyone – fill the house. But those who blew the master off were going to get nothing.

That is the story – and those Pharisees knew that Christ was directing this squarely at them. For a long, long time, the Messiah had been promised. That was the refrain of the Old Testament – the Messiah, the One promised in the Garden, the Prophet like Moses whom God would give to His people, the true Son of David, the Savior proclaimed by the prophets, He would come. And God even sent his messenger John the Baptist preparing the way, announcing that the Lord was nigh. Do you not see – Jesus Himself is the feast! And yet, what happens? The Pharisees, the top of the top of the Jewish community, those who should have been most eager for this, they make excuses. They don’t rejoice in Christ – they examine Him, they look for flaws so they can reject Him. They are just as foolish as the people blowing off the feast in the story. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread. . .” you dolt, you are eating bread in the Kingdom of God right now because you are with Christ, but you are too dense and stubborn and sinful to see it! You throw up your vain expectations of worldly power and glory and wealth, and so you blow off Christ, you ignore Him, you treat Him like dirt and so you miss everything.

And so Christ preaches to the very people the Pharisees looked down upon. He goes to the poor and the lame of Israel, and the Good News is proclaimed to them, they are invited to join in the feast. And many come – and many don’t. And so Christ goes further – He preaches to the stranger – the Samaritans, the Gentiles, to the criminals - the crooked tax collectors and the prostitutes. All of them, He calls to His feast – and why should He not – for He is the Savior of the world, and with His death upon the Cross He has removed and forgiven all sins – and so He calls all to repentance and life in Him. For those who reject, who brush Him off – so be it, it will not keep Christ from being the Savior, it will not stop Christ from calling more and more unto Himself.

Do you see how Christ here preaches a stern warning to the Pharisees? You too, oh Pharisees, need to repent, for you have been blowing off God, and if you continue to make your excuses, if you continue to reject Me, you will have rejected God and missed out on His Kingdom. This is a stern warning, a stern rebuke. And it is one that we ourselves need to hear. We are the Pharisees – we are the good Christians of our day, we are the ones who know better. And we are called to God’s feast, we are called to come to God’s House where God Himself is present, where Christ Jesus comes to us in His Word, where Christ Jesus comes and gives us His own Body and Blood in His Most Holy Supper. And how often do we blow this off, treat this as unimportant? How many of us aren’t here today, or if we are here today, eh, skip when we feel like it? Blowing off God and His Word. Or, how many us were a little glad that we don’t have communion today so we can be out of Church that much quicker – think on that – oh, we don’t receive Christ’s Body and Blood for forgiveness today, oh well, I save 20 minutes of time that I can spend on other things. Is that the respect that we are to have for our Lord? Do we here rejoice in the feast of God, the feast of the Lamb like we ought – or are our own hearts quick and eager to wander? This text is like a slap across the face, a smack upside the head to all of us here, myself included. We treat as unimportant the highest gift in our lives, the chances for us to be called together with God. We set other things above God, raise up our work, our entertainment as idols better than Him. Lord have mercy upon us.

Perhaps we are not the good little Christians we think we are. Perhaps we are more like the poor and the crippled and the blind the lame. It does seem as though our worship and devotion is poor, does it not? It seems as though our ability to show love is crippled, does it not? Are we not so often blind, are we so often not helpless and lame? And this is our comfort – that Christ does not look down upon our failings – Christ does not despise us in our weakness. No, when we behold our frailties, when we see and understand our sinfulness and failings, when we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean – when we repent, God is so eager to forgive. That’s why He invites us to this feast, that’s why He comes to be with us, to be the God of Grace and Mercy who forgives sins. It’s only when we are clinging to our pride and arrogance rather than repenting of it that we fail to see this. But Christ Jesus has called us to repentance, and given us His forgiveness – He continually invites us to His House to be with Him, to hear His Word, to be united with Him and with all the Saints in His most wondrous Supper. The Kingdom of God is here for us, for our salvation now.

This is the wondrous thing – the Kingdom of God isn’t a just a future thing – it’s not just those who “will eat bread in the kingdom of God” – it’s something we are called to now, something Christ gives us through His Word and His Supper now. Out of His great love for His Church, God gathers us around His Word and Sacraments, gives us even now a participation, a contact with those in heaven. I say that I’ve never met my Grandfather Ralph, my dad’s dad. He died when my dad was 15. But that’s not true – I am with him now, for He is with Christ, is not Christ here? Are we not the body of Christ, joined together around our Lord? Your loved ones whom you have told me of so fondly – are we not joined together with them now in Christ? This is what we confess in the creed when we say we believe in “The Communion of Saints” – that we saints visible and invisible are brought together in Christ. This is the wonder, this is the joy of this feast, that we are forgiven and united in Christ Jesus, that His blood shed for us upon the Cross unites and joins us together – and that we get a touch, a taste even now of what we will see in full unveiled glory in the life of the world to come – which is why we confess that we look forward to it, that we expect it. And yet our old foes, Satan, the World, our Sinful flesh keep trying to throw up distraction after distraction. Pay attention to your field, your oxen, your family squabbles, your jobs, your activities, your busy-ness, your this and that. But the Word says, “Pause, and for a brief hour behold the wonders and joys of the love that God has for you, the depth and wonder of the forgiveness of your sins that is yours in Christ, the joys of reunion seen now in part and promised in full because of Christ’s righteous love for you and for all the saints.” This is the wonder of the feast – this is why we who eat bread in the Kingdom of heaven are truly blessed, more blessed that our minds can comprehend in this sinful, fallen world. All thanks and praise be to God, indeed, let our own praises rise in chorus with the Angels, with the Watchers and the Holy Ones, with the souls in endless rest – for Christ Jesus our Lord is good to us, and still calls us to His House here on earth, that we might join Him for all eternity in our Heavenly Home. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen.

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