Trinity 2 – Luke 14:15-24 – June 4th and 5th, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Our lesson today begins with the words, “When one of those who reclined at table with [Jesus] heard these things...” Heard what things? What is the context of our Gospel lesson? Well, you see, Jesus had been invited to the house of a Pharisee for dinner – but they had invited Him with ulterior motives. Jesus is there, and what do you know – a sick man is there. And it was the Sabbath – so what are you going to do Jesus, are you going to heal on the Sabbath? Jesus was invited to dinner as a trap. He doesn't care though – Jesus shows up, eats the tasty food, and goes ahead and heals the guy who is sick. If you've got a ox that falls in the well on a Sabbath, you pull it out. And then Jesus teaches what Solomon had said – don't elevate yourself in the presence of the king. It's better to be humble and have him elevate you. And in response one of these smug pharisees there, who had been trying to trap Jesus, hears all this and he opines, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
Oh, didn't that just sound nice and pious? Wasn't that special? Oh, someday, someday it will be good. But here's the problem. Um, fella, you realize that you are eating bread, right there and now with Christ the King, right? You just saw a miracle, a man healed. You just heard the Word of God incarnate preach upon His own Word while eating dinner. Will eat bread? You are right now. What more do you want? And here we get to the problem, to the lesson for today. The Pharisees don't like what God is doing, they don't trust Jesus to be a Messiah that is good for them. And so, they'll miss out.
Jesus brings this out by way of a story. “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's the set up. There's going to be a banquet – a great one. The best foods made by the finest chefs. A shindig to surpass all shindigs. And in the ancient world, when good food was being served, you showed up, and you ate. I mean, even Jesus gladly goes and enjoys a good meal at this Pharisee's house knowing that it's actually a trap for him. So imagine if you will, Oh Pharisees, not just a Sabbath meal, but a great feast, long awaited. And the day arrives. The feast is prepared. It's time – come, for everything is now ready. The “will be” is here, the dinner bell is rung.
And yet, what happens? “But they all alike began to make excuses.” I bought a field and have to look at it. I bought five yolk of oxen and have to check them out. I just got hitched and can't come. The oh so polite excuses are made. But here's the thing. They are all stupid. Really, they are. You mean, you didn't look at the field before you bought it? More over, if you bought it sight unseen, do you have to look at it now? It's already too late, you shelled out the cash already. Same with the oxen. And as for the wife; this is the social event of the year, she'll want to be there. None of these excuses are real and valid. They aren't “my wife fell into a well, I need to pull her out”. There's nothing that demands immediate attention. So, you see what is going on, right? They are just blowing the guy off. Apparently these excuse makers don't trust the master to throw a feast that is worth their time to come to – and so they decide to just blow it off.
Just like the Pharisees are intent upon blowing Jesus off. He heals a man right in front of them – and there is no loud praising of God. Just indifference. Back to their humdrum life and political jockeying. Oh, someday it will be good in the Kingdom of God – cause now with this lousy Messiah it sure isn't! So Jesus continues. The servant reports this to the master, and 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.'” Blow off my feast, will they? Oh well – I've got my food cooked and by George there's going to be a feast. Go bring in the poor and the cripple, the folks these arrogant jerks look down upon. You know, like the fellow with Dropsy who was at the Sabbath dinner, the one Jesus just healed. And the servant says, “Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.” Even before being told, the servant knew to get the poor. The servant knew his master. The master wasn't going to pout, he wasn't going to wring his hands, he wasn't going to act like a love sick teenager and sit in his room and write angsty poetry to the folks who skipped. No, the servant knew that the master was good and would want folks to enjoy his feast. So we brought in the poor already – but there's going to be plenty of food and drink still left over. “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” Go pull in strangers and travelers – and even the folks who hide behind the hedges; the thieves and the highway men, the bandits, the terrorists and rebels. Pack 'em all in, because we are going to have one fantastic feast, and there's plenty for everyone. Well, almost everyone. “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” Blow off my feast? Act as though I don't know how to set a good table, how to throw a good party? Everyone in the world will be there, and we'll be enjoying ourselves – and you arrogant jerks can just go pout and sulk by yourself. The party can go on without you just fine.
In the story, the folks making excuses miss out on the fantastic party – and they do it to themselves. There's no one else to blame. Their own lack of trust, their own disdaining of the master and of his party ends up hurting only themselves. Likewise, this is what Jesus tells the Pharisees. You know, Pharisees, I can tell you don't like what I'm doing; you don't like that I'm talking to and healing the poor and the scuzzy; you don't like that I'll forgive and help even people you look down upon, like gentiles and women. I know you'd rather that I pat you on the back and tell you how great you are. But here's the thing; I'm the Messiah, and I'm here to win salvation for the entire world. Even for the folks you in your sin don't like. So you've got two options; you can either trust that I know what I am doing in winning salvation for the world; or you can pout, disdain My mercy, and burn in hell. It shouldn't be much of a choice, but if you are literally hell-bent on being upset that I do things like heal on the Sabbath and forgive sinners, and would rather pitch a really hot hissy fit for all eternity; you can... but I'm still the Messiah, and I'm still going to go to the Cross and die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead and bring forgiveness and life to the world. Your tantrums won't stop the plan of salvation. And the only person they'll hurt is you.
So then. What do we see and learn from this? Well, for one, this is a big, strong, get yourself to church sort of text. I mean, in the text, that language of being called, being invited – that's all churchy language. And the way the story goes is that the folks who are in fact gathered together to the feast (see the altar, the great feast) are safe, are blessed. And who gets into trouble? The folks who want to go and do their own, individual things, apart from the feast, away from everyone else. The ones who cut themselves off in their pride, their disdain of the master, their disdain of the feast, their disdain of the folks at the feast – it's because they refused to be gathered, they refuse to come. And this is a place where finger wagging would be quite justified. Get yourself to church, to bible studies, be in the Word together with us here and often.
But I don't want to just finger wag. That can lead to eye-rolling and in one ear and out the other responses. So let me ask this. Is God trustworthy? Seriously – is God worthy of your trust, ought you be able to trust that God does in fact know what He is doing? And we know the answer ought to be yes, we know that we are to fear, love, and TRUST in God above all things. But it is hard. Think about how the rubber meets the road in your life, and think of the times when you are tempted to not trust God. Think of the times when you look at this place, this service, mercy and love and forgiveness even for those who hurt you or aren't as “good” as you, and you want to think, “That's not how I'd do it, that's not what I want.” You realize that is all Satan and your sinful flesh trying to get you to not trust in God, right? And here's the thing, and this is especially true for us who are life long Lutherans. We can treat forgiveness like it's chopped liver. We can blow it off instead of seeing it as the gift it is. There was an old fellow in Oklahoma, actually died before I showed up out there, but even years after he died folks would say, “Old Layton, he became Lutheran after he married, and he'd say, 'You Lutherans don't know what you have.'” He's talking about forgiveness, the clear preaching of the Gospel, the Word of God spoken and sung in our liturgy and hymns, the beauty of the Supper. And whenever folks there would start winding away or pining for something else, Layton would pipe up: You Lutherans don't know what you've have! In the Gospel lesson, the Pharisees didn't realize what they had – pining for some future something else when Jesus is right in front of them doing miracles.
Remember what you have here, O Lutheran. When your flesh tries to turn you into the Pharisee, remember what you have here. Wisdom has built her house – and here you hear the wisdom of God. Here you receive forgiveness of sins. Here you are healed of death – even though you die yet you shall live. You have passed out of death unto life in Christ. So what if the world hates you? So what if we here aren't the high and mighty and rich and powerful; so what if we're just poor miserable sinners? We are forgiven by Christ. We are declared His brothers and sisters in Holy Baptism – declared to be princes and princesses of the universe. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. That's what this feast is – it's the celebration of the royal, everlasting life that Christ gives you. Don't let some stupid bit of spite make you turn your nose up that. Lesson 3, dear friends: Trust Christ, for He really has good in store for you. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.