Trinity 2 – July 3rd, 2011 – Luke 14:15-24
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Familiarity breeds contempt. That is how the old phrase goes. It notes that when we sinful human beings get used to something, we tend not to appreciate it as much – that we forget what a blessing something is, and we find instead things to complain about. Think about the Exodus – the children of God received Manna from heaven, were miraculously fed by God. By the book of Numbers, they will say to Moses “we hate this worthless food” – then the fiery serpents come. And of course, this attitude is familiar to us – we live in America – the land of the new and improved, the land where bigger is better and we just need to have the latest and greatest, where we have to keep up with the Joneses. And so often, when we see the blessings God has given us, we are filled with contempt, and wish that He would just be about His business of giving us something more, something better.
But the most dangerous way, dear friends, that this greed and lust for more hits us doesn’t deal with physical or material blessings – but how it impacts us spiritually. This is what Christ Jesus our Lord is warning us of in our Gospel lesson. We have received a great blessing from God in His Church – the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and life and salvation – all that we need. And yet, Satan, the world, even our own sinful flesh will try to make us despise this gift – to look anywhere and everywhere else for something that is bigger and better and bolder and more wondrous – and thus we are tempted away from God. Listen:
“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.” Before we look at the actions of folks in this text – remember – this isn’t just a banquet, it is a *great* banquet. This isn’t just something indifferent, this isn’t something cheap or so so. This is great. This is wondrous, this is fantastic beyond belief. There is no question as to whether or not this is going to be a great banquet, whether or not it would be worthwhile to go – it is great. And those who are invited know it. Likewise, dear friends – here in the Church we are invited to God’s great banquet of life and forgiveness and salvation. Here in the Church we receive the forgiveness of sins that Christ won for us upon the Cross, we receive Christ’s own Body and Blood in His Supper – every great and true and wonderful spiritual blessing is given to us here. We aren’t talking about Spiritual chopped liver here – we are talking about God Himself being present for us in His Service and giving us life and salvation and the full forgiveness of our sins. This is truly a great service, a great banquet.
“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.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” Excuses. They make, they give reasons why they shouldn’t come, why the banquet should be ignored, forgotten, pushed aside. Yeah, yeah, yeah, great banquet – that’s nice and all, but I have something better to do. “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.’” There they are. There are the excuses. A field has been purchased. Is that a good excuse? I’ll admit, I’m not a farmer, but is the field going to evaporate away if you go to a banquet? Won’t the field be there even after the banquet and the celebration? You’ve just bought it – you haven’t done anything with it, there shouldn’t be any pressing needs – why blow off the banquet? Same with the oxen – didn’t you examine them before you bought them? Why do you need to go look at them now – the banquet is ready! And of course, your wife – it’s a great banquet, she’s invited too, there’s more than enough. Bring her as well and rejoice as a family!
Do you hear how hollow these excuses are? How lame, how sad they are? They aren’t emergencies – it isn’t my field is burning, I go to put it out, or my ox has fallen into a well, or my wife is giving birth, I can’t make it now. It’s not even “I’ll be there when I can” – it’s just simply, nope, can’t make it. Other things to do. These folks making these excuses have forgotten and fail to recognize how great the banquet is – otherwise their priorities would have been different.
This is the danger that we in the Church face. We look around the world – and we see money and wealth and power and fame – and these things glitter and attract our eyes – and we start to crave them. And then this place – it doesn’t seem so great anymore, it doesn’t seem worth it. There’s a place where God Himself comes to give out forgiveness? Oh, well, that’s nice… but there’s some other junk I’d rather do. Field and cattle, you know – money to be made. Work to be done – busy, busy, busy me. Why so busy? Is your cash, your job more wondrous than this place? Is the ability to buy the newest doo-hickey better than receiving forgiveness? And we all know that we ought to say “no, forgiveness is better!” – but we are tempted, sorely tempted by the world to act as though forgiveness isn’t the most wonderful thing in our lives. In fact, the irony of this is that we will use the blessings that God has given us against God. Our jobs, our homes, our fields, our family – these are blessings from God for us to enjoy and delight it – and then we will throw them back in God’s face. Sorry God – can’t come to Your House – I have my own house, which is actually yours which you have given me, but I’ve got my own stuff to tend to. Or, what is even worse and more wicked is what we see in America – it’s not just that we are willing to blow off God – it’s that we tell God we’ll only come to His House, to His worship if He gives us more and more stuff. I had better be richly blessed if I come to Church God – I had better see a bonus in my bank account if I take the time to show up here.
“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.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you have said had been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and the 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.’” The master is upset. He is being blown off, and he knows it. So the he tells the servant to invite the poor and lowly to come – those who know that they don’t have anything better to do. The wise servant has already done this – and they are there. And the master says go to the highways and the hedges. Now – what does going to the highway and hedges mean? That’s where the thieves, the bandits, the crooks dwell. Them, even the wicked – invite them in. But those nice, proper people who are so full of themselves – no more banquet for them.
This is chilling. This teaches us that God will cut off those who despise and ignore His Word. This is stern warning. And it is a warning for us – that our disdain of the Gospel can be our undoing – that when we think we no longer need forgiveness, when we think that there is something better than this place… we get left out in the cold, left out of the eternal banquet. I fear that in many ways this is describing American Christianity now. Martin Luther had a great quote which I’ll now paraphrase. Luther noted that the Gospel is like a rain shower – and it falls in a place, and people receive it with joy and gladness. But then, if they stop rejoicing in the Gospel, if they ignore it – that Gospel shower moves off elsewhere. And Luther notes that in the time of the Apostles, it had showered upon Jerusalem… but then, it moved on. It went to Rome, and it was wonderful – but then Rome disdained the Gospel, and it moved on. Luther noted that it was in Germany – but he warned that if people began to be too busy for the Gospel, it would move on. He was right – hardly any Christians left in Germany – just a small remnant. For a while the Gospel has showered upon us here in America… and we are becoming more and more indifferent. Thanks be to God, there is growth in Africa, in Asia – the Lutheran Church of Madagascar is larger than our own Missouri Synod now. It may be that we diminish and decline.
How to survive this? I ask you now to consider yourself, to ask yourself who are you. Are you one who has been invited, but is so successful, so busy that you have better things to do, that you can make excuse after excuse and run off after things that you think are better – or are you one who is spiritually poor, spiritual deaf and blind. Are you a poor miserable sinner who knows that he deserves temporal and eternal punishment? If so, then rejoice, because you are here brought to God’s great and wondrous banquet, where He lavishes forgiveness and eternal life upon you. Here in God’s House, you don’t just get the promise of earthly stuff – this isn’t just about life now where moth and rust destroy, where time crumbles – here you receive Christ Jesus Himself and His love for you – love which flows from His pierced side, pulling you out of sin and temptation, and giving you forgiveness and life everlasting. All that we see around us – it will not endure forever. The love of God for you in Christ Jesus, His forgiveness – that endures forever. This place, this building – it will not stand forever. I pray that it stands until the Last Day – but even then it will be replaced by the New Heavens and the New Earth, and that will be a day of rejoicing. Even our fallen and failing bodies – these will be resurrected and renewed and will be like Christ our Resurrected Lord. This is the feast to which Christ Jesus your Lord calls you – this is the promise He gives to you when He calls you to His table and has you participate in His own Body and Blood in His Supper.
Dear friends in Christ – remember what a blessing you have here, in this place – and do not let the world or your own flesh tempt you away from the gifts God gives in His Church. God provides for you here now and now – take time to be in His Word, by which He provides Christ’s own forgiveness to you, by which He provides for you life everlasting. God grant that we always recognize the wonders and the blessings He gives us in His Church. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +