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Sermon for Trinity 2 – Luke 14:15-24

by Pastor Beisel ~ May 30th, 2008

In the parable today about the Great Supper, Jesus says that the invited guests all began to make excuses when they were called. One had just bought some land and had to go see it. Another had just been married, and did not want his post-wedding activities to be interrupted, and another had just bought some cattle and had to inspect them. Everything else was more pressing, more urgent than the invitation to the Great Supper.

You really can’t blame the master of the house for being angry. This Great Supper likely had cost him a fortune. It undoubtedly took him a long time to prepare it, and to get everything ready. I doubt that there are too many of us who would not take at least a little offense if such a thing happened to us. One can only imagine the disappointment that the host of this Great Supper felt when all the invited guests failed to show up.

When the servants returned with the bad news, the Master turned to others. Determined to have his house full of guests, determined to share this good food with someone, anyone, he sends his servants out into lanes of the city to pick up anyone that might be hungry for such a meal. So they go, and even after many join the feast, there is still room for more. Those who had more pressing matters to attend to are told: “They will never taste my supper.” Any thoughts of being invited a second time are quickly dashed. There won’t be a second chance to show up. This was a one time offer.

Undoubtedly, this parable was meant to prick the hearts of the Pharisees and others like them who failed to respond favorably to the teaching of Jesus. Like those invited guests in the parable who made up excuses, they did not consider the Salvation that Christ was offering in Himself to be of any great value or importance, or a matter of any urgency or necessity. Instead they challenged him at every turn, and eventually plotted to kill him. As the holy evangelist St. John writes: “He came to his own, and his own did not receive Him.”

Quite naturally, this rejection was a great offense and disappointment to our Lord and angered him greatly. Surely He had gone to great lengths to prepare this Feast of Salvation for His guests. There was a great cost involved, one that no one else but Christ could pay. Preparations for it spanned the centuries. His servants the Prophets had been sent to call the invited guests to this Supper, to preach and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, but when it came time to eat, when all things were finally ready, no one was hungry, at least, none of the invited guests.

Jesus knew exactly what their problem was-they were not hungry or thirsty for righteousness. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The Pharisees and those who had the Law of Moses were filled with moral self-satisfaction. They did not see anything terribly wrong with themselves. As far as they were concerned, they had done well. They had kept God’s commandments, including the traditions of the elders, or so they thought. Much of Jesus’ preaching was meant to unravel their sense of moral accomplishment and self-importance.

There were plenty of others, however, who were starving for the food that God had prepared in His Incarnate Son. Spiritual beggars, like the humble tax collector, ashamed even to lift his eyes to heaven; Blind Bartimaeus, who cried out to Jesus, the Son of David for mercy; the nameless woman caught in adultery, who found mercy in Jesus; and many, many more-These all had one thing in common: they longed for deliverance from their sins. And they found that deliverance, just as we have, in Jesus, in His cross, in His resurrection and ascension.

Things have not changed much since the time of Jesus. The call still goes out: “Come, for all things are now ready.” Wisdom Incarnate beckons all to come and taste of his wine and to eat of his food. “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” The heavenly table is prepared every Sunday here in God’s house. The Bread of Life is present through His Word and Supper. Invited guests are the baptized.

And it is still true today that the Great Supper of our Lord, that Divine Buffet of forgiveness and eternal life, of peace and good favor with God, is loved by some and despised by others. And who is it that loves this food, who longs for it? Who else, but the one who looks in the mirror of God’s holy Law and deplores the image that stares back at him. Indeed, it is the one who sees nothing good in himself, but only evil. It is the spiritual beggar, the one who is empty of all pretense before God. “Those who are full have no need of a meal, but those who are hungry.”

And it is still the morally self-satisfied who despise and reject our Lord’s invitation to feast on His grace and mercy in Jesus. For, just as a hearty meal has no appeal to someone who is already full, so also this Great Supper that God offers in Christ has no appeal to those who are not hungry and thirsty for righteousness. People wonder today why there are so many empty seats in our churches, why so few people are interested in hearing God’s Word. Some will tell you that it is because of our formal worship style. Others will say that they just don’t like the pastor. And still others will say that it is because our services are too similar to those in the Catholic Church.

And yet, these are all just excuses that do not get at the real problem. The real problem is that they are not hungry or thirsty for the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. If they were, then nothing else would be more important to them than coming to the house of God to hear Christ’s Word and to eat and drink His Body and Blood. The reason there are so few bodies in our pews has little to do with chanting, or kneeling, or any of these other things that people say they despise. It has everything to do with the fact that people are altogether devoid of a sense of spiritual poverty.

As far as they are concerned, they are doing just fine without the Church. They can sit at home and read their Bibles, or listen to Christian Radio and think that this is enough for them. After all, they reason, we are not all that bad off. We have done what God wants us to. We have kept His commandments. They do not think that their neglect of God’s Word or their refusal to partake of His Supper angers and offends God or causes him any great grief or disappointment.  And yet, they think that their place in heaven is secure.

How foolish! God’s grace will not be offered forever. On Judgment Day there will be no second chances, no additional invitations. The time of Grace will be over, and those who failed to heed this invitation will be told: “They shall never taste my supper.” Meanwhile, those who listened to the call of holy Wisdom, and came and ate of His food and drank of His wine, those who filled up their spiritual poverty with heavenly riches will be told: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

Let this Parable, in the first place, be a warning to us all, even to the faithful: Beware that you do not fall into the same sin of the Pharisees and others who were morally self-satisfied. Otherwise you may lose your hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Let the light of the Commandments of God expose your spiritual poverty.  Submit to God’s Word when it says: “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” If you can’t see your spiritual shortcomings with your own eyes, then by all means, believe Christ when he says: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, and adulteries.”

We all could stand to dust off our catechisms every week, and rehearse what is written in them before coming to the Supper of our Lord. Perhaps then we would begin more fervently to hunger and thirst for the forgiveness and mercy that God delivers to us in these gifts. Perhaps then we would not sit in these pews week after week, coming to church simply because “that is what I have always done,” but instead we would be moved by our great need and by the gracious invitation of Christ to come and partake of this Great Supper.

In the second place, then, let this parable be a word of comfort and joy for you. Christ has paid the price for your sins by shedding His precious blood on the cross. He has risen from the dead and ascended to His Father. All things are ready. Nothing is left to do except enjoy what God has prepared for you. See how kind and gracious is your heavenly master, who has spared no expense for you. Abandon all thoughts of moral self-accomplishment as you approach the Lord’s Table, as you sit and listen to God’s Word, as you sing and pray in the liturgy; empty yourselves before God, and be filled with the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

1 Response to Sermon for Trinity 2 – Luke 14:15-24

  1. ToddPeperkorn

    Good sermon. Many thanks.

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