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Sermon for Trinity II

by Rev. Brian Hamer ~ July 5th, 2011

Sermon on St. Luke 14:16-24Trinity II


Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God. — St. Luke 14:15


One Sabbath, as Jesus dined in the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus instructed his colleagues not to invite just their friends to a banquet, but to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. When one of the guests heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” This short beatitude is a fitting summary of the parable that follows this beatitude, the story of the Great Banquet.

A man once gave a great banquet, invited many, and sent out invitations through his servants. According to the custom of the day, such a banquet would be hosted by a prominent man, someone who was well-known and well-respected in the community. The banquet was free of charge. It remained only for the guests to believe in the gracious character of the host, to receive his invitation, and to eat in his presence. The invitation, “Come, for everything is now ready,” was issued only when the meat had been cooked and was ready to be eaten. So the meal was set. The meat was literally ripe off the bone. Come and eat! And so it is that God the Father has prepared a great banquet of salvation for all men. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins, to rise from the dead, and to send the message of His forgiveness to the ends of the world. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are hard at work to feed all men the banquet of salvation in baptism, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper. It’s all here, paid for with Jesus’ blood, and now distributed in the Christian church for the life of the world. Come! All things are now ready!

But how did the invited guests respond? “They all alike began to make excuses.” The first said, “I have bought a field and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.” This statement is a bold-faced lie. No one, ancient or modern, would buy a field in the Middle East sight-unseen. The buyer would need to know everything about the field: measurements, history, and buried treasures; public assembly violations, boiler violations, and zoning issues. Some real estate tycoons in the Middle East are able to recite the history of the profit and loss of their fields for an amazing number of years. So to expect the Host to believe that this man bought a field sight unseen is ludicrous. It would be like one of us saying, “I have just bought a new patch of land over the phone and I must now go and see it for the first time.” See how this first man brings us to repentance. Is your home or any other possession of greater importance to you than the banquet of word and sacrament? Do you place your trust in your home before God? Do you have more time to work on your home than to serve your neighbor and help him in every bodily need? Do you covet your neighbor’s house? Do you use your home (or other possessions) as an excuse around the Christian faith and life? Recall the ninth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house,” and Luther’s explanation, “We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.” Repent!

And another man said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.” Once again, the excuse is in the “my dog ate my homework” category; no one can take it seriously. Prospective buyers of oxen might go first to the seller’s field to watch the animals working. Are they plowing a straight line and a deep furrow? Are they healthy? Do they work well together? All this takes place before one begins to negotiate a price. Other buyers of oxen might go to the marketplace, where there was a small field to “test drive” the oxen. But no one buys the oxen and then goes to examine them. A western parallel would be, “Honey, I just used your credit card to buy five pre-owned sports cars at www.cars.com, and now I need to go to Atlantic City to see if they will start.” See how this man brings us to repentance. Do you place your trust in your possessions? Do you use your things as an excuse around faithful participation in the word and sacrament? Do you faithfully tithe to the church or are other things more important to your sinful heart? Do you place other expenses in the church ahead of the “expense” of Word and Sacrament? Do you cheerfully support the ministry or are other concerns of great import to your sinful heart? Do you covet your neighbor’s wife, manservant or maidservant, ox or donkey, or anything the belongs to your neighbor? Do you entice or force away your neighbor’s wife, workers, animals, or turn them against him? Repent! For those who place their things before the Host will not sit at His banquet table.

Still another man said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” If this man were really a newlywed, then the village would already know about it, and no considerate Host would have scheduled two large banquets for a small village. The competition would be pointless. Moreover, Middle Eastern folkways prevented one from speaking of women in such ways. In Arabic, the words “women,” “sacred,” and “forbidden” are all from the same root word. In a formal setting, men did not openly discuss their women (use your imagination). So this guest is basically saying, “Yesterday I said I would come, but this afternoon I am busy with a woman, who is more important to me than your banquet.” See how this excuse also brings us to repentance as we consider the relationship between faith and family. If you’re anything like me, you probably chuckled when you started hearing about these crazy pre-nuptial agreements several years ago. “If we get divorced, Sweetie, you’ll get this and I’ll get that.” Ludicrous! But prenuptial agreements to raise children in the false church with a false belief about justification are equally wrong. And so is our practice of aiding and abetting these theological pre-nups by glossing them over with the false belief that all the faiths are pretty much the same. “I cannot come the banquet of the rightly preached Gospel and the rightly given Sacrament, for I have married outside my faith. Sorry. I must keep the family together and worship in their church (or Synagogue or Mosque!).” Repent!

After filling the hall with guests, there was still room. Here we see that God’s grace is extended to every man until Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. It’s tempting to say that there’s still room in a church that seats, say, 200, but doesn’t fill up to even half of capacity any given Sunday. But this parable is not about seating space. Rather, it’s about the ongoing grace of God in the lively spread of the Gospel. There’s still room for your unchurched family and friends. There’s still room for your family members who have married into a different faith and need to be invited to the right banquet. There’s still room, for the waters of baptism continue to flow, the word of absolution is still being spoken, and the Lord’s Supper is still being distributed. As we pray in one hymn today, “There still is room! His house is not yet filled, Not all the guests are there. Oh, bring them in! Their hunger shall be stilled / With bread, yea, bread to spare.” (TLH 509.1)

And how does the owner respond to the empty seats in his banquet hall? “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” See the progression of places in this parable: from those who had originally been invited, then to the poor and crippled in the city, and finally to the highways and hedges. The Gospel is rooted in Jerusalem, the city of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But after Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, it goes out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Every outdoor preaching station, every congregation, and every mighty cathedral is an outpost for mission. For those who come and believe are God’s own guests at the banquet of salvation. See also the change in verbs. The owner started with the simple word “invite.” However, He now uses the stronger Greek word, ” to compel.” To invite is a pretty standard invitation. But to “compel”carries a connotation of life and death. “Compel people to come in, that my house may be full.” Or, as we might put it, “Compel your unchurched family and friends to come to church, to be baptized, and to faithfully participate in God’s word and sacraments, and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith.”

“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Or, as some manuscripts of this verse put it, “Blessed is everyone who will eat the best in the kingdom of God.” Whether this verse should read “eat bread” or “eat the best” makes no difference in what we believe. In the Divine liturgy, we eat the Bread of Life and we have the best at God’s table. For here, in this banquet of salvation, Christ Himself is the Cook, the Waiter, the Host, and even the Main Entree. And those who eat His feast of salvation shall neither hunger nor thirst, for Christ shall be their all-in-all. + INJ + Amen.

Note: This sermon is somewhat dependant on
the scholarship of Kenneth E. Bailey.


Rev. Brian Hamer

Redeemer Lutheran Church

Bayside, NY

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