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Trinity 2 – Luke 14:15-24

by pastorjuhl ~ June 23rd, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            I know what you’re thinking. “Boy, I wish so-and-so was here. S/he really needs to hear this parable. Pastor’s sermon will really get ’em thinking about why they don’t come to church.” Thing about it is that Jesus doesn’t tell the parable to those who weren’t reclining at table with Him. Jesus tells the parable among some Pharisees. The parable hit the desired target audience. As it did then, so it does now.

The parable of the great banquet is for you in the pew as much, if not more, than for the person not in the pew. Chances are you know their excuse(s). Bunch of hypocrites over there at the Lutheran church. No kids. No young adults. Too many old people. Too many women. Not enough men. I need to sleep in on Sunday. I play bingo Saturday night. I don’t like the pastor. I don’t like so-and-so who goes there. The hymns are boring. I can have church at home. I don’t need to be with other people. I’m not a church kind of person.

Many of these, if not all of them, are your excuses too. It’s as if going to church is merely a weekly check-up with your spiritual physician. The hard work of being a Christian takes place during the week. You have to check in once a week with others to see how everyone is progressing in their faith. So you visit with each other for a while, have a corporate devotion with the spiritual physician’s assistant, and head home for the hard work of living your life and being a Christian. Being a Christian is like being a Lion, or one of the Kiwanis, or Rotary Club, or the Chamber of Commerce. You are part of a voluntary association of like-minded individuals getting together for the good of the group.

Believe it or not, theologians have taught such definitions of “church” to be true. If this was the case, and it is not the case, then why bother having corporate worship? It’s not really necessary. Oh, sure, the Roman Catholics say it’s necessary, but that’s because they make the Gospel into a Law. You go to Mass or it’s a mortal sin. We’re not Roman Catholics. We’re free to skip a week, or two, or several. After all, there’s always next week. Better still, I can turn on the radio or the television and get the same thing there as I get here.

The Old Adam is always looking for excuses not to have to make a public appearance in the Lord’s house. If Divine Service was a three-course meal at a Michelin three-star restaurant, and you didn’t have to pay the bill, you more than likely would rush here to get a seat. How many opportunities do you receive to have dinner at a Michelin three-star restaurant? But wait, there’s more. What if you could have three of your favorite public figures join you for dinner? Again, you don’t pick up the tab. What a deal! A great dinner, some fine wine, and three famous people at your table. Where do I sign up?

Wait. What’s the catch? There has to be a catch, right? The catch is that the three-course meal is Word, Sacrament, and Hymns. The restaurant is right here at Second and Pine Streets. The three public figures? The Triune God: one God in three Persons. The meal is free, but at a great cost: the death of the Father’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. What a deal! And you get to dine every week on a feast that is a foretaste of the eternal feast to come in the new heavens and the new earth! Come, for everything is now ready.

I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused. I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused. I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. These are legitimate excuses mentioned in Holy Scripture…but they are excuses for going to war, not for missing a great banquet. They are proper excuses used in an improper way. There is always time to work, but why not take an hour away from work for the great banquet of Word and Sacrament? There is always time to test drive a new car. You can’t do it on Sunday morning, not in Illinois at least. The best way to begin a marriage is by attending corporate worship together, at least if you plan to have a Christian marriage.

Those who received the invitation spurned the banquet by illegitimately using legitimate excuses. Not only is this telling God what to do with His banquet, it is also telling God that you want things your way, not His way. He’ll have to understand. Life gets in the way. He’ll have to let me miss this time. There’ll be other opportunities.

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 commanded 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.” It’s a happy ending in a sad way. There is room for more at the banquet table, but it’s at the cost of the rejection of those for whom the banquet is given.

The banquet is chiefly for God’s chosen children: the Jews. They don’t want the party God’s way. They want it their way. They will use God to justify their excuses. They will not recognize the reason for the banquet even when the Banquet is telling them the parable! Jesus Himself is the Great Banquet. The Jews receive the Promise of redemption, but make excuses for not coming to the banquet to rejoice in the Son of God’s forgiveness and life. Oh, yes, they will quote Scriptural excuses. But those excuses are out of line, just as most of our excuses are out of line.

Consider that those who attend this great banquet are here because they know who they are before the face of God. They know where they stand. You don’t deserve the invitation. In fact, the invitation wasn’t for you in the first place. God went and found you. He compelled you to come to the feast, much like mom and dad did to you (and may still do to you) when it’s suppertime. You don’t want to miss what’s offered here because it is important that you are here to receive what is put in front of you.

What is put in front of you is salvation. The Divine Service is the appetizer for the great heavenly banquet that lasts for all eternity. You have an invitation to this banquet by virtue of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, a righteousness that avails before the Father in heaven. There was room at the table. You were compelled by the Holy Spirit to receive the invitation that the Word of Christ made to you. None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet, says the Father. Their loss is your gain.

Blessed indeed are you who eat bread not only in the kingdom of heaven, but also here in this place. You eat the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, when you hear Gospel preaching, when you rejoice in your Baptism, and when you partake of the Holy Supper. The Psalmist writes in today’s Introit: The Lord was my support in the day of my calamity. He brought out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. The Lord delights in those, both Jew and Gentile, who heed the call of the Gospel and receive the gift of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.

And still there is room.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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