The Sunday of the Great Banquet 2013 – Luke 14:15-24Pr. Christopher Gillespie
08. June 2013
The Sunday of the Great Banquet
One Sabbath, as Jesus dined at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus instructed those present to invite not just their friends, that is, people-like-them, but to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Invite those who cannot repay you and you will be rewarded in the resurrection. When one of those Pharisees heard this, he exclaimed, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
Speaking of the blessed meal of the kingdom, Jesus tells them a story. A man once gave a great banquet, invited many whom He knew, and sent out invitations through His servants. According to custom, the host is prominent man, well-known and respected, and the banquet absolutely free of charge. All that was required is to take the man at His word, receive the invitation, and eat the meal with Him. “Come, for everything is now ready!” The servants are declaring that the meal was set and quite literally, the dinner bell is ringing. Come and eat!
This great feast is offered both now and into eternity. God the Father has prepared a banquet of salvation for all men. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you sins, to rise from the dead, and to send this message of salvation unto the ends of the earth. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are hard at work to feed you this banquet in baptism, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper. It’s all finished, paid for with Jesus’ blood, and distributed in the holy Christian church. Salvation is finished. Come and eat!
But how did the invited guests respond? “They all alike began to make excuses.” Excuses from a free meal offered by their friend? What excuse is good enough? We hear three different ones, all equally bogus. The first “friend” says he has to inspect his property that he bought. What? Who would buy a piece of property and not survey it first? He would have tested the soil, checked out the amenities, reviewed the easements, and pursued its zoning long before he bought it. This is true for both the ancient and modern world. Even if you bought from a friend, due diligence is due.
The second just bought five pairs of oxen and he needs to check them out. “Please have me excused.” Again, what? No one buys oxen (or cars) before first test-driving them (or it). Nothing has changed. Before any money is exchanged, you’d check the vet records, inspect their teeth and hooves, what them plow, and consider their offspring. All this happens before even negotiating the price, at least, in the “real world.”
And even the third is off his rocker. “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” You know, we’ve got a honeymoon and stuff, so we can’t come to the big party. Yeah, I got the invitation. I knew the time and date. But this-other-thing-came-up, and really, she’s good looking and good company. Thanks for the invite but no thanks, a real spit-in-the-face of the host to double schedule two parties. And I can’t come because my wife is more important? Uh, yeah, bring her along? We’ve got things to do.
You’ll notice a few themes running throughout these excuses. First, as we’ve heard, they’re all wrong-headed. No one buys or sells home or vehicle without first assessing the product. No one schedules their wedding the same day as the big community feast. Right? These excuses are poor because they’re idiotic on their own. Nonsensical, really. Plus, who gives you land, animals, and wife? Your LORD. Who promises to take care of them? Your God. “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.” They will be cared for and the excuses can wait.
Second, all three folks have higher priorities than the master’s feast. They have set their property, possessions, and family ahead of the feast. And since we know this feast is the Lord’s feast of Word and Sacrament, the eternal banquet of the Lamb, you must ask yourselves if you’ve not done the same? Have you set the needs of your home ahead of your attendance to God’s Word? Maybe you’ve needed to work on the basement project? Maybe it’s going to rain and the lawn needs cut? Maybe company are coming and so you need to clean up? Maybe it’s the “only” weekend for that vacation? Maybe you want to take the Sabbath to visit family?
Thirdly, all three excuses betray sinful desires. Love of home, love of property, and even love of spouse never are to take the place of love of God. “The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut 6:4-5). You cannot love both God and mammon. Even the third invited one turned his wife into an object of worship, placing his love for her ahead of love for God. Or maybe you’d rather worship elsewhere from where Jesus has promised to be found for the sake of your spouse? You once confessed that the banquet and the holy church is where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacrament rightly given. Do you still believe this? Or are you willing to listen and eat before pulpits and at altars that have rejected Jesus’ Word?
Yet, in the face of the invitation, are these ever a valid excuses? Jesus has invited you. You know the when and the where. There are no expectations of you but that you simply show up in faith. You know God is generous. He’s called you up, invited you by His apostles, made the sacrifice, and all is finished. You’re going to make excuses? Excusing yourself from Jesus’s meal is unbelief. Excusing yourself from being fed by Christ is simply saying, I don’t need you or what you want to feed me.
Thanks be to Jesus that He is long-suffering. He hears your cries for mercy and forgives. There is reconciliation. The doors to the feast are still open. The cry “come to the feast” still rings out. Repent this day of setting your home, possessions, or family ahead of hearing Jesus and receiving His gifts. You are forgiven! Repent of ignoring the invitation, setting your priorities ahead of the Lord’s for you. You are forgiven! Repent of loving yourself and your possessions more than your God and His gracious gifts in the Divine Service. You are forgiven!
You are always tempted to be like the Pharisees, reclining at table, thinking that you’ve got the salvation thing in the bag. You’re in the club, inducted and confirmed. You’ve got your Christian badge of honor and there’s nothing left but to cruise through into heaven. Salvation is assured, heaven guaranteed, and sin forgiven in Jesus. You were baptized and confirmed. You are a saint of God. All true.
But salvation is also being worked in you. Your sinful nature yet remains. Daily you must be drowned and die and a new man rise forth in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. The Holy Scriptures tell you to be on your guard, watching out for the temptations of Satan and the flesh. You can easily become a Pharisee, letting excuses lead to presumption, presumption to neglect, and neglect to unbelief. For the unbeliever, the Lord will say, “None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”
Some of us have already begun this slide in the Pharisee-ism, the excuse making. Pastor, I’m going out of town. Are you going to church? Well… Pastor, I need to do this or that at home? Can’t it wait until Sunday afternoon? Well… Pastor, we have this family event this weekend. Do you need a church recommendation for where you’re going? Well… I’m… Those are the conversations. The statistics demonstrate that we have the same excuse making. Only 62% of those people who have come to Grace this year have come three or more times each month. Another 16% come only half the time on average. And 22% of the members who have come at all this year have come one or less times each month.
The invitations have gone out. “Come to the feast!” “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” “We should… hold preaching and God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” “Do this in remembrance of me!” You know the when, you know the where, and you even know what’s on the menu. Repent of your excuses and believe the Gospel! Repent, confess your idolizing of home, property, and family, and be forgiven for Jesus’ sake.
In the Gospel story we learn that the master will have guests to His feast. His patience is long but has an end. After those who receive His gracious invitation in faith are in, He seeks to replace those who reject His bountiful feast. And the Lord of the house, still angry with those who rejected Him, commands His servant “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” Thus we also learn this day that the Lord’s gifts are not just for you but for all those who will receive Him. His servants, His apostles, go out and bring in broken people into a broken church to receive the body broken for them.
But even then the banquet is not full. “‘Sir, what you have 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.’” Our church-as-club mentality is opposed to what Jesus wants and will do. Namely, He is not concerned about building a perfectly respectful church. He doesn’t care about the status, character, health, or wealth of the people. The feast is ready and it is true blessedness. Only by feasting with our ears and mouths are we blessed. He fills the hungry with good things. He gives us food rich in marrow, holy and holy-making. His feast makes the poor rich with His grace, the disabled are given strength for their vocations, the blind given sight to see the truth of the Scriptures, and the lame are able to go forth with His praise. He gives us the richness of His Word to convert even the most stubborn pagan, feeding them with a feast they never even imagined existed.
Jesus invites those who confess Him as Lord to receive His feast. Some receive Him and others reject, making shipwreck of their faith. So also, Jesus not concerned about the people’s ability to make it to feast but goes and gets them. And finally, His church goes out into the whole world, preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all. Every missionary, every struggling parish, and every growing congregation are all equally the house of the master. First, there was invitation. Then, there was bringing. And finally, there is compelling.
The feast must be full. In the Divine liturgy, we eat the Bread of Life and we have the best at God’s table. This is the banquet of salvation. Christ himself is the Cook, the Waiter, the Host, and even the Main Entreé. Those who eat His feast of salvation will neither hunger nor thirst, for Christ is everything. Come to the feast!
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church