Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sermon: Trinity 2

5 June 2005 at Faith Lutheran Church, Harahan, LA

Text: Luke 14:16-24 (Historic)

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

What can be worse than throwing a party, and nobody comes? You buy the food, the drinks, you meticulously clean your house, you decorate, you pay attention to all kinds of detail, you spend a lot of money, and you open your home to all your friends, but nobody shows up. The people you thought were your friends all have lame excuses – oh, I have to mow the grass that day, oh, I have to go to WalMart, oh, I bought some oxen and I have to check them out. Well, the last one would be a really lame excuse these days, but you get the picture.

To be snubbed, to be stood up, to be told by our friends that doing daily chores is more important than our company and our friendship is a bitter pill to swallow. Times like these show us who our true friends are.

Jesus tells us this story to make a point. This is exactly how we treat God. Our Lord created us, gave us a perfect world to make us happy, and what did we do? We rejected him. Our Lord sent prophets to speak to us, to put the world aright once more – but what did we do? We rejected his messengers. Our Lord sent his only begotten Son to bring the Good News, the Gospel to us, to invite us to an eternal banquet, to give us eternal life, and what did we do? We rejected him.

The Lord’s chosen people of the Old Testament were placed on a pedestal like a queen, robed in royal garments and given everything – and yet she behaved like a whore, dressed herself in rags, and chose instead the empty promises of idols. And when our Lord took human form, and came to lay down his life for his bride, she again spurned him. He invited her to a marriage feast, and she chose instead to stand him up at the altar. She would rather be an equal to God, she would rather be judged on her own merits rather than submit to her husband and receive the gifts he wishes to shower upon her.

And so our Lord tells this parable, of God throwing a party, and yet the invited guests, those whom God himself chose to be his friends, have better things to do. After all, why come to a feast on Sunday – even when Wisdom herself has slaughtered the meat, mixed the wine, set the table, and has invited her guests to eat the bread and drink the wine.

The master’s invitation has been spurned. The table is set with the feast, and those who have been invited have better things to do: maybe a soccer game, maybe fishing, maybe putting in some overtime to afford a nicer car or bigger TV. In a country of hundreds of millions of people, only a handful really want to drop to their knees and partake of the foretaste of the eternal banquet. Many more would rather attend a church to be entertained by emotionally-manipulative music and dancing girls. Very few wish to gather around a humble pulpit to hear a preacher proclaim the simple good news of Jesus Christ Crucified. Most would rather hear something uplifting, something relevant, something that will make them better at their jobs, happier, and more wealthy. Very few see the value in making the sign of the cross and calling to mind being splashed by water. Most would rather see a stage show of phony miracles and funny jokes.

And notice our Lord’s reaction. He is angry. He is hurt. Those for whom he died, those whose sins he offers to take away, reject him. Seminary professor Dr. David Scaer made a stunning statement that nobody goes to hell for committing sins. Rather, people go to hell because they reject the gift. They have an engraved invitation, and they choose to turn it down. Their sins are already atoned for – the real tragedy is that they don’t care, they don’t believe, and they don’t receive the gift. They spurn God.

And so the Lord directs his servants – which incidentally in Latin is “minister” – to go out among the people and issue the invitation to everyone – not merely those who were originally chosen. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” How? By baptizing them. By teaching them. By preaching the Gospel to them. By word and sacrament.

Dear Christian brothers and sisters – this is the very feast our Lord is talking about. In the eyes of the world, a wafer of bread and a sip of wine is no feast. But this food and drink bear the promise and the Word of God – “This is my body. This is my blood. For the forgiveness of sin.”

And notice how our Lord describes us, his late group of guests who were invited after others left room at the table for us by spurning God. We are the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. This church, and all churches, are emergency rooms filled with sick, dying people. We are poor, coming to God as beggars with empty hands extended. We are maimed, having been crippled by sin and beaten about by the devil. We are blind, unable on our own to even see clearly how messed up we are. And notice how we got here, to church. By our own choice? By our own power? A bunch of blind, maimed beggars do not call the shots and make decisions. No, our Lord’s words are clear: we have been compelled to come in. The Holy Spirit drew us in here, not by our choice, but rather by his decision, his mercy, his divine and perfect will.

So let us feast like the homeless, sore-ridden, blind, deaf, and dying beggars that we are! Let us not think up excuses why we can’t accept our Lord’s gracious invitation. Rather let us cling to the One whose very word can heal us, make us whole, give us sight, and make us wealthy beyond measure! Let us rejoice every time we are privileged to hear the miraculous words: “I forgive you all your sins.” Let us give thanks and praise to our Lord every time we are permitted to again see the miracle of ordinary bread and wine becoming the very same body and blood of Jesus born of Mary and nailed to the cross. Let us feast as starving beggars every time our Lord permits us to come to this table and eat and drink the most precious and most glorious food ever served in the history of the universe.

And let the world scoff at us. We will still invite them to come to this table. Let those who persist in their blindness, poverty, and infirmity continue to make fun of us and hate us, for as the blessed Apostle John tells us in our epistle, “we have passed from death to life.” We ought not marvel that we are hated, abused, and ridiculed for clinging to the broken body and spilled blood of our Lord. For “by this we know love, because he laid down his life for us.” And as a result, we are able to lay down our lives for those who hate us and reject us. For our Lord’s love for us is perfect, not merely “in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

And the truth is this: we crippled beggars, unworthy as we are, have been chosen to come to the feast. Although we are dressed in shabby clothes, we are given a pure white baptismal gown to wear. Although we are dying bit by bit, and our flesh is rotting away (which is shown by every ache and pain we have), it is merged to his flesh, which is incorruptible. And through Holy Communion with him, our great physician, we are given food which is also medicine, the medicine of immortality, the medicine that makes us live forever.

Let us give thanks and praise to our Lord for eternity, for he has compelled us. He did not entrust us to our crippled, blinded reason, but brought us by faith into his kingdom, into the banquet hall, a banquet hall that we have right here and right now, and we will have for eternity! Dear Christians, eat and drink! Your sins are forgiven. You have eternal life. You have been chosen, and you have a place at the table unto eternity! Thanks be to God through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.

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

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