|Lutheran Mass, Brandenburg, 1539|
9 June 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Luke 14:15-24
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Our Lord is one of many who have been invited to a meal, and while at this meal, He tells a story about people invited to a meal. And in fact, the Lord Jesus did not initiate the comparison between the kingdom of God and dining. It was one of the Lord’s fellow diners “who reclined at table with Him” that started it. That unnamed man said: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
And he has said something very truthful. Blessed indeed is every person who breaks bread with God Himself, who is invited to the feast, who reclines at table with Jesus, who enjoys communion with God the Son, who sits in His presence and hears His Word, who are blessed to receive His holy absolution, those who kneel before this holy altar to “eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Blessed, indeed, are such people!
Jesus does not dispute the man’s statement, and even builds upon it. But the catch that the man at the table hadn’t really considered is this: who has been invited? And what about people who are invited but do not respond?
And in consideration of this, the Lord teaches us about the nature of God’s kingdom. It is a place for misfits, for sinners, for beggars, and for the “poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And to the world, this is not where we want to be. Our sinful flesh would much prefer to be where the beautiful people are, where there is money and power and the fawning of men. And yet, dear brothers and sisters, here we are. We are here in a rather humble building. In the eyes of the world, this is a pretty meager banquet: a sip of wine and a wafer of bread. There is no six course spread. There is no motivational speaker teaching you how to get rich, nor a wise-cracking celebrity telling you all about his Hollywood connections. There is instead a preacher proclaiming the Word. There will be no write-up in the society pages, no clip on YouTube, nothing on the newscast tonight, and as icing on the cake: the majority of our own members are not even here. It is hardly an impressive banquet by the world’s standards.
But just the same, dear friends, this is the greatest feast of all! “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
For you have taken your place in this banquet house poor with sin, crippled with guilt, blind to God’s mercy, and lame to the point where you cannot even help yourself by walking into the kingdom of your own power. You joined me in a public confession that we are “poor miserable sinners.” And there are probably a thousand things you would rather be doing now: house work, yard work, parties, travel, TV, sports, and a million other tasks and chores that need to be done.
Maybe you own property that must be maintained. Maybe you have some equipment that must be looked after. Maybe family responsibilities are pressing. It is hard to see the point of coming here to be told what you already know about Jesus, to hear the same words again: “I forgive you all your sins…,” and to ritually eat bread and drink wine as most of you have been doing for years.
Is there really any point, dear friends? Are we “getting anything” out of the service? I do hear that, you know: “I just don’t get anything out of” the standing, kneeling, sitting, singing, listening, and taking communion. Usually, this is said by people who want rock music, dancing girls, a stand-up comic for a preacher, and “practical advice” for “daily living” that reduces our blessed Lord Jesus into a self-help guru.
But, dear friends, listen to Jesus! He is no psychotherapist or talk show host. He is the Son of God, the Son of Man; He is human, He is divine; and most importantly, He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins; He is the atonement that restores our communion with God; He is the cure to death itself. And this is what the kingdom is all about, for Jesus is our King, and He has given Himself for us to live in His kingdom. He brings eternal riches to the poor, healing to the crippled, sight to the blind, and restoration to the lame. It is He who uniquely has the power and the mandate and the will to forgive our sins!
What goes on in this house, this holy house, this banquet house, this house which is indeed the very gate of heaven on earth – are the most important things in your life. For at this banquet, you are healed, restored, showered with God’s mercy and love, and you partake of the miracle, the divine and eternal miracle, of His body and His blood unto eternal life! This place is an ark that weathers the storms of this fallen death-laden world, and it is a refuge, for here, in this place, we meet Jesus Christ in His kingdom, where He promises to be with us!
And even though we are teeming with excuses, even though our sinful flesh is tempted toward other banquets and other gods, this is where the Lord God Almighty shepherds us, the invited subjects of His glorious kingdom. And what’s more, dear friends, our King doesn’t sit at the head table and leave us afar off. No indeed! He reclines at table with us, among us, even as He walked in our sandals and tasted our death. He even bore our cross, and all to give us His righteousness.
“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
But our King doesn’t stop there. He not only invites us, we the outliers from the “highways and hedges,” we who are despised in the eyes of the world, we whose sins have set us against our Lord and Creator, but what’s more, our Lord becomes our very meat and drink indeed! His flesh is bread for the life of the world! His blood, shed for us men and for our salvation, is the New Testament, the cup He blesses with His Word, and which He shares with us “for the forgiveness of sins.”
One molecule of this consecrated bread upon which we feast has more power than all the atomic weaponry of the world. One tiny drop of this consecrated wine is a sufficient portion of the sacrificial blood to save every “poor, miserable sinner” that has ever lived or ever will draw a breath in this polluted, fallen world.
We, dear friends, miraculously “eat bread in the kingdom of God!” We poor, crippled, blind, and lame “miserable sinners” recline at table with God the Son. We who are despised by the world and mocked by our flesh, we who are under the assault of the devil and dogged by death itself feast with, and upon, our Lord and our King – by His gracious invitation and unto our own salvation!
“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Amen.
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