Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sermon: Trinity 2 - 2018

10 June 2018

Text: Luke 14:15-24

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Why are you all here?

There are other things that you could be doing right now: sleeping, watching a movie, having a cup of coffee, eating, getting some work done around the house, working outside before it gets hot, hanging out with friends, participating in social media, taking in a round of golf…  The possibilities are endless.

So why are you here?

Is it a habit?  A chance to catch up with friends?  Do you feel like you did something for God by coming here?  Are you getting a friend or relative off your back who nags you to go to church? 

Why are you here?

Are you bored?  Do you wish the pastor would just stop talking and get this over with?  Do you think this ritual is meaningless and stupid?  Is what we’re doing old fashioned and out of touch with the modern world?  Is your mind wandering as you think about other things?  Are you resentful that you have to be here?

In our Gospel reading, Jesus tells a story about a great banquet.  And let’s face it, banquets can be boring: bland food, people you would rather not hang out with, long-winded speeches, boring rituals – and worst of all, it takes time away from what we would rather be doing.  But in our Lord’s story, this man throws a banquet and “invited many.”  He prepares the food, the drinks, the venue, the agenda, and now he sends out servants for the RSVPs.  “But they all alike began to make excuses.”  These reasons given for refusing to come seem to make sense: work, business, family obligations, etc.  The banquet looks like it will become an embarrassing fiasco, a hall filled with empty seats.  The servants report back to their master that this banquet is shaping up to be a failure.

The “master of the house became angry” according to Jesus, as He continues His story, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.”  The servants do this.  Those who were invited but who had made excuses are being replaced by people who are more likely to be grateful to be there.

Jesus has the master in the story bring in still more outsiders.  And He’s pretty angry at the ones who spurned the invitation: “None of those men who were invited shall taste My banquet.”

So what is the point of this story?

Just before Jesus told this story (which was at a banquet), a man said something that is both simple and profound: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 

Do you see yourself as blessed?  Are you happy to be here where the Word of God is proclaimed, where Jesus is present in the bread and wine of the sacrament?  Of all the places where you could be right now, is this the place you would most rather be at this moment?  Would you prefer to have the freedom and the opportunity to come to the Divine Service, or would you rather be a billionaire.  Before you answer the question, dear brother, dear sister, think about it honestly.

For we are all poor, miserable sinners.  There are indeed times when this banquet is tedious: it’s too hot, it’s too cold, the hymns are not to our liking, the sermon is boring, we don’t like the wine, certain people annoy us, the service is too long, too early, too late, too different than what I grew up with, too high church, too low church, too whatever.

And there are times when we, like the original invitees in the Lord’s story, just opt out.  We just stay home.  We just figure that it isn’t that important anyway.

The Lord has a warning for us, dear friends.  This banquet is important.  You have been invited by God.  This is where your sins are forgiven.  This is where Jesus speaks to you.  This is where you have actual communion with the Triune God.  This is where God truly speaks to you: not some kind of vague sign or superstition, but the pure, unshakable, and perfect Word of God.  And God will fill His kingdom: with us or without us.  If we are unfaithful, our American churches will shrink and die off while churches in China and Africa are filled with those who aren’t making excuses, but who are blessed to eat bread in the kingdom of God.

If we are not studying and reading the Word of God, if we don’t pray, if we don’t teach our children the catechism, if we aren’t regularly communing and being absolved, if we aren’t supporting our church and the work of the kingdom with our time, talent, and treasure, if we feel annoyed and put upon to be here, if we are making excuses – then others will be called and we will be left to our own devices.  And even as the finest of foods is set at the heavenly table, even as a precious chalice of the choicest of wine sits at a place with our name on it, we will content ourselves to eat garbage out of the dumpster – the rot and the crud that the world has to offer.

Dear friends, let us not take this banquet for granted!  Our Lord suffered on the cross.  He died so that you will live!  He rose so that you too will conquer death!  He has given you His body and blood as the greatest banquet ever!  He surrounds you in words of love and forgiveness, calling us back when we wander, and placing us upon His shoulder to lead us as His beloved sheep.  He provides for us a place at His table, a place of honor.  This participation in the banquet of the Eucharist is a time-transcending foretaste of eternal life, of the great reunion with our loved ones, a little glimpse and an actual participation into the new heaven and the new earth, a life in which there will be no suffering, no death, no sorrow, no regrets, no boredom, and no excuses.

Why are you here, dear friends?  You are here because you are a sinner, and you are loved, and you are to be fed and lovingly doted upon by Your Father.  You are here because you have been invited by Jesus Himself, baptized, named as one of His own, worthy to sit at His table, one who has been chosen to live eternally.  You are here because of all the places on planet earth, there is no place better than to be at the table of the Lord and listening to good news.

There are indeed valid reasons that we may have to miss this banquet from time to time.  But there are also excuses, and we know the difference.  And the good news is that even your past excuses and grumbling are forgiven, and your name is still engraved in gold at the head table.  You were issued a garment to wear at this banquet, and you have been invited, even if you are poor and crippled and blind and lame, plagued by doubts, haunted by a past, weak in willpower, or even bearing the scars of a hostile world and your own sinful flesh.  None of that matters!  You are here at the eternal banquet by the Lord’s grace!  You are His beloved child!  You are surrounded by His peace and joy even if you desire to run away.  Resist the devil, and rejoice in what is offered to you at this banquet, this feast of feasts, each and every week, dear brother, dear sister!

For indeed, “blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  Amen.

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

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