Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sermon: Trinity 2 - 2019

30 June 2019

Text: Luke 14:15-24 (Prov 9:1-10, 1 John 3:13-18)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

That’s how the kingdom is, dear friends.  It’s going to table together.  It’s sharing a meal.  It’s joining together as a family.  

The Christian faith assumes the right doctrine.  But it is more than doctrine.  The Christian faith assumes good works that grow out of God’s grace.  But it is more than good works.  The Christian faith is about truth.  But it is more than simply knowing and speaking the truth.

The Christian faith is about love.  For God is love.  And love covers a multitude of sins.  Love is God giving His only begotten Son.  Love is our Lord on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them.”  Love is the risen Lord appearing to His apostles and sending them into all the world to preach the Gospel.

And nothing demonstrates love, dear brothers and sisters, like sharing a table at a banquet.  In His earthly ministry, our Lord ate and drank so often with the people that He loved, that those who hated Him accused Him of being a drunk and a glutton.

We are followers of the One who eats bread with us in the kingdom of God.  We are followers of the One who is love, and who takes flesh in our world.  We are followers of the One who was born in Bethlehem, the city whose name means “the House of Bread.”

“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.”

And this is why St. John, the Lord’s beloved apostle, warns us: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

We should not bat an eye when the world gangs up on Christian people who mind their own business, who want nothing more than to peacefully live out their Christian faith by using their arts according to their consciences.  It should not shock us when Islamic radicals persecute Christian men, women, and children.  We should consider it normal when Christian students in universities are humiliated or expelled for their beliefs.  Not that we should avoid fighting for justice, not that we should be content with these things – but it should not shock us that evil is evil.

For this is why Jesus came in the first place – to rescue all of us from the evil that infests us all.  The evil is not only out there, but also in here.  Jesus has come to invite us out of this fallen world with its messed up priorities into the kingdom, to a great banquet table, where we shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

“By this we know love,” says St. John, “that he laid down His life for us.”  Jesus did not prioritize His own time, His own possessions, or even His own life.  He gave them all to us out of love, to save us, to bring us to the banquet table of eternal life.  

The importance of “eating bread in the kingdom” and of all of our Lord’s parables about banquets was made clear “on the night when He was betrayed.”  For our Lord “took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you.’”

“In the same way also He took the cup after supper...: ‘Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’”

As the Lord speaks to us in the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom invites us to the table: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.”  

This, dear friends, is the kingdom of heaven.  It is God providing a banquet for us.  The feast is Christ Himself: the bread that is His body; the wine that is His blood.  We come to the banquet.  We eat.  We drink.  And indeed, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.”

But there is a warning, dear friends.  Just because we are invited doesn’t mean that we benefit.  For a guest can refuse the invitation.  A guest can take the Lord’s hospitality for granted.  A guest can lose his privileged position at table.

Our Lord tells a story, as He so often does when He teaches us about the kingdom.  In this story, a generous man decides to give a huge banquet, and “invites many.”  He sends a message to the invitees: “Come, for everything is now ready.”  But “they all alike began to make excuses.”  They decide not to come to the banquet – even after the food and drink have been prepared and are ready to be brought to the table.  The excuses don’t seem  unreasonable.  One guy just bought some real estate.  Another guy just bought farm equipment.  Another guy just got married.  

But the master’s kindness is being taken for granted.  The people can’t even come to the table for a meal, to share in the love of the master.  They can’t even spare an hour on Sunday to thank God for the blessings of home and possessions and family.  They are too busy. 

Jesus says, “Then the master of the house became angry.”  The guests are uninvited, and others are brought in instead.  “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.”  In other words, go find people who will appreciate the kindness of the master.

If you think you’re too good to come to church to have your sins forgiven, the Lord will find other people who know that they need forgiveness, and your place at the table will be given to them.  If you think you have better things to do than to take the Lord up on His gracious invitation to eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins, the Lord will find other people who aren’t so busy, and your place at the table will be given to them.  If you’re bored, or if you think you have nothing to learn, or if you think you can “get more out of” a TV sermon or looking at a facebook meme with some Jesusy words, well, the Lord will find someone who appreciates His sacrifice on the cross, who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, and who trusts that the Lord knows that He is doing by calling you here, to this sanctuary, to this altar, to partake in this bread and this wine, that are His body and blood, and your place at the table will be given to them, to someone who will say, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.”

The Lord will fill the banquet hall.  He is not looking for perfect and respectable people.  That’s the point of the story.  He is looking for sinners in need of forgiveness, for broken people in need of healing, for those who are grateful to be invited to the table and seated with brothers and sisters who love them, because God loved them first.  The Lord’s kingdom, the Lord’s Church, is filled with the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame, with people who have doubts and fears, with men and women who struggle with sin and sorrow, with those who are rejected by the world that rewards selfishness and ruthlessness.  The Lord’s Church is filled with people who struggle from Sunday to Sunday to once more “eat bread in the kingdom of God,” who would overcome any obstacle and make any sacrifice to hear the pastor speak the Lord’s absolution: “I forgive you all your sins,” to join brothers and sisters in hearing the powerful Word of God, and to hear it preached so that they might see their need to repent, and also hear the glorious Gospel that our crucified and risen Lord loves us and forgives us and offers us everlasting life as a free gift by grace!

For what could possibly be more important than that, dear friends?  What could possibly get in the way and drive a wedge between you and the Lord who loves you?  Jesus isn’t telling this story about someone else; He is telling it about you, dear friends.  He calls you to repent, and He forgives you and offers you your seat at the banquet.  “Come, for everything is now ready.”

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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