Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trinity 2

Sermon on Luke 14:15–24
For Our Savior Lutheran Church of Norwood Park, Chicago, IL
June 21, 2009 (The Second Sunday after Trinity)

There are many in the world who think that Christianity is something to be avoided. The common perception of us is that we are always serious, critical and down on those who would have any fun, and generally just not people you want to be around. And it is true that some have played into this perception by going beyond what the Law of God says and making up laws of their own regarding human behavior, such as those who forbid drinking, dancing, or card-playing, or who never have anything good to say about any movie coming out of Hollywood, even if there’s nothing actually immoral in the movie. But even apart from those who have gone too far in what they consider God’s Law to be, the world perceives Christianity as something to be avoided. When they are invited to share with us in the great blessings God has to offer in the feast we celebrate today, many make excuses.

That’s the reality which Christ depicts for us in the parable He tells in today’s Gospel. There are many for whom the things of this world are simply more important than Christ. While it is true that we Christians are not supposed to be a bunch of sourpusses who want everybody to give up everything fun or enjoyable, it is also true that Christianity demands that loyalty to Christ come before these other things. Those who put other things first before God are simply breaking the First Commandment, for they make such things, whether property or business or family or leisure activities or money or whatever else it may be, into their god. And false gods don’t like to be threatened. They don’t like to give up their hold on a person. And so when invited and called to join the feast by means of the Word of God on the lips of their Christian friends and neighbors, many make excuses. Not this Sunday, I promised the kids I’d take them fishing. Not next Sunday either because I’m scheduled to work that day. And so it goes. None of these things is wrong in themselves. But sooner or later it becomes evident that these things are being used as excuses to keep a person away from God’s feast, away from His blessings.


And so the invitation turns to others. Those who are satisfied with what the world gives them, think they don’t need God or His feast of salvation. But those who realize that the world is not, and can never be, their true source of happiness and joy, are only too thrilled to come to the feast. It is only those who realize their sinful condition, no matter whether outwardly rich or poor, who are able to see what a great blessing this feast is. To those who know their own sin, even the greatest blessings and pleasures of this world are as filthy rags, dust and ashes compared to the true riches and true joys offered by the Giver of the feast. Those who have no home in this world, who know that this world can never offer a true shelter against our true enemies, sin, death, and the devil, are only too happy to be compelled to come in to the heavenly mansions and partake of the feast of victory which has no end.


Jesus originally told this parable about the Jewish leaders of his day. They were, after all, the ones who had originally been invited to the feast by means of the promises that had been theirs for centuries in the Old Testament. And they rejected the invitation, because their concerns in this life were too important to them. They thought of themselves as righteous already because they thought they could keep God’s law, and they were more concerned about the welfare of the earthly nation of Israel than with their own membership in the true Israel composed of all believers in the true God. They saw no need for the feast because their false god, their own concerns and interests, didn’t allow for it. And so they made excuses why they should not come in.


Those who did finally come in represent those who were not part of the Jewish leadership of those days. Those within Israel who did not seem to have a part in the religious establishment, the tax collectors and “sinners,” as well as those from outside Israel who were wandering without knowledge or hope in the true God who were invited to share in the blessings of knowing Him. This last bit, the part where the servant goes out to the highways and hedges, is the part where you and I come in. We are the ones whose ancestors started out outside the city of God’s people, since we are gentiles. But it is those who know their need who see the feast for the great blessing that it is. Those who already think they have everything, spiritually speaking, just don’t care.


But even though we are technically gentiles, us modern Christians find ourselves today in much the same position as the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. Many of us have been Christians all our lives, we’ve known the Holy Scriptures from little on up. There are many among us who could say that they haven’t committed the gross outward sins of adultery, stealing, or murder, and that we’ve been pretty good people. That’s where the danger is, though. Our spiritual pride at being associated with the Church and being “pretty good people,” can threaten to separate us from the very blessings the Church is here to provide and distribute. Those who don’t see their sinfulness don’t see the need to sit at the banquet where we eat Christ’s body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins. It is only as we recognize that we are the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lost that the great blessings of the feast become important to us. It is only as we see how useless and vain the other stuff in our lives is for answering the big questions about what life and death is all about, that we become the poor who are enriched by Christ. It is only as we see how badly we wander apart from Him that we can heed the invitation to come to the feast and receive His strength for our journey.


This feast is, after all, nothing less than the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. It is nothing less than inviting poor, miserable sinners to receive that by which their sins are done away with, Christ’s body and blood given and shed on the cross for the remission of sins. In that our poverty turns to riches. What we lack is made whole. Our diseases are healed, maybe not in this life, but in the life to come. Everything that afflicts us in this world is something that need no longer trouble us, for this feast is nothing less than the food of eternity. We poor, maimed, blind, lame wanderers have become God’s true people who, restored, healed, and forgiven will feast with Him forever in the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end, a feast in which we partake even now in Christ’s body and blood. Amen.


✠ Soli Deo Gloria ✠

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