Trinity Two Sermon 2004| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| Luke 14:16-
Jesus spoke in parables. The topic of most parables is the kingdom of God. In the parable before us today, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a great supper or banquet prepared by God for His people. Those He originally invited did not want to come. So He invited others. He insisted that His house be filled with guests. Those who despised His invitation would not get even a taste of His supper. Today let us consider this banquet’s value, guests, and invitation.
The value of this banquet is greater than the value of anything else that occupies our time and attention in this world. Those who despise the invitation by placing business and family matters above the banquet show what they value in life. They think that making a living and managing a home are more important than being fed by God. That is a fatal mistake.
God invites us to church for a banquet. The kingdom of God is the church. We call the church on earth the kingdom of grace and we call the church in heaven the kingdom of glory, but there are not two churches. There is only one church. The church is made up of those who eat the supper prepared by the Lord Jesus.
The value of this supper is described in today’s Old Testament Lesson. “And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well‑refined wines on the lees.” Jesus does not offer us leftovers. He doesn’t give us a few dollars and send us to some cheap restaurant where you don’t know where the food came from or even what it is. No, He invites us into His Father’s home and He feeds us with the best choices of meat and the very finest of wines. The meal is not prepared haphazardly and no expenses are spared.
The Old Testament Lesson continues:
And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.
This is not just any kind of food. It is a food that gives eternal life. Not only will God feed His people with expensive food. He will take away their shame. He will destroy death and take away all sorrow as well. What is this banquet, but heaven itself? There is no death, no sorrow, no guilt or shame or regret in heaven. But while this banquet is a picture of heaven, it begins right here on earth where we live. The gateway to heaven is on earth. The food that we eat that gives us eternal life is not given out in heaven. It is given out here. It is given out at the supper. We eat in the midst of concerns about business, family, job, school, and getting along with that difficult neighbor. The eating and the drinking of the supper is in fact how God prepares us to do business, take care of the family, job, and everything else we need to take care of in this life.
Accepting the invitation to the supper is accepting the invitation to go to church to receive what Christ has given the church to give. It is to His church that Jesus has bound Himself as bridegroom to bride and as head to body. It is to His church that He promised, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It is to His church that he has entrusted the giving out of the bread of life.
The banquet is here. Jesus said,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:32-35)
Jesus alone can give life. He is the bread of life. Those who come to Him and believe in Him are not left hungry and thirsty because He satisfies their deepest need.
What is your deepest need? When the job and the family keep you from coming to church on a Sunday morning, what remains your deepest and most pressing need? I’m not asking you what you want. I’m asking you what you need. Do you think that when the time comes for you to leave this world you will regret that you spent too much time in God’s house listening to the gospel? Will you wish you hadn’t gone to the Lord’s Supper so often? Will you regret the fact that you heard the absolution too many times?
What is valuable? I’m not asking you what you want. I’m asking you what you need. Consider the guests invited to this banquet. I don’t think we will be able to appreciate the value of this supper until we take a close look at who’s invited. When the despisers of the supper gave excuses that revealed their values, the master of the house said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.” These are the kinds of people who are invited to the supper.
So are you poor? Are you maimed? Are you lame? Are you blind? Or are you rich, with everything you need? You’ve got the job, the family, the home, the status, and the comfort you want. Are you spiritually whole? Can you can stand before God and look Him in the eye and tell Him that you have loved as He tells you to love and so you have lived as He requires you to live? Or must you admit in sorrow that you have failed God, your brothers and sisters, and the promises you made to Him to be faithful to His truth and to His word?
The invitation goes out to people whose jobs and families cannot fulfill their deepest needs. It is for those who have failed. They’ve lost the job because of their own fault. They’ve angered others because of their own sinful pride. They’ve make and broken promises. They’ve started out with great intentions only to live in service to their own appetites and egos. Instead of loving their brothers and sisters they have loved themselves most of all. And they know it. And they are hungry. Their hunger is not primarily for success in business and home. It is a hunger for righteousness. It is a hunger for the forgiveness of sins. It is a hunger for the words of Jesus that the church has to give. These words from Jesus derive their authority from His crucifixion and resurrection. These words pronounce, bestow, and thereby guarantee the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
If you are poor and maimed and lame and blind this is the place for you. This is where the Lord Jesus invites you to come. For here is it that He gives you the food for your soul that will make you wealthy, give you true health and vigor, and open your eyes to see the truth by which you will be forever blessed. You belong here in Christ’s church. Only those who enter into the kingdom of grace here on earth will find their way to the kingdom of glory in heaven.
A better job and more time with the family are not going to take away your sins. More success in business and a bigger paycheck are not going to provide you with the assurance that God in heaven loves you and is smiling on you and celebrating true life with you. You need the supper.
The supper is for those who are washed in Holy Baptism. They soil themselves every day by their sins and they need to return to be absolved. The forgiveness of sins that the minister pronounces is the forgiveness of sins God intends for all His children. It is not the pious wish of a pastor or the uncertain hope of the penitent. Jesus Christ bought this forgiveness. He loved when we hated. He obeyed when we refused to obey. When we were running after the concerns of this life with no concern for eternal life it was Jesus who with single-minded devotion gave His life to the task of taking away our sins and making us into saints. The only way He could do that was by taking our sins upon Himself and suffering the full punishment that they deserved. This is the same Jesus who absolves us, proclaims us to be righteous, and feeds us with His body and His blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.
We come to church to find Jesus who satisfies our true spiritual needs. He feeds us so that our hunger is taken away. He gives us to drink so that we are not thirsty. And He is the only one who can satisfy us.
The invitation to the supper comes from Jesus and from Jesus alone. No one who is not invited by Jesus can come in. Those who come in embrace in faith the gospel and the sacraments of Christ. Only those who receive what Christ gives in His gospel and sacraments receive Christ and the eternal life He alone can give. This is why, when we are confirmed, we promise that we will be faithful in the use of the means of grace. This isn’t a promise to do God a favor. This is a promise to receive God’s favor. God promises us eternal life in Christ. Christ promises to be present as our Savior to save us wherever His gospel is purely preached and His sacraments are rightly administered. This is why we insist that our pastors preach God’s word purely and we won’t have any fellowship with pastors who don’t. This is why we promise to receive the purely preached gospel and the rightly administered sacraments. This isn’t devotion to a church ritual that by going through liturgical motions we satisfy some kind of a religious rule. This is coming to the supper to be fed. This is receiving the choicest and richest and most delicious food from God Himself and finding in that food true satisfaction. It is the peace of sins forgiven, the joy of having God’s pure love, and the confidence that God will surely provide us with everything we need in our jobs, our businesses, our homes, and every other facet of life.
Christians go to church. That’s where the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind find true riches, health, sight, and life. It is our true home in this world and the gate to heaven.