|The Second Sunday after Trinity| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| June 30, 2019| St. Luke 14:16-24|
“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, 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.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ” St. Luke 14:16-24
Jesus teaches us in parables. He tells stories that illustrate the truth about his kingdom. In the story before us this morning, Jesus talks about a great supper that a man gave. Those who were invited made excuses why they could not come. So the man sent out the invitation to others. He spoke harshly about those who were first invited, saying that none of them would taste his supper. What does this story mean?
The man giving the supper is God. The supper is the word of God, specifically the gospel of Jesus Christ. Eating and drinking is taking this gospel in and believing it. Those who make excuses not to attend the supper are the Jews of Jesus’ day. They were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were God’s chosen people. They received God’s word through the prophets who foretold the coming of Christ. When Christ comes they make excuses to ignore him. They refuse God’s invitation to the supper. The streets and lanes, highways and hedges of the city are where the Gentiles live. They are the heathen, those who do not know God who are spiritually poor, maimed, lame, and blind. God invites them to his supper. They are urged to come.
This parable is an indictment of the unbelief of the first century Jews to whom Jesus came. Jesus came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He went to the Jews first. The first Christians were Jews. God was faithful to the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their children. He promised a Savior and he sent a Savior. When they rejected their Savior, they rejected their own identity as children of God.
After Israel rejected the gospel, God invited the whole world to his supper. God was faithful to his promises to Israel. God is always faithful to his people. He must be faithful because he is God. He must be faithful even in the face of the unfaithfulness of his people. Anyone who bases his faith on his own faithfulness builds on sinking sand. God is faithful. God does not forsake his people. He cannot deny himself.
The greatest tragedy of history is that most of Israel rejected their Savior when he came to them. The greatest crime of history is the crucifixion of Jesus. The greatest tragedy is when God’s chosen people rejected the God who chose them. The greatest crime is the crime of Deicide. They murdered God. From this greatest tragedy and greatest crime comes the greatest gift for us who are poor, maimed, lame, and blind.
God’s grace is particular and it is universal. God’s grace is particular. He chose Israel. He didn’t choose the French, the Norwegians, the Japanese, or the Lakota. He chose the Jews. That God chose Israel, and no other nation, as his holy people did not mean and does not mean that God’s love, his grace, and the invitation to his supper was for Israel alone. God’s grace has always been universal. This means that when the gospel invitation is given, it is given to everyone without exception.
Nobody can see into another’s heart to know for sure what that person believes. Any Christian can tell a sinner that he has a Savior. We tend to think about salvation only in the subjective sense of someone personally being saved. We need to think of it also in the objective sense about what Christ, the Savior, has already done. St. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:10, “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” What does this mean? That God is the Savior of those who do not believe? The text says that God is the Savior of all men. Christ is the Savior of all sinners everywhere. That’s an objective fact. It’s true. Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners and that’s what he did. The Son of God was incarnate, born, lived, obeyed, suffered, died, and rose from the dead. This is salvation. This is what the gospel proclaims. This proclamation is God’s invitation. He invites everyone to his supper. Only those who eat and drink, only those who believe receive salvation. The whole world is objectively saved. Jesus has done everything necessary for salvation. Only those who believe are subjectively saved. Only through faith in Christ does anyone receive the salvation accomplished by Christ.
The invitations go out. They are never insincere on God’s part. God doesn’t make an offer he doesn’t mean. The food is prepared, it’s good to eat, and if you eat it you will live forever. It gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. You are invited. Do you have any doubts about that? You think maybe you’re not really invited because of what you have done? And what is that? Are you a sinner? Are you the very worst kind of a sinner? Are you spiritually poor, maimed, lame and blind? Then you are invited. If you don’t deserve to be invited, then you are invited.
You were saved, rescued, delivered from the guilt of your sin, the power of the devil, and the fear of death when Jesus suffered and died for you. This happened as surely as Jesus rose from the dead. The fact of your salvation was sealed to you when God baptized you and thereby joined you to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism isn’t magic water. It isn’t holy water. It’s water used by God’s own command according to Christ’s institution. You were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Your salvation, accomplished two thousand years ago, was given to you.
Is it yours? It’s complete. Jesus gained it. You are baptized. God gave it. It’s gained and given. Have you got it? Are you personally saved? Are you at peace with God? Does your soul rest in the grace of God? Are you personally forgiven of all your sins?
Eat. Drink. You’re invited. Eat and drink. This supper is for you. It is the bread of life, which if you eat of it, you will live forever. It is the water of life, which if you drink it, will spring up within you and give you eternal life. You’re invited. The invitations have gone out. Your name is on the invitation.
The tragedy of the Jewish rejection of Jesus is not just what happened then and there. It’s what has happened ever since, wherever the invitations have gone out. That tragedy has had repercussions throughout history. History repeats itself. The gospel is proclaimed, the supper is announced, the invitations go out, and with the invitations come the excuses. Property, job, and marriage – these are all important things. These are blessings from God. None of them is as important as the supper.
The supper is treated with disdain by those who care more for their money, or their job, or their family than they care for the Word of God. We’ll be celebrating the Independence of America this week. Pray for America. It used to be that Americans honored Sundays. Even those who did not bother going to church themselves showed respect for those who did. No more. More and more jobs require you to work on a Sunday. Sports practices, family get-togethers, travel, entertainment, and every other activity you can imagine come before the supper. We’ll always have the church, if we need it. But we have lives to live! Thanks for the invite! But I’ve got a job. I’ve got some property. I have a wife. I’m busy.
In time you grow old. You are no longer able to work at the job, manage the property, or care for the wife or the husband. You notice that what you despised in your busy youth is now by the youth rejected altogether. Family comes first! So they say, as the family falls away, one by one, two by two, from the faith. There was always something more important.
But there never was. The church has lost her youth. What can the church do to reach the youth? As she tries to stanch the flow of young blood out of her, she adopts new measures that she hopes will appeal to their fancy. She introduces contemporary worship, features a more laid back and less formal style, and consults church growth entrepreneurs on how to grow the church. Moms and Dads anxiously watch as their children fade away and don’t come back.
It’s like the song from the seventies, “We’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a good time then,” as first the dad had no time for the son, and then the son, who wanted to grow up to be just like Dad, had no time for the dad. But we’re not talking about dad and son. We’re talking about the Christian and our Father in heaven. We’re not talking about making time for the kids or visiting the parents. We’re talking about the regular need to be fed with the bread of life. If you want to know why the youth abandon the church you need only look at how they were taught. They learned that many things were more important.
The third commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” is explained this way in the Small Catechism:
We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
Why? Because we are the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. We need to hear about Christ. We need the preaching of the gospel. We need his body and blood. We need his absolution. We are daily assaulted by the sinful desires within us that would entice us to embrace our own feelings as our god, denying the true God. Daily, we face the temptations of the devil who calls into question the fact that all our sins are forgiven by Christ’s blood and we are saved by grace alone. He would lead to trust in ourselves. Every day the world mocks the mysteries of the faith, inviting us to a different kind of a supper, a supper that looks like tasty wisdom, but is nothing but poisonous lies.
We need the food God feeds us in his supper. Come to church! Invite those you love. There’s nothing more important in your life. Pray that God will keep his word pure among us, that we may eat and drink the words of eternal life and receive what those words give.