Second Sunday after Trinity
Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 11:22
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In our text from the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus tells a story, a parable, in order to explain the Kingdom of God. “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many” (Lk 14:16). The man throwing the banquet represents God the Father. The banquet, to which He invites many, is God’s kingdom, which will be fully realized in heaven, but has already begun on earth within the Church. And this is a banquet unlike any other. To call it a “great banquet” is an understatement. It is the banquet of the ages, the wedding feast of the Son of God as He takes His bride, the Church, unto Himself.
You’ve probably attended some impressive banquets in your lifetime. But after eating your fill, you woke up the next day hungry. So it is with every earthly meal and with every earthly pleasure and pursuit. But Jesus says, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst again” (Jn 4:14), and, “whoever eats of the Bread that I will give will live forever,” (Jn 6:51). He is speaking here of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. In His banquet God the Father serves the Bread of eternal life, the medicine of immortality, and He sends out His invitation to many, saying, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine that I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live!” (Prov 9:4).
It’s common to hear people say, “I hope I’m good enough to get into heaven. I hope God decides to let me in.” We tend to have this idea that God has plans to turn people away at the gates, to deny entrance to those who are desirous of heaven. But this is a false idea of heaven and a false idea of God. Scripture teaches the opposite: “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (1 Pet 3:9). “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). As Jesus teaches us, the Father is actively inviting all to His banquet. When the many He first invites refuse to come, He sends the invitation to the poor and crippled and blind and lame. And when there is still room at the table, He sends out his servant a third time, saying, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Lk 14:23).
This is God’s will, that His house would be filled. In every generation His servants have been at work, hand-delivering the gracious invitation to eternal life, yes, even compelling people to enter the wedding feast. Contrary to the way we often think, God does not reject people from his banquet. No, those who have been invited reject God. In a manner of speaking, the door to hell is locked from the inside, and that terrible place will be inhabited by those who refused the invitation to heaven. This is what Jesus teaches us in His parable.
“At the time for the banquet, [the Lord] sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses” (Lk 14:18). They were all rather polite in their excuses: “I just bought a new field… please have me excused” (Lk 14:19). And there were a variety of excuses—there always are: new field, new oxen, new wife—and today we could add: new career, sports, leisure, sleeping in, “I’ll come later, I promise, just not today…” As a pastor, as one of God’s servants tasked with delivering His invitation, you can be sure I’ve heard all the excuses. God does not turn people away. People reject God for themselves, perhaps politely, generally with some sort of feeble excuse, but, whatever the case, they are spurning God’s gracious invitation.
And now we come to the wrath of God. Yes, God does have wrath, but not for the reasons we might think. God isn’t angry when you accidentally let out a curse word. People are always apologizing to me when they swear, as though God’s only listening when the pastor is around. And God isn’t uptight when you have a couple of beers and enjoy yourself with friends at a party. He’s not angry because you’re a sinner. No, He loves you, in spite of that fact. What does make God angry is when sinners whom He loves spurn His invitation to be partakers of eternal life. When those who were called to enter the heavenly feast refuse to come, God the Father is angry—not at sinners, but for them, because they are rejecting their own salvation. He’s angry in the same way that parents would be angry with a child who turns down a full-ride scholarship to MIT in order to do meth. This anger is actually a manifestation of love: God, who is more loving than the world’s greatest father and more compassionate than the most tender mother, desires good things for all of His children.
The love of God is the driving force behind His invitation. And because He loves you, your heavenly Father doesn’t give up. He sends out his servants again and again. In fact, you can rightly say that every moment of your life, every joy, every trouble and hardship, has been part of God’s extended invitation to you. He invites and even compels you to enter into all joy.
Why does God do this? Is it because He needs you to perform some task within His kingdom? Does He need you to volunteer in church or donate ten percent of your salary? No. When you’re invited to a wedding banquet as a guest, do you go into the kitchen and start peeling potatoes? Of course not. You find your seat at the table and you wait to be served. So it is in the greatest banquet of all. God the Father is hosting the meal, and you are the guest of honor. What would God have you do? Do nothing. Sit and be served. And who does the serving? Our Lord Jesus Christ. This, by the way, is why we call our gathering on Sunday mornings the church service. Your hymnal is the Lutheran Service Book. The ancient order of worship that we follow is the Divine Service. But you are not the one serving. God, the Divine, has invited you to His banquet in order to serve you.
Among Christians today, one of the greatest excuses for not attending the banquet is that we are too busy serving God. We often think that the purpose of church is for us to volunteer. We can be so distracted our giving back to God, that we miss out on the primary action of the Divine Service, God serving us!
Our Lord Jesus is both the server and the food itself. For He says to all who are invited, “Take. Eat. This bread is My Body which is broken for you. Take. Drink. This wine is My Blood, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whoever eats the Bread that I give will live forever. Whoever drinks from the water of life will never thirst again.”
The feast to which our Lord invites us is the great banquet of heaven that never ends. But today He gives us a foretaste, a preview, of what is to come. Even one crumb from the Lord’s Table grants eternal life. One drop of the Blood of Christ is more than enough to cleanse the filthiest soul. Does God have a problem with you because you’re a sinner? No—though He’s not going to leave you that way. But broken people are the only ones who can be compelled to come to Him. Are you poor, cripple, blind, or lame? Then His invitation is especially addressed to you. Come. Leave your sins at the altar, and be filled with every good thing. Come, receive without price the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation. Set aside all petty excuses, and let our Lord Jesus serve you with His Divine Service. Come, for everything is now ready. Amen.