13 June 2021 (2013)
O God of Peace, Who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, that in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of Thy Spirit lift us, we pray Thee, to Thy Presence, where we may be still and know that Thou art God; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Our text is a parable Jesus told while at a dinner. It was a special dinner, held for a circle of colleagues and for Jesus. They were all respected religious teachers, but Jesus was more. He had a few things to teach His host and the other guests. They were uncomfortable that Jesus had found so much in them to correct. Someone exclaimed, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” That gave Jesus an opening.
Yes, those who eat bread in the kingdom of God are blessed. But as His parable makes plain, not everyone wants to eat bread in the Kingdom of God. Some even refuse it. The good news is that Jesus invites all to dine with Him. He would have you drop everything and come. He will fill His heavenly feast.
Then He said to him, “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.’”
Dear fellow redeemed,
There’s something fishy about this parable, something weird in what happens. Consider the content of the invitation to this great supper. The message was, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ Is that how you word invitations that you send? I doubt it.
Our special invitations might sound more like this: “Please come to a great supper I’m planning on June 15th, starting at 5 PM. Everything will be provided. Please RSVP by June 10th.” Do you see the difference? God’s invitation to the kingdom of God is urgent. He wants you to drop everything and come now. Jesus said that he sent his servant out with the invitations at supper time!
We try to eat supper at around the same time at our house. Before I began preparing most of the suppers, my problem was that I often get busy with other things, and I’d like to finish before breaking for supper. I lose track of the time, and before I know it, there’s none left. Thankfully, my wife and family are so gracious that I usually still get to eat with them, only we sometimes start a bit later. Maybe you know someone else with a similar problem.
What I don’t like is that moment of decision. Noticing the time, if I continue working any longer, I will be late for supper. But if I stop this work, there’s no telling when I’ll be able to continue. Other things take over. So I work a little more, and supper time is past. That’s what you do to God when you put off His invitation: you despise preaching and His Word. You profane the Sabbath.
Jesus’ parable is about that moment. That’s why the invitation is urgent. That’s why it wasn’t sent until supper was already prepared. God would have you drop everything and come eat bread in His kingdom. Now.
Usually we consider this parable with the thought that eternal life in heaven is at stake. What could possibly compare? Who would ever refuse? The choice is made before we hear the question!
But within the parable, it’s only a meal. Some of us skip meals sometimes, and we survive. Can you really blame the people who begged off with their excuses? “I have bought a piece of ground.” “I have bought five yoke of oxen.” “I have married a wife.” Those were pretty good excuses. They were each in the middle of something important that has taken a lot of planning and effort. Land and business are serious concerns, and who will suggest that a man should leave his uninvited bride at home and go enjoy a feast without her? Is a meal — even a “great supper” with an urgent invitation that only arrived at the very last moment, to drop everything and come — is it reasonable to expect a responsible, busy person to do that? Maybe with an advance warning, the guests would have been able to fit it into their plans.
The host of the great supper is being unreasonable. He’s assuming that his supper is more important than anything else in the lives of his guests, and that they should all share his high opinion of it. That’s how God thinks of His invitation to eat bread in the kingdom of God.
So now, apply this to yourself. You are the busy, responsible person who has several irons in the fire. Your projects may not be important to everyone, but they are important to you! And now the servant has come to you, and is standing in this pulpit. I say to you, “My Master is giving a great supper that surpasses any other: a supper of forgiveness and a clean conscience; a supper of mercy and eternal peace with God, and it’s all for you. Come, for all things are now ready. Come now, without delay. Drop everything else and come to the Supper.”
How do you respond to God’s urgency? “But you don’t know the trouble I’ve seen. You don’t know the commitments I’ve made. You don’t know how busy I am. Mama never told me there’d be days like these. Just give me half an hour to finish what’s important. Give me a day or a week for myself, for my work, for my recreation.” For those who give such excuses, God says, “none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.”
So then, when the invited guests in Jesus’ parable seek to excuse themselves from this urgent invitation, what does that mean in real life? It means that many people whom God invites to receive forgiveness and eternal life right now are too preoccupied with their earthly business to put their trust in God’s Son. Are you so different? Maybe your preoccupation with earthly things is really an attempt to avoid facing the reality of your guilt.
Don’t delay. Drop everything and come to Jesus’ great supper of forgiveness and righteousness. He would exchange all your guilt, all your bad excuses, for His perfect record of obedience: a lifetime of diligent worship and study of God’s Word. Leave your guilt with Him, and be forgiven.
Wherever Jesus is found, there is the Kingdom of God. And Jesus said (Mark 10:45), “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” So wherever you find Jesus, in His Word or in His Sacraments, remember that His invitation is not that you should come and serve Him, but that you should come and receive the spiritual bread that He serves to you: the forgiveness of your sins, and a new life that will never end.
We so easily accept the notion that nothing can be done, and we’ll just have to put up with the situation. “It’s my work schedule.” “It’s my once-in-a-lifetime vacation.” “It’s necessary, because little Johnny couldn’t play on the team unless he misses Sundays.”
We tell ourselves that missing a little church won’t be the end of our faith, and then we say it again, and again. Soon it’s easy to say, and we’re losing track of what it means, anyway. And the day of God’s grace is growing old. Evening is coming upon the world, with the signs of Christ’s imminent return all around us. And still we make excuses.
Maybe at first, we make sure to take our Bibles along with us, wherever else we may be. Perhaps even a Hymnary. But they are easy to forget, and we still miss the communion of saints.
But today you also have every advantage. Today, the Master’s servant stands before you with His message. Your sins are forgiven. Jesus bore them all upon His cross, and paid their price in full. Even your excuses, whether lame or reasonable — they are forgiven, too. Your guilt is washed away with the power of Jesus’ blood. Today He has come Himself, in His Word and Sacrament, to feed you with Himself. Today, the Bread of life is before you, the spiritual table is set, and God says to you personally, “Come, for all things are now ready.” So come and dine with Jesus. Receive His invitation with joy, drop everything else, and believe without a doubt that the forgiveness He declares to you is real.
When you miss an opportunity to hear God’s Word in its truth and purity, in the assembly of the Church, then you have chosen something else. Yes, I know there are plenty of what we call “good” reasons to miss Church. But tell me which of them is like the Great Supper? That is, what earthly thing can actually give you eternal life? What else can provide God’s gracious purpose for your life on Earth? Only the meal of Jesus Christ, and here it is, for as long as the world endures.
I know you struggle sometimes, when circumstances seem to make it impossible for you to come and receive this heavenly feast. Yet Jesus takes that struggle also upon Himself. He forgives you. But remember too, that the chief worship of God is to believe and trust that His promise of salvation in Christ is true. So you carry your Baptism upon you wherever you may be. Circumstances may steal your opportunity, but they can’t take away the power of God’s forgiveness.
So I’ll see you again at this Great Supper, and again, and yet again as long as God grants this world to last. You are among those who are compelled to come into the supper from the highways and hedges. This is where your hunger for God’s mercy will be filled, for you have found here such delights and comforts that can be obtained nowhere but in God’s Word, in holy Baptism, and in the Sacrament of the Altar.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria