Luke 14:15-24
Trinity 2

✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠

    Last Sunday, we heard about a rich man who would not invite a poor man to his feast. Today’s Gospel tells us about God the Father, the true Rich Man, who lavishes His richness on us poor sinners by inviting us to His feast.  “Come, for all things are now ready,” He says.  The only way someone stays poor in this scenario is if they decline the Lord’s generosity.  And truly, how impoverished people make themselves if they reject the Lord’s feast in favor of the things of this world!  Today’s Gospel is a warning against taking God for granted, subordinating Him to other priorities.

    God the Father sends out the invitation to the banquet of salvation.  It is the heavenly meal of forgiveness and life which Christ His Son purchased by His death for sin and by His victory over the grave on Easter.  God has sent out His Holy Spirit to invite many through the preaching of the Gospel to come to the feast.  All things have been prepared by God; there is no cost or strings attached.  Jesus has won redemption fully and completely.  The Holy Spirit comes purely by grace to draw people to the divine banquet.  Those invited may freely dine on the finest of fare which God has to offer.

    “But,” it is written, “they all with one accord began to make excuses.”  They all had other things they thought were more important than this invitation.  Being with the Giver of the feast and sharing in the joy of His meal was low on the priority list.  Maybe another time.  

    The Lord’s Servant says, “Come, for all things are now ready,” but you say, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.”  This person is caught up in his property and does not believe that in Christ the meek shall inherit the earth.  He seeks to gain the world and in the process forfeits his soul.  He sees the value of land but does not desire the priceless land of the new creation.  He elects to go and see his newly purchased property, almost like a burial plot, showing his destiny to return to the ground in death. We dare never treasure what we have paid for above that which God has purchased and freely given in Christ.

    The Lord’s Servant says, “Come, for all things are now ready,” but you say, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.”  How easy it is to put your work before the Lord’s work!  This is why the Lord gave a day of rest – both for you to have time to recuperate, but also for you to see that your work must stop and God’s work begin.  Whenever we think we can do without the banquet of Jesus serving us His Words and Sacraments, we are by definition trusting in our own works, the works of the Law encapsulated in the five books of Moses.  The temptation for us is to value our efforts at good living over and above the grace of Christ.  Rather than trusting in those five yoke of oxen, those 5 books of the Law, we should listen instead to Jesus who said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

    The Lord’s Servant says, “Come, for all things are now ready,” but you say, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” Do you see how this last rebel doesn’t even bother to ask to be excused? He just assumes that he can place his priorities ahead of God’s priorities.  Beware, then, of making even family your idol.  Family is a great gift from God, but it becomes a curse when the gift is exalted over the Giver.  This man desires union with his wife more than union with God. He should have brought his wife to the Lord’s Feast instead!

    Here’s the thing: to come to the Feast almost always means setting aside something else the world deems to be more valuable. So what is most valuable to you?  Are you willing to set it aside for the sake of Christ?  That’s what the Holy Spirit is calling you to do.  The Christian religion is not a means to reaching some other greater worldly objective.  It’s not just a tool to teach the kids some morals or help you through the hard times so that you can then get on to with the real business of life. What we’re doing here is your life.  

    Too often we think of church as just one sliver of the pie, but the biggest pieces, our biggest goals are having a comfortable life, being healthier, enjoying our families, having pleasurable and fun experiences, retiring well.  Church then becomes just one little part of the big formula.  But Jesus is not merely a coach trying to help you attain some important goal.  He Himself is the goal.  Communion and fellowship with God is what we seek for its own sake.  There is no higher goal than that for our lives.  That’s the whole pie.  The banquet is everything.  Don’t let your other plans and goals get in the way of that.  The excuses the people in the Gospel make show that they are so caught up in their supposed “real lives” that they miss out on the only thing that matters, the only thing that is actually real.  And they miss out not because God wants to punish and damn people, but because they keep on turning away from Him, keep on going back to their property, work, and family, and so miss out on the gifts God wants to give.  They actually ask to be excused from God's presence, and so finally they are permanently excused from God’s presence forever, where there is only wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Let us all take this to heart and repent.

    For the wonderfully good news in today’s Gospel is that the Lord’s desire is to have a full house for His feast.  That is the overwhelming message here–the incredible love, the deep desire to bring His fallen people back to Himself.  You are the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  You are nothing but a beggar before God, like Lazarus last week.  But see how God treats His beggars!  Not like that other rich man, but as One more benevolent than we can fathom.  He invites the maimed, and makes them whole again.  He invites the lame, and teaches them to walk in His ways.  He invites the blind, and makes them see by the light of His Word.  All by forgiveness. The feast is the Supper of the Lord, His death for your life, His suffering for your rescue.

    Our Lord Jesus offered up His body on the cross to be “roasted” in the fire of judgment at Calvary.  Jesus offers Himself now to the whole world as heavenly food that we might receive His saving gifts and be nourished by them.  This holy food is served up and offered wherever the gospel is preached.  When you believe the gospel, you partake of Christ, and this nourishes and strengthens your soul.  It tastes of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and blessedness.  When you are surrounded by death, sin, disease, hard times, let this be your hunger and thirst.  Especially those who are under great affliction are the ones who find this food so delightful.  When terrified and fearful hearts and consciences hear in the gospel that Christ suffered and died for their sins, that He allowed himself to be prepared and served up as food for all hungry and thirsty souls–when you believe this and take it to heart, then your distressed conscience is comforted and your troubled soul is revived.

    You poor beggars have God Himself as your Rich Man, and He compels you to come in.  It’s His heart’s desire to have you with Himself.  So stop making excuses.  Stop trying to serve two masters. No longer make yourself poor by chasing after the world’s riches.  See how He even begs you to receive His gifts! “Come, for all things are now ready,” and even your silly excuses are now forgiven in the Body and Blood of Jesus.

    The Spirit’s call goes out to you again this day.  Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day.”  The banquet table is laid before you.  Partake of this holy, life-giving food.  Believe in Christ and be saved.  Receive the foretaste of the feast to come, the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end.

✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠

(With thanks to Christopher Esget)