The Gospel is the “good news,” but in today’s Gospel lesson, everyone is invited, but not everyone comes.
It’s common, today, to hear the lament that we don’t desire everyone to be baptized or commune, that when a stranger walks in, we’re more ready to turn them away than we are to welcome them.
We’re not very hospitable, I’ve heard it said.
Well, neither is a hospital. Hospital. Hospitable. Hospitality. That’s what we’re talking about.
As a hospital refuses to dole out its medicine without an examination and prescription, so the Church refuses to pour out the medicine of immortality without first examining the sick and suffering soul seeking succor.
Everyone is invited and welcome.
We desire everyone to be baptized and to commune.
And—we care so much about the words of our Lord—the words of the Living God—we want to do things rightly.
However, in ignorance, some love the darkness rather than the light, that is, they insist on going their own way.
It rarely seems as though they love actual darkness.
It seems as though they love fields and cattle and wives.
But is that different from the darkness?
They don’t claim to be hostile toward God, but neither do they rejoice to hear Jesus say, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet” (Luke 14:24).
Everyone is invited to learn—to be baptized—to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus—and—we will do so according to our Lord’s invitation.
It rarely seems like the world loves actual darkness.
But Sunday’s the only day to sleep in, or…
A bad experience—had once—and years ago—with a pushy lady in church—or a rude old man—and now, church-going’s ruined forever…
Or god is worshiped conveniently, as is only right in the eyes of the busy worker who takes no time for God but has all the time in the world for family, friends, and fleeting fun.
It rarely seems like the world loves actual darkness, but that is love of darkness and hatred of God.
It’s difficult to know how to respond to such excuses, other than to describe what excuses are like and admit that everyone has them.
Honestly, we’re all at ease ignoring sin and letting everyone do as they will so long as we have the appearance of peace.
But in today’s Gospel lesson—in the good news for today—we don’t, at first, have the appearance of peace but the stern Law of God preached fully.
The Lord is angry.
None of those who rejected the invitation will ever taste the banquet.
They’ll be cast into the abyss where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The invitation to hear and believe and learn and rejoice was extended, and, week after week, it was rejected.
You need to know that a tacit rejection of the truth is still a rejection of the truth.
We’re all guilty of this.
Bad choices made. Wrong choices made. Non-Christian choices made. Ungodly choices made. And we say, “But I still love ‘em.” And what we mean is, “I’ve decided to completely ignore their sin and my own so as to maintain the appearance of peace.”
We act as though excuses legitimize sin.
That’s a far more comfortable way to proceed, I agree, but that’s the Neville Chamberlain way of dealing with the devil.
To refuse the invitation to hear, learn, believe, and rejoice is to love the darkness. And to water down the expectations of God so that more people think themselves at peace and safe is actually endanger the souls of all those nearby enough to hear what’s said.
You have not peace—if you have false peace.
So we won’t do that. We don’t give that away.
True as that is, that’s not the main point of the parable.
The main point can be said like this: we like being busy—we don’t like being faithful.
The invitation goes to the wealthy—a landowner, a grazier, and a newlywed.
It is the height of arrogance and pride—when invited to a party—to see who all’s been invited first before deciding whether or not to go.
That’s basically what’s going on.
No one’s opposed to attending a party.
No one’s opposed to attending a church.
It just depends on your definition of party and church.
That’s why the Lord is angry.
Because the Lord’s definition of “party” and “church” is the last thing the world wants to give its time to.
But—it’s the only thing worth your time.
And—it’s the only thing enabling you to spend all time rejoicing.
Those who think themselves wise and wealthy reject the invitation.
So the Lord sends the invitation out to the poor, the lame, and the blind.
The invitation goes out to beggars who won’t turn down a free meal, who need all that the Lord offers.
May God, in His mercy, plant this hunger and need in each and every one of us—and all our children!
God gathers His people from the poor, the lame, and the blind (cf. Luke 14:13).
We bring nothing to the Kingdom.
We’re all beggars. This is true.
The party isn’t more interesting because of our arrival, believe it or not. In fact, we’re a drain on the Kingdom’s resources.
We’re neither morally nor ceremonially pure. We’re not ethnically clean. We weren’t born of the right mother. We don’t belong in any king’s house, let alone the house of the King, the Lord of Hosts.
We’re beggars: poor, lame, and blind.
But we are invited. All are invited.
Our Heavenly Father delights in our presence.
The fattened calf is ready to be sacrificed.
The Son of God has set His face toward Jerusalem, and He goes to cross and death to atone for us and all the world, to shed His blood and bring peace—actual peace—to all who come to Him and hear and believe.
Roasted on the fire of the Father’s wrath, Jesus is forsaken to save us.
Washed in the blood of God, in Holy Baptism, the Spirit intercedes for us before the Father.
Naked and helpless—with nothing to offer—beggars all—God seeks and finds and names us as His own.
He came and took us by the ear to Baptism.
He scoured the world, the highways and hedges, for the disenfranchised, the weary, and the sinful.
He brought us all, as beggars, before the throne—to crown us with honor—to unite us, forever, to Christ.
As ugly and as dirty as our sins have made us, God paid the bridal price and redeemed us out of death and hell, and now, we join the royal family.
All are invited. Called. And loved.
We are beggars, but God declares us to be His own children, His own people, the pure and holy Bride for His pure and holy Son.
And so we beg—and God is merciful.
We’re sick—and God is our Great Physician.
We’re afraid—and God is Almighty.
And we sin—yet God has saved us.
God’s majesty won’t be robbed.
He won’t share with other gods, being merely the best or highest god in the pantheon of world religions and fake-peace.
Our God is the Lord. He won’t share His place or power.
No one saves himself. No one forgives himself.
No one helps God.
His is a Kingdom for beggars…
But we don’t want to beg. That’s beneath us!
What’s wrong with our fallen ears that obeying God seems wrong?
It’s pride. We want our part. We want control.
We want honor. That’s the problem.
A proud man will stomp and yell, slam doors and demand his due.
A beggar will sit in shame, wanting help, having forgotten the honor of man long ago.
To be a beggar, to have nothing, and to receive God’s free gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, is the greatest joy on earth and in heaven.
And it’s the only thing that makes for peace.
May God in His mercy preserve this doctrine and joy in each of us and in our children.
We’re all beggars, but the Father has revealed Himself as merciful in His Son, Jesus.
Today, as you come to this altar to beg of God the Body and Blood of Jesus, remember that you don’t deserve it.
You don’t earn it.
And it looks like nothing of value.
But it is what Jesus says it is: given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.
I desire everyone to receive it—rightly—worthily—as Jesus commands.
We’re beggars. We are who we would never invite to a party.
And so, God invites us all to church—to hear and learn. To believe. And to rejoice—in the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Amen.
That is the love of God to each of us. And that should be our love to each and every neighbor.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
The Second Sunday After Trinity, 2016
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt