The Second Sunday after Trinity
[Luke 14:15-24] …But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Brought in from Near and Far
A man is asked if he’s a good person, and he gives this response: “I provide for my children. I’m faithful to my wife. I go to work, and I do my job well.” A hundred or more years ago he may have said, “I plow the field well; I plant on time. I tend to the livestock. I provide well for my family.”
And on the night of the man’s death, God may reply: “I never knew you; you never took the time to know Me. You knew the earth and your family, but you didn’t live by faith in the One who created them both and who created you.”
Self-reliance is often touted as a virtue, perhaps the best virtue. To God, however, our self-reliance is the sin of sins. Self-reliance is the opposite of faith. Self-reliance is the belief that I can be God for my life, for my home, for my family. Self-reliance rejects God’s place as Provider and Savior and declares me to be sufficient.
Self-reliance is one side on the same coin as self-righteousness – the belief that I am good and can stand before God. If I am good enough in myself, if I can rely on myself, what need do I have of God’s feast? And what need does my family have for God’s feast? They have me to lead, guide, and provide. This is sinful pride.
It’s easy to say, “I’m a good person”, when I set my own standard of righteousness – based chiefly on those things in life I believe I’m doing well. It’s no surprise when the family man believes being a good family man will win him God’s approval. And the workaholic believes working long hours is the standard of righteousness. But God says, “You’re righteousness is not sufficient. You need what I supply at my Feast.”
In our Lord’s parable today, those nearest the Master of the House – those long-term friends of God who have always been on His invite list – show the true belief of their hearts, that they do not need the Feast He provides:
The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
These are not small excuses. Field and oxen in an agricultural society put the roof over the head and the food on the table. Marriage makes the family. But how sadly ironic it is when the greatest gifts God gives you in life – and the greatest responsibilities He bestows upon you – become your excuses for no longer relying upon Him weekly and no longer worshiping Him.
The feast that God gives, to which He has invited you, is this feast here, in His church, where He feeds you what is most needed. All that you have is created by God, including your own soul and body. What you – your soul and body – and what your home and family and spouse need above all is peace with God who created you. Peace that is breached by your sin.
It is sin to not worship God. It is sin that God is not your greatest love in life. It is sin to not be eager to hear from God, to hear His Word, and to desire to obey it. It is sin to not call upon God’s name in reliance upon Him.
To fear, love, and trust in God above all things – to use His name rightly and value it – to worship God by hearing and believing His Word – these are the first three commandments before you ever get to the other ten. To neglect these is, first and foremost, sin. Our little love for God is then reflected in our little love for neighbor. Little worship of God in heart is related to little love of neighbor in action.
“Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.” What exactly is the Feast which God, the Master of the House, gives for you? The substance of the Feast is the Savior, His Son – Jesus who died for sinners – Jesus who suffered on the cross for sin in man’s place so that you are forgiven – Jesus who rose from the dead to make men and women and children new, to bring you from death to life – Jesus, the Bread of Life, is the substance of this Feast in Word and Sacrament.
Jesus and what He has done for you is the food of this feast. What Jesus has done for you on the cross is fed to you in the preaching and hearing of His Word, God’s Word, the Scriptures. What Jesus has done for you is fed to you in the Confession and Absolution. What Jesus has done for you is fed to you in the Lord’s Supper for those taught and confirmed in the faith.
In the parable, those who were near to the master – the original invitees – did not come. Today, the baptized children of God forget their need for God and come in presence but not in heart. Our fallen nature’s belief in self-sufficient righteousness, and a sinful self-reliance, take our hearts far away, even when we’re near.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace.” The cross of Christ has reconciled you to God, near or far. By Christ’s sacrifice, God is at peace with you, no longer holding your sins against you. You are forgiven for little love of God. You are forgiven for little love of neighbor. You are renewed in this Feast so that these loves may now grow.
What you need, truly, and what your family and home and spouse need – and what those around you in your life most truly need – is all found in this Feast. Here, you have the source of all the rest, the Provider and the Savior of all the rest.
Home, family, friends, and spouse most of all need you here even though they oftentimes want you elsewhere. Your presence here keeps what God gives present in their life too. But when this feast becomes second place in your life, then they too become that much further away from what God gives.
The chief of sinners – the poor, the crippled, the lame, and blind in spirit – those short on righteousness and crippled in regards to goodness – are brought in from near and far to this Feast to receive the righteousness of Christ alone through His Word and Sacrament. This weekly feast is necessary sustenance for our salvation – we must rely upon it.
So, on these hot summer weekends – whether here or in your vacation locations – let the barbeque and family time take second place to this weekly Feast of God. Wherever you are, whoever you are with, schedule your weekend plans around your attendance at this Feast to which you are invited. Here, what is truly needed for you and them that day is provided. Amen.