Trinity II, 2016
Text: Luke 14:15-24
You are invited to the Great Banquet - which is the Gospel
A Man once sent out his servants to invite people to his banquet. But they were busy. Busy with the good things of life. One had a business to take care of. Another had just purchased some equipment and wanted to make sure it worked right. Another was busy with the work of setting up a new household. So each of them, as politely as could be, asked to be excused. “I can't make it right now, because I've got this thing I have to do. I really do wish I could make it – so please excuse me this time.”
That seems a reasonable request. These are good excuses. Who would be so unreasonable as to be upset with someone who couldn't make it to a party because he was getting married or had to work his land? There's a time for everything – they would get around to the banqueting when they had the time.
Repent. This is no mere party and the Man sending the invitations is no mere Man, but the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He has written these invitations with his own blood and delivers them by the tongues of his Holy Apostles. And with Jesus, it is all or nothing. He does not compromise and he accepts no excuse. He is the jealous God, whose love burns white hot and tolerates no rivals. He is the God who commands men to love him with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength. No half measures. No excuses.
But men are the masters of half-measures and excuses. There is no sin that a man or woman cannot excuse away. Everyone justifies his own actions to his own twisted satisfaction. The adulterer blames her spouse for her affair and excuses herself. The murderer says the gun just went off or the knife just went in. The unforgiving grudge-holder blames the insufficient groveling of the offended party. The gossip excuses destroying reputations by pleading that what he says is merely the truth.
Repent. You must check your excuses at the door when you enter this place. Out there in the world you have worn your masks and excused and lied your way through life. For all men are liars. Lying to spouses, lying to children, lying to bosses, lying to self. But not here. Here Jesus knows all, so you might as well confess all and let go of all your excuses.
Perhaps you have been fooled by a trick of anatomy. Because you have two hands you assume that you can hold on to two things at once. You think you can hold on to your excuses and Jesus. You think you can say both, “I'm basically a good person” and “Lord, have mercy.” You think you can plead, “I just can't find it in my heart to forgive this person” and yet also plead, “Lord, forgive me my sins.”
But you can't hold on to both. You cannot serve two masters. The more you grip the one, the more your hand slips from the other. Thus the people in the parable. They wanted to have both: they wanted to have the Kingdom of God and have the comfortable life they always dreamed of. And so they held on to their jobs or their family or their money, and the tighter they griped these things, the more they lost hold of the Kingdom of God, until finally they asked to be excused from it altogether. And they got their wish.
And who is invited in their stead? The lame, the blind, the poor, those who must be compelled to come: those who have nothing else to hold on to. Those who have no excuse. Those who have nothing better to do than come to the Feast of the Kingdom of God. And here's the trick: you are poor, and blind, and lame, and in need of compulsion. For you were born in sin, you have no riches of holiness to offer to God, you are crippled in spirit. In truth, all men are. But some will hold on to the lie that they are not. Some make the ridiculous excuse that they are not as blind as other blind men by saying, “Sure, I'm not perfect, but I'm not as imperfect as other imperfect people.” But that mises the point: you are either blind or you are not, you are either holy and perfect or you are not. God does not grade on a curve. Those who wish to hold on to their excuses and their pride, cannot be compelled to come to feast – for they will not consent to be brought by grace but insist on earning an invitation. But no invitation to this feast can be earned: it comes only as a gift to those who have nothing else to hold on to.
So you who hear the Word of God and know your poverty of spirit, you who are sick of excuses in yourself and others, you who have given up on having it all and just want mercy instead: be compelled to come to the feast. For look what is provided for you. Here at the Feast is your very salvation. Here at the Feast you receive mercy and life. For here you receive Jesus – the one who became blind, and poor, and lame, and compelled for your sake. For his love compelled him to be lifted up on a cross and die for you. He did not use his Godhood as an excuse to avoid this fate: instead he let go all except his love for you. He poured himself out as an offering to the Father for your sins. And so he took your place, and suffered your fate so that you might have his place and receive his life.
For truly, for your sake, Jesus became blind, and lame. For no eyes are so blind as those closed in death and no body so lame as the corpse laid in the grave. And in this is God's love for you: that he himself would take your infirmities into himself so that you might have life and healing. For since the grave could not hold Jesus down, neither can it now hold you down. As Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave, so shall you be compelled to be raised and live forever in body and soul with your Lord in a Feast that has no end.
The Feast has no end, but its beginning is now. Now come to the Feast. Come receive the Body and Blood of Jesus and have the forgiveness of your sins. Be healed by the risen and undying Body of Christ. Be fed with everlasting food. Receive the riches of God and know that your poverty is redeemed. See with the eyes of faith and leaving behind earthly blindness confess that Jesus' Word is sure even if every man be a liar. And what he says is this: I love you, I died for you, and so it is finished, you are forgiven, you shall be raised, for I am raised and you are mine: and I am yours. So here, take, eat, this is my body. Come to the Feast…
in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding
will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.