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The Second Sunday after Trinity

June 09, 2024; Rev. Kurt Lantz, Pastor
Proper 16 C. botticelli. parableoftheweddingbanquet.jpg


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Invitation to the Good Life

It is the time of year when people are trying to enjoy the good life. Off they go camping, or for a day trip, or to the cottage. Not everyone has the resources to do this for themselves so when an invitation comes to spend a day or two enjoying the good life, it is often well received.

 

Today’s readings should leave no doubt that the invitation has gone out. In the Old Testament Reading from Proverbs 9(:1-11), lady Wisdom invited all to come to learn from her the fear of the LORD. In the Gospel Reading (Luke 14:15-24), the master had sent out invitations to his banquet and the servant announced that all is now ready. And in the Psalm for today we heard, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Psalm 34:11).

 

It is always a topic of concern, and a point of criticism, and a measure of judgment upon a congregation, her pastor, and her members when the attendance is down. In most of the church buildings in North America, there are more empty seats than filled. Fifty years ago, congregations were concerned about expanding their buildings, now many are selling them, as we also did five years ago.

 

It seems strange and somehow wrong that there should be a problem with church attendance. That is why it sometimes haunts us and causes feelings of inadequacy and failure, and the desire to find the cause and reason and have something to point to in order to say, “that is why,” or “there’s the fault,” or “this is what we need to do.” After issuing the invitation, “Come, O children...” our psalm asks, “What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?” (v. 12). Who isn’t like that? Who doesn’t desire the good life?

 

It turns out there are quite a number who don’t want the good life. They want a life of leisure. They want a life of fun. They want a life free from illness and worry. Unfortunately, that is not what is on offer at the church. Not directly, anyhow, and so people decline the invitation and look elsewhere for the good life as they define it.

 

The good life as today’s psalm defines it is not a life that brings good things your way. It is a life where goodness emanates from you. A good life is a life in which you do good. “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (vv. 13-14). That is the good life.

 

Most people don’t want to do good. They just want good things to happen to them. And in order to have their good things they are willing to let their lips speak deceitfully. They are willing to bend the truth and cut corners to seize good things for themselves, without them actually having to be good.

 

In the Gospel reading, those invited to the banquet felt no need to go to the good feast prepared for them because they believed they had gotten good things for themselves—some property, new yardwork equipment, and family. What more could they need for the good life? Those are the things that are featured in video advertisements, aren’t they?

 

A good life according to God’s Word is a life that recognizes the good in God, that He gives good things because He Himself is good, and those who receive His good gifts, live in His goodness. This is true wisdom, a wisdom that you are invited to receive along with all of its benefits. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). There is a whole banquet there for you to chew on, an endless supply of delights as you get to know more and more of the God who is good and whose goodness is poured out for you.

 

God is good to all—the rain that falls, the crops that grow, the life that is in all people—it is all from Him. But His greatest goodness is in the love that He has for sinners, for those who have seized the good things of life for themselves through deceitful lips. God’s goodness is that He wants to rescue them from these deceitful goods and give them His own true goodness.

 

This great goodness is shown in His Son, Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven, to live life in this world, in these bodies, in order to redeem us. He came in order to bring some goodness to mankind who has always desired to grab for the more pleasant fruit (Genesis 3) and to point blame anywhere but at himself when things don’t seem to be as good as he thinks they should be.

 

The goodness of God was injected into humanity when the eternal Son was incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary. There a sinless, righteous, holy, good life entered our world. He dispensed His goodness to those who were brought low by many afflictions of body and soul. He brought healing and strength and forgiveness and peace to all who would receive Him, all who longed for the good life that comes from God, the life of His Son.

 

This is the good life that He invites you to come and enter, to feast and be filled. “What man is there who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?” Here is good for you to see, the Son of God become man whose goodness was sacrificed for your sins, so that you might be the good that He is—sinless, righteous, holy, forgiven of all, and filled with the Spirit to do good to others.

 

This is the goodness of God, Jesus Christ, who is given to you and who fills you with His life, the good life. This is the good that is yours that now keeps your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. This is the good that turns you away from evil to seek peace and to pursue it. This is the good that brought you here in answer to His invitation to live the good life.

 

When you know that your fields and your oxen and your wife have come from the goodness of God, then you are all the more eager to take Him up on His invitation to come and receive more. But when you feel that you have been able to seize these things by your own cunning stratagems, then you don’t see a need to hear His call to come. In fact, it then seems a waste of time while you could be going out to seize more of the good life for yourself. That is why there are empty seats in churches. That is why your seat is sometimes empty. That is why He continues to invite you to receive the good life of redemption in His Son.

 

People have a hard time finding true goodness in the world. That is why they create a manufactured goodness, something that looks good and even feels good for a while, but has no lasting good. So people do good things because it makes them feel good. They do good things so that they can be known by others to be good, even more so when they tell others that they do not want to be recognized for their good because that is their way of making themselves look more good.

 

People do good in order to try to make themselves good. They try to balance the scales so that the deceit and lies of their lives will be excused. I am going to buy a bag of groceries for Community Care so that I can balance off lying to the young girl collecting for Sick Kids Hospital at my door.

 

These are not examples of what is truly good. These are examples of the evil that has infected mankind since he first took hold of the fruit that looked so good. It is not good to do things to feed your own ego. It is not good to think that you can undo wickedness with charity. These things are evil, manufactured to look good in your depraved mind.

 

What is truly good is placed before eyes at church. To live the good life is to lay down one’s life for others. That is not what you do. That is what Jesus did for you in order to deliver you from all of the evils in this world, including your own sins. In His goodness He hears your prayers when you cry to Him for forgiveness and rescue. He hears and He saves. In His goodness His eye is always on you and His ear always listening, to deliver you from every trouble.

 

That includes delivering you from every wickedness of the wicked people around you. He promises you not only eternal life in His comfort and care, but He also promises to cut off all memory of the wicked. You will not be troubled by what they have done to you. Even their manufactured good deeds will pass away. In their efforts to seize the good life, they will be overcome by afflictions and have no rescue. They will die in their troubles because they have spurned the Lord’s invitation to come to the good things He has prepared for them.

 

But although you may have many afflictions, the LORD delivers you from them all. He delivers you from your many sins. He delivers you from the many sins that others commit against you. He delivers you from the enticements of manufactured goodness so that you have a truly good life in Him, receiving all that He has prepared for you through His death and resurrection.

 

This good life is for all who take refuge in Him. It is not a weekend at the cottage, but a life lived under the grace of God—under His watchful eye, within the range of His attentive ear, in His arms which were outstretched on the cross for you. He invites everyone to share this good life with you. Many spurn the invitation, but He keeps sending it out far and wide, to the highways and the byways, compelling all who would take refuge in Him, to enter and feast. “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Psalm 34:11).

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