Invited to the Party
Rev. Kurt Lantz Trinity 2 Luke 14:15-24
June 18, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people invited to the party,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Everybody likes a party and this is a good time of year for wedding receptions, family picnics, and outdoor birthday parties. People put a lot of effort into hosting these kind of events and they are quite fun and enjoyable. It is an honour to be invited. Yet, even though we look forward to these celebrations and think of them as great things to do, it doesn’t mean that we attend each and every one of them. We make decisions about which to attend and which to skip. Sometimes at the last minute we decide there is something more pressing that requires our presence and then we offer our excuses.
Jesus was at a fancy dinner party and someone there mentioned how blessed the people are who will be be at the great feast in the kingdom of God. In many places the Bible describes this as a feast of the best food and wine, as a wedding reception filled with joy and celebration. Certainly everyone there will be enjoying themselves. Who wouldn’t want to be there?
We are all glad that we have been invited through Jesus’ words of invitation to come to Him in faith and trust, knowing that He has given Himself for us by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. He has gone into heaven to prepare a place for us and He will come again so that we might be with Him in an eternal celebration with all who have died in the faith. So we agree with the man at the dinner party who said, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15)--bread, meat, wine, and plenty of other things, I am sure, while everyone is celebrating in joy and gladness.
In response to our eagerness to be a part of that great, festive, eternal celebration, Jesus gives a solemn warning about a man who hosted a great supper, invited many people, made all of the preparations and sent out his servants to announce that the time to celebrate had come. But those who had been invited asked to be excused because of other stuff that had come up which seemed important to them.
You know, the busy affairs of life and the significant things that have to be dealt with from time to time (the purchase of property, business acquisitions, starting a family). These are all important things having to do with living our lives faithfully in the different vocations that God has given to us. We have responsibilities in the community, at our jobs, and to our family. Surely, these important details of the responsibilities of life need to be attended to.
Jesus’ warning to the people at the dinner party was that it is all too easy to let the responsibilities of life in the kingdom of this world, lead you to reject the invitation to life in the kingdom of God. The things having to do with our life in the kingdom of the world seem to be of greater urgency or importance for the moment. This is the stuff that we have to do. In contrast, the things having to do with the kingdom of God are stuff that God has done for us. Although that is what makes it more important, it feels much less urgent because we don’t have to get it done. All the preparations for the great eternal banquet have been accomplished in Jesus.
You should never be made to feel that there is something you need to do to to inaugurate the kingdom of God. It is not waiting for you to get your job done. Everything is now ready. The Lamb of God has been slaughtered for your sins. They are all paid for completely in the life of the eternal Son of God. He has come not to be served, but to serve. There is nothing that you need to do for Him. You have been clothed in the robe of the righteousness of Jesus through your baptism into His death and resurrected life. You don’t need to lay out any money for finer clothes or worry about getting yourself all dolled up for the party.
In fact, in Jesus’ parable when those invited refused to come, the invitation went out to those who obviously could not do anything to get ready for such a grand event. The poor and crippled, the blind and the lame, were all brought in. Jesus had previously told the host of the dinner party He attended, that we should not target the rich and influential for our guest list in order to ensure that we get something in return (Luke 14:12-14). Rather, we should target our invitations on those who cannot pay us back.
And that is exactly what God has done in inviting us to the eternal feast in the kingdom of God. As morally poor, there is no way that we could pay the entrance fee. As destitute of righteousness there is no way that we could meet the dress code. As ethically crippled, there is no way that we could drag ourselves there. As spiritually blind it is impossible for us to see our way. But this is precisely whom God has invited to His supper. He has sent out His servants to bring us in. He has made all of the preparations and paid all of the cost and wants His house to be filled for the celebration.
Sunday Divine Service is often referred to as a foretaste of the feast to come. It is, in the sense that we will experience something far greater when Jesus sends His holy angels to gather us into the eternal feast. But it is not merely a foretaste. It is also a current participation in the eternal feast that all those in heaven are now enjoying. Because Jesus is present with them and He is present with us here in His Word and Sacrament, we are united together in the same celebration.
Wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, there He is in the midst of them, and if He is there, then so also are all who are a part of His mystical body: those in heaven, those separated from us over the expanse of this wide earth, all who are gathered in the name of Jesus, whenever and wherever His invitation is heard.
This is an event that we can participate in at any time in any place. Unfortunately, that tends to make it seem less urgent to us than the cares of this life. After all, you only buy a house once or twice in your life; it is not every day that you purchase five yoke of oxen or perhaps 5.0 L of engine in a new car; and, according to God’s gracious blessing, you get married once in a lifetime.
But, hey, there is church every Sunday. There are prayers for morning and evening and mealtime. There is a Bible or two or more in the house that could be read any time you choose. Instead of this underlining the importance of Jesus’ invitation (It is so important that we do have church every Sunday, that we do pray throughout the day, that we do make sure everyone has access to God’s Word); instead of this underscoring the importance of God’s invitation, we let it be the reason why it can be set aside for any number of excuses.
It could be also that in our minds the celebrations of the kingdom of God do not seem all that important to us because, well anybody can go. If He will let anyone in there, is it a place I want to be? That is sometimes how we evaluate events in the kingdom of the world. But again, this should be something that draws us in to the kingdom of God, rather than drives us away.
The invitation goes out far and wide, not because there are no standards and anyone can get in, but because the standard is far higher than anyone can attain, and yet God in His grace has sent His invitation to all. We should not spurn God’s grace extended to any and all others, because that same grace has been extended to us and we are in just as much need of it as anyone anywhere else.
Our desire to be in the kingdom of God is increased because God’s house will be full. Not that everyone who is anyone will be there, but everyone who is in Christ will be there. We often long for larger attendance at the Divine Service and other church events because more people make it more enriching. The singing is stronger, the visible perception of God extending His kingdom reassures us of His promises. The strength of confessing in a large group of Christians gives us confidence before the opposition of the world. We find other people like us who are having the same challenges and some who are able to share our burdens.
The fact that people far and wide from the highways and hedges will be brought in should inspire us to be sure that we are there too, among all those who are in Christ. God has invited you to be included in this majestic and glorious celebration, to be in the company of angels, apostles, martyrs, rich and poor, strong and weak. You have a place reserved among them.
There will be a day when Jesus returns in all of His glory and His holy angels are sent to the four corners of the earth to bring in all the guests for that eternal feast. But if you have seen reason to repeatedly excuse yourself from the gracious invitation that He gives now, will you also want to be excused on that day? Will He find you on that day to have lost all desire and intent to be among those who will fill His house?
To most people the day comes unexpectedly when they close their eyes in death and the holy angels are sent to carry them home to heaven. Does it catch them pursuing other matters, having rejected an invitation to celebrate in the kingdom of God so that they could chase a dream in the kingdom of this world?
There are times to steadfastly and conscientiously see to our responsibilities in the matters that pertain to our callings in the life of this world as fathers, mothers, citizens, employers, and employees. But we need to repent of those times when the urgency of things has become our excuse to be absent from the presence of a gracious God and Father who has invited us to His table.
Jesus told his parable with those invited giving three excuses for why they couldn’t come. He didn’t counter them with three reasons why it would be better to come to the supper. He countered the three excuses with three different invitations, sending out the servants three different times. Why should we forsake the urgent matters of the kingdom of this world and come to the great supper of the kingdom of God? Simply because the gracious Master has invited you.
If you have offered your excuses, like those in the parable, then hear again the invitation. Acknowledge that your sinful excuses have made you poor, crippled, blind and lame in spirit, and you will hear the invitation come to you again. Even if you feel that you have distanced yourself too far. The Master is reaching out far and wide. Even as you run away on the highways and hide in the hedges, He sends His servants out, so that you might come in. “Come, for everything is now ready” (Luke 14:17).
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.