Text: Luke 14:15-24
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The master of that Great Banquet invited people not one time but two times! First, he told everyone that they were invited. Second, on the day of the Great Banquet, He sent a special messenger to announce that everything was ready – "Come on in; the food's on the table!"
Now, what this teaches you and me is that this Christian faith is about a great invitation. It is about coming. Keep in mind, though, that this invitation is not so much a command, "Get in here and sit down right now!" Instead, it is an offer. It is a gift. It is an invitation to share in the gifts of the kingdom of God. In other words, come, God is expecting you! He is ready for you. He invites you. Everything is ready; you do not need to bring anything, prepare anything, or do anything. All is ready for you to simply receive.
As a shepherd seeks for the lost sheep, as a woman gets down on her knees to look for a lost coin, and, yes, as a father looks down the road, waiting for his lost son to come home again, the Lord is the same for His humanity. God is always seeking, calling, and inviting us unto Himself.
About 1,600 years ago, a Christian Pastor said it this way in his sermon:
"Come you all; enter into the joy of your Lord. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one; let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let none grieve over their poverty, for the … kingdom has been revealed; let no weep over their sins, for pardon has shone forth from the grave; let none fear death, for the death of the Savior, has set us free." (John Chrysostom - Easter homily)
Dear friends, it is important to understand that Christianity is not, first and foremost, a "should" religion. It is first and foremost a "come" religion. In other words, what builds and sustains the church is not Jesus' "Thou shalts and thou shalt nots" but rather, His "Come to me" invitations. Now, please do not misunderstand. The Law of God is very important as it reveals our sin to us. But it is only the Gospel that creates faith, forgives, and sustains. That is why we are so often invited to come unto the Lord - come, be filled with the Holy Spirit; come receive the forgiveness of sins!
That Pastor from long ago also told his parishioners in ancient Turkey this:
"[The Lord's] invitation is one of kindness, His goodness is beyond description. 'Come to me, all' not only rulers but also their subjects, not only the rich, but also the poor, not only the free, but also the slaves, not only men but also women, not only the youth but also the old, not only those of sound body but also the [crippled]. All of you, He says, come! For such are the Master's gifts. He knows no distinction of slave and free, nor of rich and poor, but all such inequality is cast aside. 'Come,' He says, 'all you who labor and are burdened!' And see whom He calls! Those who have spent their strength in breaking the law, those who are burdened with their sins, those who can no longer lift up their heads, those who are filled with shame, those who can no longer speak out. Why does He call them? Not to demand an accounting, nor to hold court. But why? To relieve them of their pain, to take away their heavy burdens." (John Chrysostom - Easter homily)
We should also pause a moment and understand that when Jesus says, "Come!" He does not stand on the top of a high ladder in heaven, waving us upward to start climbing. Jesus is also not running away from us, calling us to "Come!" as if we have to run and pursue Him – we better keep up, or we will lose Him! No, Jesus, Himself has climbed all the way down the ladder to come right before you and me. He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. He came by being born in a manger. He came and died on the cross. He came to prepare the banquet of salvation for us. And now – today - He sends His servants to extend us His invitation again:
"Come, for all things are now ready. There is nothing you can add to this feast. He has done it all. He has prepared the feast of salvation for you."
But this is where the hiccup comes. As you and I know from the parable, mankind often has better things to do than come and receive. "I have bought a field...I have bought five yokes of oxen...I have married a wife...I cannot come. Have me excused..." This was the response. Is it not the same response today?
Dear friends, the great tragedy is that we end up accepting the wrong invitations in life. The world dangles all sorts of promises before us that we would rather attend to, and so, we miss the banquet of Christ and settle for the lesser things – empty things that do not last. This is why Jesus laments,
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often I've ached to embrace you, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!"
And yet, Jesus still invites. The invitation continues to go out in season and out of season. People will reject, neglect, and scorn the church as old-fashioned or out of touch; nonetheless, the invitation will continue to go out to everyone. It goes out to all those who are on the back streets, to those who live in dirty little places, as well as to those who live in fine houses. Come! The good news is that you don't have to be perfect to come. Come as you are -- with all of your sins and sorrows, weaknesses and failures, problems and anxieties. Come to the only One who can forgive you and heal you. Come to the One who on His cross opened His arms wide to you. "Come, for all is now ready."
Keep in mind, though, that coming to Jesus isn't a one-time thing. No one can say: "Oh, I did that years ago." Or, "I came one time to a Christmas Service." No, coming to Jesus is a way of life. It begins with baptism. It continues as we live in our baptisms daily with repentance and faith. It continues as we come to this sanctuary to receive the Holy Absolution and the Holy Supper. You see, He who came down from heaven to meet us on our level meets us on our level still.
Baptized Saints, Jesus does not stand at the top of a ladder and calls us home. He comes below us at the bottom and lifts us up on His strong shoulders, and carries us up the ladder Himself.
And so, let us be bold this day to admit our lame excuses for not coming to the great banquet regularly. Let us not play old Adam games with silly justifications for neglecting the great invitation. But instead, let us lay aside the excuses – may our sinful excuses be crucified unto Christ as we simply receive with empty hands all that has already been done for us. Yes, come to Him today and tomorrow and the next day and the next. Come, for all is now ready! Come, you who are puzzled and seek meaning for life. Come, you who are confused and want an identity. Come, you who have failed marriages. Come, you who stumble and fall in life because of laziness. Come, you who want to pull the covers over your head from past sexual guilt. Come, you who are anxious and fearful of life. Come, you who mourn and weep with sorrow over an abortion. Come, you who struggle with anger and a gossiping tongue. Come, one and all. Everything is ready for you.
Baptized Saints, never stop coming because the Lord never stops inviting and never stops forgiving you. "Come, those of you blessed … take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation."
In the name of Jesus. Amen
Portions of this sermon are indebted to William Weedon's Trinity 2 Sermon (June 14th of 2007).