Sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity, AD 2021

Luke 14:15-24

A man prepared a party and no one showed up. What a terrible circumstance, it’s one that people have stressful dreams about. It’s one thing to ask for a favor, like helping you move, and no one wants to come. To refuse a free party must really put that host low on their priorities list. The man had even invited the guests already, he was just telling them everything was set and it was time to come. This parable could seem harsh, but if you put yourself in the place of the host of the banquet, you can see how offensive these responses would be to him.

Look at the responses the man receives – one man must check on his field, another just bought oxen and has to prove them, and a last just married. The man who just bought a field does not have to defer from the banquet. The field will still be there tomorrow. Why not come to the banquet tonight? This man has a sort of sinful pride in what he has gained. If you have a good garden growing you like to go look at it several times a day. Sometimes you work a little, sometimes you just admire it. There’s nothing wrong with gardens, or with buying a field, but the pride of the man in his possession is getting in the way of coming to the banquet and offends the host.

The man with the yoke of oxen, on the other hand, is concerned with his wealth and the things of the world. Rather than coming to the banquet, he has to manage his new purchase. Oxen are a wealth multiplier and an important investment.  You would think, with such a great purchase, he would have people to do this for him. He is so wrapped up in the minutiae of things that he neglects the banquet. He would rather be micro-managing his wealth. It is not wrong to have oxen, but he seems unnecessarily concerned with them to the point of insulting the host.

There is also nothing wrong with taking a wife, yet the final invited guest uses marriage as his excuse. Here he uses technicalities of the law to get out of the banquet, for it was written in the law of Moses that a man was exempt from military duty in his first year of marriage. But a banquet is not war, and his wife is certainly invited too. It is not that he could not come, but will not, and makes an excuse to appear right, while still insulting the host.

This parable has an historical meaning, but also a meaning for us. The host is God, who sent his servants to proclaim the banquet of Jesus Christ. For Jesus is the bread of life, He is the true food who we eat by the Word. He is inviting the guests to come to the banquet, that is to believe in His Son. God began this in the Old Testament, with the promise to Adam of the one who would crush the serpents head, the promise to Abraham of his seed who would bless all nations, and many other promises and announcements of Jesus sent through the prophets.
Yet Israel would not heed the invitation. Throughout the time of the Old Testament, they constantly turned away. Then when the banquet was ready, meaning Jesus had come, they refused to go. They like the invitees in the parable were wrapped up in their own pride, their things, and their appearances. The invitation, the message of Jesus, was like an invitation to a party when they were too busy. Besides, they went to their own parties all the time.

So they were rejected, but those in the streets of the city, the crippled, the poor, the blind, the lame, they were not invited to parties. They recognized their need. For the rejection of the people of Israel, or the Jews at this point, wasn’t complete. Some still believed, and would come to trust in Jesus. But they weren’t usually the rich and powerful. They weren’t great politicians, statesmen, warriors, and high priests. No, those people were too concerned with their own things, with keeping their power, their possessions, and reputation. It was the people with nothing to lose, who saw that this world isn’t everything, who would believe, who would taste the feast of Jesus Christ. Young women like the virgin Mary, and Mary and Martha, poor lowly priests like Zechariah, and blue collar workers, shepherds and fishermen.

Not just the good people low on the societal totem pole who believed. For the message was also heeded by the tax collectors and prostitutes. Why? Because the invitation was God’s Word, which works on the heart. The law of God came to those open sinners, who acknowledged they were sinners, and then they heard the Gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ alone and believed. For to believe the gospel you must first recognize your need for it, recognize that you are a sinner and deserve nothing from God. The lowly the world recognize this. The open sinners can come to recognize this. Yet how difficult it is for those who see themselves as good, who have no hardship in life. They refuse the banquet invitation, seeing what they have as better than what God can offer.

Yet God desires all to be saved. He has prepared many places, and the poor and crippled and blind of the Jews do not fill the banquet hall. The man sends his servant outside of the city, to the highways and hedges, to compel people to come. This is the call of the gospel going out to all, to the Gentiles of all nations. They are compelled to the banquet, not by force, but by the Word of God, by convincing with Law and Gospel, from the Word they had never heard before.
Our Lord has prepared many seats for his banquet. It is ready now, as Jesus Christ has died, taking on the guilt of all of our sins, and risen from the dead as our vindication. We eat of Him now by His Word, as we hear it preached and in the sacrament. Ultimately, God has prepared a place for all who will be saved, from every nation on earth. He sends his servants, his preachers, both pastors and laypeople, to spread the message of Jesus Christ to others.

It is true that many will reject it. Many even inside the church, growing up in the church, reject the gospel. They may change religions, become areligious, or just drift away and no longer hear the Word of God preached. Christ is warning us that such people will not taste of the banquet. No one gets in on another’s ticket. Sometimes it is easier to go out to those far away in the highways and hedges, or serve the nearby poor and crippled and blind, than to confront those close to us who refuse to hear the gospel. We do not want to start drama, seem like that crazy religious person, or hurt our relationship with our friend, child, sibling, or parent. But what is more important, peace now, or that person’s eternal soul?

Maybe there is one person who can think of who you can consciously and intentionally pray for and invite to the feast in the next six months. One person who has not heard the Word of God, or not heard it in a long time. You do not have to look far. Know this – it is the servant’s job merely to announce the invitation. The Word of God does the work. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes the heart. And God has already prepared the banquet and the place settings. All those who do not refuse do have a place set for them already. We merely let them know the places are there. And they are an amount that no one can number.

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