Come to the feast
A Homily for Trinity II
June 21, 2020
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Luke 14:15-24
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
When I was in high school, I was a very quiet and reserved person. I'm sure this is surprising. I was much more reserved and quiet than I am now. I think that I've struck what I think is a fairly healthy balance between quiet time alone, and being with other people. Although, my extroverted friend finds it very odd that I am perfectly content to go on long hikes alone in the woods. However, back in high school, I would find any excuse I could to get out of a social obligation. I had an amazing number of stomach aches back then.
This morning we hear of how several people were invited to a feast, a big party – and they all said they would be there. Then one by one by one, they pulled out with various lame excuses.
Perhaps you're someone who can sympathize with my high school self and the invitees to the party. Or maybe you've been on the receiving end of these lame excuses, and know the pain that the party host felt. I am sure that many people have been on both sides of this. They know both the pain of social awkwardness and of rejection when you were looking forward to getting together with a friend, and they bail at the last minute.
When we hear Christ's words this morning, we can get a vivid picture of the emotional reaction that is being felt by the party host. Perhaps we also sympathize a little with the guests. The imagery that Christ has used is not foreign to us even today.
As we read this passage, we realize that there are three types of people that Christ depicts. There are those that say they will come to the party and then don't. Next, those that accept the invitation and enjoy the party. Finally, those who need to be coerced to come, whom we assume come in the end.
The first are those who outwardly appear to love God, but inwardly don't have time for him or those who give lip service to God, but never spend any time with Him. The second are those who accept the gospel and allow it to form their lives. The final group is those who think that they are incapable of accepting the love of God. They believe their lives are too ugly, too broken, too messed up. This group needs to be convinced strongly that God does, in fact, love them. I suspect that at times we have all been in at least two of these groups, if not all three.
Our lesson this morning begins with a man who is a fellow guest saying, "Blessed is everyone who will eat the bread of the kingdom of God!"
The man starts with the assumption that he's already in and will eat of the bread of the kingdom of God, which is a fascinating assumption to make.
This parable lies amid Christ's appeal of his fellow dinner guests to take the humble positions when they have been invited to an event. These exhortations come after he watched his fellow guests jockey for the best place at the dinner table. But, he teaches, the ideal of the kingdom of heaven is humility. The ideal of the kingdom-minded people is not to prefer a position of honor but to love others and allow the most humble to enjoy the same benefit that the richest.
The idealistic man responds as he did – but Jesus' reaction isn't "yup! You're right, it's gonna be amazing!" He tells a story.
As an aside – I want to take a minute to point something out. Sometimes when you want to drive your point home, and you want to help people understand where you're coming from or you want to convince someone that your side is right, the best approach isn't a full-on attack. Instead, it's to gently say "have you thought of this," or simply to tell a little illustration.
In a time when everyone is yelling, when everyone is jockeying to have their voice heard, and there is so much partisanship – socially and politically – we can learn something from Christ's manner. As Christians, we can be the quiet, gentle voice of reason. Instead of seeing if we can out scream our opponents (and we can't by the way) – we can gently listen and then say "well, that's interesting, what about this?"
Similarly, instead of saying, "are you sure you have a place at the table?" – Jesus tells a story about a man throwing a party.
Now, when you imagine this party – I don't want you to imagine a small barbeque with a couple of friends. If we want to think of a barbeque – think of a huge pig roast. If you are unfamiliar with a pig roast – it is when someone buys a whole pig – think a full size – 250 plus pound pig, digs a big hole, and roast it until the whole thing was cooked. Then they'd through a huge party – and hundreds of people would show up. As you imagine a party – think of it like that – not like a small, humble gathering of friends. This is a huge blowout.
And what does this feast point us towards?
First – the feast points us towards the incredible abundance of the grace of Christ. The grace we find in Christ is abundant like that of food that we find at a huge party – there is more than we can imagine, more than we can hope for.
Someone struggling with sin can reach a point of despair – or perhaps in realizing the depth of his depravity, he wonders – how can I possibly be redeemed? Yet this parable points us towards the abundance of grace that is found in Christ.
Perhaps my favorite Anglican-Puritan quote comes from Richard Sibbes, who wrote, "There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us." If you find yourself worried or overwhelmed by your sin, turn to Jesus and remember that amazing promise – remember this fantastic feast that overflows with grace and mercy for you. Remember "There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us."
The abundance of the feast points us towards the abundance of the love of God. One of those things we often find such joy in meditating upon is the love of God. It is because it is of such an incredible abundance. It asks nothing of us – and it gives us so much. It merely demands that we accept it, and from there, it changes our hearts our minds and our souls – it redeems – it sanctifies – and restores us from our brokenness.
Perhaps most importantly, this parable points us towards the final feast – the marriage feast of the lamb. The feast that we hear of in Revelation 19 – the feast of which we simply read: "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"
Yet – when we partake of the bread of Christ and sip of the wine of his blood – we partake in a foretaste – a little sampling of the incredible joy that will come on that final day – when the church is finally bound to her savior, when we finally have true and perfect intimacy with Christ.
We have been invited to that feast – will you be there? Will you make time, or will you make excuses and miss out?
Next, as we contemplate this parable, we see that there are those three types of people I mentioned earlier.
First – some are like me in high school – which would seem to concoct any excuse to get out of an engagement. We need to understand that it was not as though the servant went, knocked on the door the day of the party, and said, "hey, y'all wanna come over? I know it's short notice, but we've got a roasted pig!" (Though, they wouldn't have roasted a pig - maybe a fatted calf.) No, the master had sent out a notice and received RSVPs back. He knew who would be there, and then one by one, they each had an excuse.
As we read these excuses, they are meant to sound lame – the first two were decidedly illegitimate. The people simply didn't want to come. The last – was legitimate, but a new marriage should not have precluded some from coming to a party. More importantly, the last person was exceedingly rude. He didn't say – "let me be excused" – he said, "Nah, I'm not coming."
Now – if you were raised in the church – or you've been in the church for a long time we want to pause for a moment here – and do some serious introspection and ask if you fall into this category? When Christ beckons us to abide in Him, do we respond with joy and readiness, or do we respond with apathy?
Sometimes I look back on the first year, or so I was a Christian, which makes me a little sad. Not that then was a sad time – but intimacy with Christ seemed so easy then. I devoured His word, I wanted to know everything about him. At times, it feels that those passions seem to have dwindled.
But much like a marriage – our walk with Christ matures – passions dwindle – but love – true love grows. Much like in a marriage – it is always a good idea to check our heart – to ask ourselves – are there ways in which we need to grow? Are there places where I'm letting distractions seep in, and I need to weed the garden a little bit? There is no shame in asking for help – there is no shame in realizing that we need to refocus from time to time; in fact, there is a tremendous amount of grace.
This first set of people – are not those who need to be coerced – nor are they the meek – but it is those who are entrenched in the religious system. It is those who are in church every Sunday – but neglect their heart for the rest of the week. It is those who think their place is guaranteed but neglects their time with Christ, and continually refuse his invitation.
The second group are those that are lowly – they are the poor and the crippled and the blind and the lame. My friends – in order to rest in Christ – in order to abide richly in Him – in order to delight in the marriage feast of the lamb – we need to recognize that without Christ, we are poor in spirit. That we are spiritually crippled, that we are blind without Jesus, that we are the lame – the meek.
This is where we are called to start, and the posture our heart is to remain in – one commentator summarized it so beautifully:
"So a man may approach the doorway to the kingdom bringing his own religious ideas, his own status, and reputation, his own calculated advantage, or his own scale of values. But he will have to shed every one of these things if he is to pass through that door. There is no room for them. Naked he came into the world, naked he will go out of it, and in the same way it is naked that he must pass from his unconverted life into the life of the kingdom of God."
So humble and poor – we come into the kingdom, and in humility and poverty, we learn to delight in the marriage feast. It is there that we find ourselves rich beyond our wildest of imaginations. But it starts with a lowly and meek heart. It begins with recognizing your own spiritual depravity.
The final group is those that are in the highways and hedges. These are the people that we are to understand are far from God – whether physically or emotionally. We are called to go to these people and to compel them in. We need to contemplate three things:
First – some are emotionally and spiritually far from God – though they long to know him. They feel as though there is no way God could love someone as dirty, sinful, broken, lost, or as horrible as they see themselves to be.
For these people, we need to show them the love of God, we need to assure them that there is an abundance of love more deep, more amazing than they could possibly imagine. And in that love – he will heal, cleanse, redeem, and mend them. They need to know that our savior is Gentle and Lowly.
One of my buddies and I are reading a little book this summer called "Gentle and Lowly." We both found ourselves drawn to the following quote this past week:
"if the actions of Jesus are reflective of who he most deeply is, we cannot avoid the conclusion that it is the very fallenness which he came to undo that is most irresistibly attractive to him."
My friends – if you struggle with knowing the love of God, if you struggle if wondering if you are worthy of the love of God – please remember this precious truth – you are irresistible – you are incredibly attractive in a true and deep sense to Christ our savior. And in this love you will find so much more than you could possibly ever imagine.
Secondly, we are called to go those – called to go to those who are metaphorically far from God and to those who are literally far from us. For those who are metaphorically far from God we are called to incarnational ministry, we are called to show them the love of Christ, which we know.
This love, to quote the venerable saint: Is patient and kind; This love does not envy or boast; This love is not arrogant or rude. This love does not insist on its own way; This love is not irritable or resentful; This love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. This love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This Love… this love never ends
My beloved friends – if you or someone you know struggles with knowing God – with feeling like you must earn his affection – remember this and remember what St. Paul also says – that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Let me say that again – nothing can separate His children, nothing can separate us from His love.
Finally – the master tells the servant to compel those who are far away into the church. To compel is a strong word – it means to suck in like a vacuum. But we must be careful here. Too often, we have seen forced conversion or horrible atrocities done to bring people to Christ. This is not what Christ meant. Instead, our lives should reflect our words – and our words should reflect our lives, and each should be so compelling that others see it and want the same love we enjoy. It should be so compelling that by the grace of God, others are sucked into that love.
My dear friends – no matter which group you find yourself in there is hope. If you find yourself this morning uncomfortable because you find your attitude closest to the first group – and need to have the fire in your heart rekindled – if this is you – pray that God through the Holy Spirit will rekindle your heart. If you find yourself in the second group – take heart and abide richly in our savior, continue to feed the fire through prayer and dwelling richly in His word – through the ministry of the Holy Spirit – through the promises that He has given you. If you find yourself in the last group – know how deep you are loved.
And no matter what group you find yourself – come today to the Lord's table – come today to breaking the bread and drinking the wine of Christ and rejoice – rejoice in the love that you experience and taste there and it as a foretaste of the future marriage set your heart afire. For in that love you will find hope and healing and joy. For in that love you will find assurance – for in that love you will find renewed life – revived live – revitalized life.
Let us now go to the table.
IN the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.