“That My House May Be Filled”

Sermon, Trinity 2, 2015, Gospel, Luke 14:15-24
Do you remember the parable of the sower? Jesus was telling His disciples
that the Kingdom of Heaven was like a man sowing seed, some fell on rocky soil,
some on shallow soil, some on soil where the seed grew but was choked by weeds.
Jesus went on to explain to the disciples exactly what He meant by the different
soils. The seed is the Word of God. In the case of the rocky soil before the seed
can take root the devil comes and takes it away. The seed in the shallow soil
represents faith that is fine in good conditions, but in times of trouble, drought
times, it withers away because the roots are too shallow. Then there is the seed
that grows and has good roots, but is choked by weeds, which Jesus says are the
cares of the world.
Jesus is talking about this seed again in our Gospel text today, seed of the
Kingdom that is choked out by other activities. Jesus is having dinner at the
house of the ruler of the Pharisees, one of them says, “Blessed is everyone who
will eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” Jesus could have said, “Amen, brother!
How true that is,” for the Pharisee had said the right words. It will be blessed for
those who eat bread in the Kingdom of God. But Jesus knows what is in a
person’s heart. He could see that the Pharisee took it for granted that he would be
among those who were going to eat bread in God’s Kingdom. Jesus wanted to
warn the Pharisee, and everyone, about taking our position in God’s Kingdom for
granted. So He told the story of the man who invited guests to a great feast.
In this story we have a group of people who have standing invitations to a
feast by this man. They have already been invited. The man sends his servant to
tell them that the feast is now ready, and what is their response? Thanks, but no
thanks. One says, “I’m sorry but my business calls me away. I just bought a field
and need to look at it.” Another says, “I just bought some oxen. I need to check
them out. The third one said, “I just got married. I’d need to spend time with my
new bride, thanks.”
The man was not happy when he hears of all these excuses. He had gone to
a great expense preparing it. He decided he wasn’t going to let the food go to
waste or the feast go uncelebrated. If those invited didn’t want to come, he would
share the feast with others. So he sends his servant to go find people in the streets
and lanes, the blind, crippled, the poor, those who would appreciate a feast. It
didn’t matter. Anyone was welcome. So the servant goes out, spreading the news
of this wonderful feast to anyone who will listen, passing out invitations like a
sidewalk club promoter in Times Square. Some accept the invitations, some
didn’t. Who knows why? Maybe some are too proud to accept a free meal. When
the man throwing the feast finds out that there is plenty room for more, he sends
his servant out again, this time going way out, to the highways going to foreign
countries, to the hedges where the homeless sleep, compelling people to come in.
The host is determined to have no empty seat. This was going to be some
celebration, the best ever. Those people who decided not to come won’t know
what they are missing. The host says, “I tell you, none of those men who were
invited shall taste my banquet.”

Jesus was probably hoping that the Pharisees listening would plug
themselves into the story. For the Pharisees and the people from which they came
were the ones who had the first invitation to God’s Kingdom. Out of all the people
of the earth, God invited their ancestor Abraham to the banquet. God had
promised Abraham and Isaac and Jacob/Israel, that he would make a nation of
them, bless them, that from their descendants would come the Savior, the
Messiah, the Christ, who would bless all the nations. Abraham accepted the
invitation. He believed God, that He would give Him and Sarah a son when he
was an old man and she was way past childbearing age. He accepted the
invitation by faith. And God counted Abraham’s faith in the promised Messiah as
righteousness. Abraham kept that invitation with him his whole life. And he
passed it on to Isaac his son, and Isaac to his sons, and Jacob to his sons. And
Jacob became a great nation–Israel–freed by God from slavery in Egypt to go to
the promised land. The people of Israel were God’s invited, chosen people. They
had the promise of the great feast to come when the promised Savior, the
Messiah, would come to them. But, like the men with various excuses in the
parable, when He came to them they had better things to do. When Jesus came
announcing the in-breaking Kingdom of God in His teaching and preaching of the
Gospel, they rejected His invitation. They said no, go away, we have our own feast
going on.
Do you remember the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what
he could do to inherit eternal life? Jesus told him to sell everything he had and
give it to the poor and come follow Him. The rich man went away sad, because he
valued his possessions, his fields and oxen and his family life over following
Jesus. And not just rich people rejected Him. Most did, especially.
Jesus came to His people, Israel, the people with the invitation going back
to Abraham, but most did not receive Him and His announcement that the feast
was ready. Some accepted the invitation, His disciples. But most did not. Most
rejected the invitation. Most rejected the messenger, Jesus. They killed the bearer
of good news to them.
So when He had risen from the dead He instructed His disciples to go and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to hold onto all
that He had commanded them. (Matthew 28:18). In Acts chapter one, right
before Jesus ascends into heaven, He tells His disciples that they will bring His
invitation to the banquet starting in Jerusalem, and then radiating out from
there to all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8) They
would go out to the highways and hedges and bring the message of salvation
through faith in Jesus to the whole world, to the sin-sick world, crippled with
selfishness, lame with pride, blind to the Light of the world. This invitation was
the Word of the Gospel, the story of the Son of God who took on human flesh to
share our temptations, to suffer our weakness, to live the righteous life we
couldn’t, to die for us on the cross, for your sins and mine, so that believing in
Him we could receive eternal life in the Kingdom of God where the feast of the
Lamb has no end. Through the spoken and written Word of the Apostles, and
those who followed them in the Holy ministry, this invitation went out into the
world. It is still going out. God is still sending it. To you.

You here this morning, like Israel, have a standing invitation to the feast.
You received it at your Baptisms. You are adopted into God’s family, His
Kingdom. You are made a chosen people, the new Israel. And just like the first
Israel, you have been given wonderful promises. You have been promised that
you have been forgiven in Christ Jesus. You have been promised that you will be
raised from the dead when Jesus returns on the last day, and that you will live
forever in your new restored and glorified bodies, in the new restored and
glorified heavens and earth. You have been promised that the Lord Jesus will be
with you forever. And you have been promised that the gathering of the saints
around the Word and the Sacraments here and now is a foretaste of the great
feast to come. Here, in the Church, is where we are already celebrating the
banquet until He comes again in glory on the last day.
This is the banquet. This is where we are blessed to eat bread in the
Kingdom of God. As in Jesus’ time, it doesn’t look glorious to the world’s eyes.
But to God, this church is the most beautiful spot on earth, for this is where His
Son, the true bread from heaven, is present, speaking to His children the words of
truth and beauty that He spoke two thousand years ago in the temple and the
synagogues of Judea. That church radiated out from Jerusalem to the nations of
the Roman Empire throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe in the first centuries of
the church. People from the East and the West accepted the invitation to the
banquet in faith. In Germany five hundred years ago, Martin Luther rediscovered
the Gospel that had been hidden under centuries of man-made traditions, and
preached the invitation of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone
to a church which had forgotten where they put it. Wherever the Word of
invitation is truly preached the Garden of Eden is restored, the New Jerusalem
has come down from heaven.
We all have seemingly plausible, reasonable excuses not to come and eat at
the banquet of Word and Sacrament on Sundays. They are mostly variations of
those Jesus described in His parable. There are the excuses of business, of
making a living, of tending to our property. After all, if we don’t take care of
ourselves, who will? There are the excuses that come with prosperity, a wide
selection of entertainments, hobbies, travel, sports, exercise, and just the plain
old freedom to sleep in. Then there are the various excuses connected with
family and friends, children’s events, hosting guests, having a late brunch with a
spouse or friends. Jesus foresaw all of these, and he knew that these would tempt
us to lay aside our standing invitation once, or maybe twice, maybe for weeks,
months, ever years, until laying aside the invitation became a habit. The devil
wants us to forget where we put the invitation, too. But Jesus loves us. He wants
us to come to the banquet. He called and invited people to the banquet up to His
last breath. “Truly today, you will be with me in Paradise.” He said to the thief
hanging on the cross next to Him.
God continues to call us, to our last breath. God wants to feed us the bread
of life, His Word, to sustain our faith. He knows that without this wholesome
bread, we will satisfy our spiritual hunger elsewhere, with food that looks good,
but makes us sick, and eventually kills us. Here in God’s church is true, rich food,
which doesn’t look special to worldly eyes: just words, a simple meal, a sprinkling
with water, but food which heals, builds up, and gives eternal life to all who hear
and believe it. Here the Holy Spirit works through the Word you hear and
inwardly digest o give you forgiveness of your sins and eternal life.
Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever believes has eternal life. I am the
bread of life.” Where two or three people are gathered in His name, there the
bread of life is, there the feast is, there the Lord Jesus Christ is, there His church
is. God is calling to you today and every Sunday to come to this humble banquet
where the bread of life is served, the Word preached, the Holy Sacraments, where
the Holy Spirit sustains and creates faith anew, for He wants you to share His joy.
The banquet is going to be filled, one way or another, because God is the host. But
He wants to make sure you remember to come, that you have been invited.
In our VBS yesterday we looked at Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand.
Jesus took what looked like nothing, a few loaves and two fish, and with His
Word and God’s blessing, He distributed the food so that everyone present, those
who had gathered at His invitation, were filled, and there was enough food left
over to feed even more. We looked at the Lord’s Prayer, where He prays with us
for our daily bread, everything we need to support our physical needs and life. We
received safety instruction cards with the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and
Luther’s explanations from the small catechism. The participants received a
passport that was stamped when we had learned our lesson for the morning and
afternoon. We sang, “Jesus loves me, He who died, Heavens gates to open wide.”
Our passport, our invitation to the feast is ours already. Jesus gave it to us. Let us
get it stamped regularly with the Word of God, which God is still speaking in His
church. God is still calling you to the banquet of His Son. Come, the feast awaits!

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