Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Second Sunday after Trinity + June 10, 2018
Text: Luke 14:15-24
Life happens. We all know that. Sometimes life happens so much that one’s faith falls to the bottom of the list. Children, work, family get-togethers, sleep…all sorts of things compete for attention in our lives. This is how it’s always been, and how it will be in the future.
But when it’s a problem is when life is happening so much, that there is no room left for God to speak.
“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” (Luke 14:16–20)
Week in and week out, the Church is in worship. The Church hasn’t closed like a department store. She hasn’t ceased meeting because a building was sold. And only in times of dire persecution does she go underground so that you have to know someone to meet her.
Likewise, the messengers (pastors) haven’t stopped delivering the news. They weren’t silenced because they were banned from Facebook. They weren’t shut up by a group of rabble rousers who drove them out of one particular city. And the faithful ones haven’t changed their message to get in line with the popular ideologies of the day.
So what so often accounts for the empty places in church? It’s when we take this for granted that the Church will always be there—whether we mean the congregation, or faithful pastors, or the opportunity to fit Jesus back into our lives. More often than we would like to admit, we say “Come back later, Jesus.”
“When things aren’t so crazy, then I’ll go back to church.” This excuse might work for why you can’t volunteer for more things. But the reality is that life is always going to be crazy to one degree or another. The more important thing to realize is that life is always going to be messy. You are always going to fail at some things. You are going to hurt people by your actions or inaction. People, no matter how much you may admire them, are going to let you down or wrong you. To put it plainly, this messy life is full of sin. It’s in the midst of that sin of daily life that God call you back to His grace. Confess your sins to your pastor; don’t ignore them or make excuses for them. Receive the Lord’s Supper as often as you possibly can and don’t get carried away with the lies that you’re strong enough without it or that less often makes it more special.
“If I could just get myself and my life together, then I won’t get stares at church.” The social aspect of Church really gets to us. So, we know we’re sinners who have sinned. But it’s much more comfortable when we can keep a tight lid on that sin and not let it show to others. It’s so much easier when we can put a smile on and go to church and tell everyone that we’re doing fine.
One of the great throw-away greetings that our culture uses is, “How are you doing?” I even find myself using it, and sometimes I ask people on Sunday morning how they’re doing. Now, the answer the checker at the store wants is “fine,” but I think it’s better when we can say something more honest about the burdens we’re carrying. At the very least, be honest with God about why you’re here. You need His grace, His strength, His guidance, His power. Whether your sin is visible to others or not, know that every one of us is in the same boat. We’re sinners here to dine with Jesus.
Lastly, we say, “When God shows me some good, then I’ll start praying.” Many times we hear a brother or sister talk about the great blessings they received after praying—how a sense of peace washed over them, or a loved one’s health took a miraculous turn for the better, or a wandering child came back to their faith. But when we look at our own lives, we can get down and only see the negative, the failings, the impossible situations. Thinking God only answers other people’s prayers, we might not even bother asking. Not wanting to be disappointed if God has another plan, we don’t bring it up to Him.
Take a step back and consider your life in light of God (not in light of your own understanding, Prov. 3:5). According to His eternal purpose for your good, He called you into His Kingdom in Christ. He adopted you as His child, and God Almighty as your Father. He is eager to hear all your prayers because you are His child. He is powerful enough to turn around even the most humanly-impossible things.
God does not change. His Word is always the same. His invitation to His grace in Christ is always going out. Even if it’s ignored by some, it still goes out because His saving purpose is for all people:
“21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” (Luke 14:21–24)
We can safely assume that the Church will always be there, even unto the end of the age. But how can you be sure that you will always have the opportunity? We don’t know the length of our life.
Yes, the Kingdom of God will come, and so will the King’s messengers. But what’s to say they will always be readily accessible? Luther, acknowledging that the Word of God comes down like rain upon the earth, also recognized that sometimes it’s like a passing rain cloud. If the people reject it long enough, it moves on to another place. We can see this happen in history: The Byzantine Empire rested secure in their Christian kingdom, only to be invaded by the Turks. Europe had such a rich history of Christianity with the buildings to prove it, but now those buildings lie vacant or are museums. It should be a signal to us in America where we boast of our religious liberty, that if we abuse that liberty by driving away true teachers and following after false prophets, that we will soon be a spiritual wasteland, and the Gospel will move on to places like Africa and China.
In 2 Corinthians 5-6, St. Paul says, “Be reconciled to God…Do not receive the grace of God in vain…behold, now is the favorable time, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 5:20, 6:1, 2) We need to repent of taking God’s Word and the Gospel for granted. We should truly hear what the 3rd Commandment says to us all:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
What a priceless gift it is for the King’s messengers to come among us and invite us to the eternal banquet! The Marriage Supper of the Lamb is ready, all is prepared, come, taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34) The Kingdom of God does not come with coercion and force. It comes with the Holy Spirit in the heart, working a living and active faith. For the sake of Christ and the salvation He wrought for us, may the Holy Spirit do this in each of our hearts and lives. May the weakness of our flesh be crucified and die with Christ, and may our little faith be increased. God grant it, even to us this day. Amen.
Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR