Second Sunday after Trinity

Readings: Proverbs 9:1-10 | Ephesians 2:13-22 | Luke 14:15-24

Text: Luke 14:15-24

Lutherans are known for their potlucks (or “covered dish dinners” if you don’t want to mention luck). It brings people together at church. Eating is something we all have in common, regardless of differing opinions or backgrounds. In fact, it’s a widely-known church growth practice that handing out food will get people to come to your church…at least the building.

In an effort to connect with people, many a church have fallen into a dependency on being a place that gives handouts. By itself, it’s a beautiful expression of the Lord’s command, “Freely have you received, freely shall you give.” (Matt. 10:8) But the other side of handouts is when they offer to people what they did not have to work for. This plagues Indian Reservations, DHS offices, and pandemic aid because people flock to it. They grow to rely on it. They rave when it’s threatened to be taken away.

Isn’t it interesting, however, that as soon as the Word of God says, “Come, for everything is now ready,” people begin to make excuses about why they can do without? “The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’”

That’s when we realize it’s not just a matter of physical nourishment. Yes, people will flock to the earthly handouts because they satisfy the belly. But when the Gospel is freely given, then something else takes over: our sin.

Nonetheless, we can use the language of meals to understand what our Lord is teaching us here. What would cause someone pass up an invitation to a meal for which all that’s required of them is to be the recipient?

They’re not hungry – Who wants to go to an all-you-can-eat banquet on a full stomach? Similarly, a self-righteousness that fails to understand or acknowledge the darkness of one’s sin. What’s being offered on the menu—forgiveness, life, and salvation don’t taste good. Consider this analogy of Martin Luther in the Large Catechism:

Suppose there were a physician who had such skill that people would not die, or even though they died would afterward live forever. Just think how the world would snow and rain money upon him! Because of the pressing crowd of rich men no one else could get near him. Now, here in Baptism there is brought free to every man’s door just such a priceless medicine which swallows up death and saves the lives of all men. (Large Catechism, Article IV “Baptism” para. 43)

Taking a detour on the road of bodily health, consider what funds and sacrifice we pour into the medical complex. It promises to relieve our temporal suffering, and often doctors are successful. But the truth remains that no man can cure death. Only Christ can, and has done that for us! How do we receive such a healing? “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16) “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.” (Acts 16:32-33) This perfect and eternal healing of body and soul was delivered in humble water, and the lips of the pastor—whoever he was: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” [Matt. 28:19] If you’re not hungry for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, it’s likely because you imagine your sin isn’t that serious, you’re not all that dead, and you think salvation comes to those who try hard enough.

They’ve got more appealing things – I have a wife and earthly affairs that need my attention more than my soul. In this case, it’s not necessarily that forgiveness doesn’t sound wonderful. It’s just that the things of this life sound more appealing and capture our time and attention. Someone from our congregation pointed out when Pop Warner Baseball started having games on Sunday, it made a change in the congregation. It’s not just that baseball games alone caused unbelief, but it allowed an outlet for those whose hearts were more devoted to the things of this life. Never underestimate our power to harden our hearts against God’s clear Word and even tangible evidence [Ex. 7:13].

What is offered doesn’t satisfy immediately – In the weakness of our mortal, sinful flesh, we are drawn toward what brings fulfillment here and now. How can I feel and touch the kingdom of God? Well, if it won’t come on my terms, then I’ll find assurance somewhere else that does. Be it popularity, or health, or a life free from struggle—these are the temptations we have to forsake the faith and turn toward the promise of immediate payout of the lies.

Back to the topic of handouts, there is a protest when people might lose these gratis benefits. And we know that our sin can cause an indifference to the gift of the Gospel. But where’s the protest when the Christian congregation is threatened? When the ministry of the Word falls into disuse, and the house of God is in disrepair? We are presently suffering some of the consequence of many who have “begun to make excuses.” But now that we’re here, shall we just throw up our hands, and say, “I guess that’s how it goes?” What has taken the fight out of us, the zeal, for the “food and drink” which truly satisfy, for our Lord says, “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55)

This parable a warning to us who are hearing this Word of Christ and holding fast to Him: Beware, lest we also miss the Kingdom of God in our midst, and give in to earthly things over heavenly. God’s Word will fill His banquet hall. God shows no favorites toward us or those who came before us. Apart from a steadfast faith, we have no promise of a place at His table.

It won’t be by our own strength that we remain steadfast in this faith until the end. It will be where our gracious Lord grants it to us. And where we find this spiritual zeal, let God the Holy Spirit do His good work! Do not let this vine which the Lord planted by the hand of our predecessors bear thorns or die out [Isa. 5:1-7]. Lord, let this congregation be roused from our complacency, our satiation to the hunger we’re supposed to have! Save us, Lord Jesus, from putting our hope and trust in the things of this life. Rather, let our fear, love, and trust, be in You alone. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Second Sunday after Trinity

Readings: Proverbs 9:1-10 | Ephesians 2:13-22 | Luke 14:15-24

Text: Luke 14:15-24

If it wasn’t true before the pandemic, it is certainly true now: We are a people who are at odds with one another.  Family members alienated from one another, friendships strained and breaking from sharp disagreements, and a media culture that would rather erase the memory of a person rather than seek restoration.  Even in the church, sadly, people have disagreements and in bitterness refuse to worship together even to the harm of their own soul.

We know that God’s ways are higher than our ways.  But today, we have heard about how His way of dealing with conflict and division is higher than ours as well. 

Hear again from Ephesians 2 how God works:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…

Do you get a sense of the divide?  All of you far off, a dividing wall of hostility, commandments and ordinances, strangers and aliens.  No doubt we have some experience of that.  There are those in our lives who may not live far away but are far off in ideologies.  Dividing walls are shored up by the isolation we erect online and who we don’t even call.  There are many who are strangers (xenos, from which we get xenophobic) to us—whether by nationality, language, or socio-economic class.

But God was not content to leave the greatest divide intact, the root of all of our divisions and pain: the divide caused by the disharmony between God and His mankind.  His ways are not our ways, because His goal is different.  He works for peace.  Notice how many times that word appears in the Epistle lesson.  I suggest you even take a pencil and underline each of the four instances.  This is God’s goal: peace.

You may be familiar with the Hebrew word for peace, shalom.  What you may not know is the root of this word.  It comes from the verb, shaleim, to make complete.[1]  We’re accustomed to thinking of peace merely as stillness, an emotional state, a lack of conflict.  But God’s goal is not to artificially create calm, but shalom, to make complete and restore what was shattered beyond repair: “For he himself is our peace… one new man in place of the two, so making peace… he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”  So, when our Lord says to His disciples the evening of His resurrection, “Peace to you,” He is enacting reconciliation, bringing the distant near, destroying the animosity.

In contrast, what we see in the world (and if we’re honest also in our intentions), is a different goal.  Rather than peace, the world and our sinful nature seek power.  How can we get the upper hand?  How can we change the world as we think it should be?  The conflicts we see in the world right now are a pursuit of power: “speak truth to power” people demand.  While they talk of “diversity, inclusion, and equity” it turns out that they use coercion to force their vision.  Rather than reconciliation, they demand and exact reparations, giving themselves the advantage to which they feel entitled.  Just ask any teacher, or administrator, or government employee who has dared to oppose a minority’s “personal expression.”

But the way of power is a lie, as old as the Serpent himself who told Eve that she would be “like God, knowing good and evil,” and who “took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” (Gen. 3:5; Matt. 4:8-9)

Power is a dead end.  Peace is what’s eternal, for peace is from God. And we see this in action in the Gospel lesson.  Jesus says these words while he reclines at table on the Sabbath at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees.  Earlier in the visit, Jesus put all of them on edge by healing man with dropsy on the Sabbath.  After noticing how they arranged themselves at the table, Jesus told the story of the wedding feast, to the effect that, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)  One of those in attendance, surely thinking himself a humble and just man said,

“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But [Jesus] said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.

We think that we have a pretty good handle on God’s ways, but He has a way of shining the light on what’s in human hearts.  “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man”—of all nations and races, languages and tribes, men and women alike, of all opinions, orientations, philosophies, and He saw: “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Ps. 14:2-3)

This parable teaches us about the grace of God, which is meant to win people to salvation not by human power, but by God’s peace—the peace which takes what is broken beyond repair and restores it.  The peace which takes a deluded and darked humanity and restores it to perfect and eternal fellowship with Him.

He teaches us this by the image of a banquet and the invitation.  That is, how does God accomplish His rescue mission of peace for this shattered world?  He does it by a Word of invitation. 

17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But 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.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man—all those far off, his enemies, the strangers—and loves them.  His invitation is the Word of God.  It tells of God’s work to make peace with His enemies, to raise the dead, to bring near those who are far away, to bind up the injured and destroy the fat and strong.  It is not an inert Word, but comes with God’s power.  In fact, that is the only power that can reach that goal of peace!

This is what evangelism is.  If you need a refresher on the almighty power of God in this area, review Ephesians 1, where it’s clear that none of us contributed to the invitation or accepting it: “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4-5)

There’s a guilt that’s all too often attached to evangelism.  It comes from the Arminian notion that we have the strength to turn from evil to good, to become turncoats from the devil to be reconciled to God.  We’re especially vexed by this in America, because decision theology is the bread and butter of revival movements.  It’s appealing because it lets us have some say our eternal destination.  It’s more appealing than its opposite, double predestination, which says that both salvation and damnation are in God’s hands, and we’re no more than clay.  But Scripture teaches neither of these.  Listen to the rest of the parable:

21 So 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.’
22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And 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. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”
published by John Garrett, line engraving,
mid 17th century

If God were a Calvinist, who taught double predestination, then why should He be angry or surprised at those who refuse the invitation?  If God were an Arminian, He would just spread the dragnet further, hoping that He might catch a few more fish; try new flypaper until something sticks.  But neither is the case.  As Luther beautifully explains about the 2nd Petition: “The Kingdom of God comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.”  God is good, and He desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).  He sends out His Word, the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name throughout the world—

Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
                        In them he has set a tent for the sun,
                 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
                 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:4-6)

The Gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe.  So the Church is entrusted with this living and active Word.  Nevertheless, it is not our human effort that will fill the seats at the heavenly banquet; that is God’s work.  It’s our old craving to do it by our own might that leads us to pride or despair—pride that our programs could give God a hand, or despair because we see human failure to mathematically reach every person.

But keep the Lord before your eyes, trust in Him who says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)  That voice will go out on our lips or others—not to excuse complacency, but to assure us that God is mighty to save the lost.

Yet, also know that there are many who choose to remain on the broad way that leads to destruction.  Do not let their unbelief cause you to stumble, so that you flog yourself for not doing something more.  If you have shared the invitation with them, that is where the powerful Word of God is.  Love your neighbor as yourself, pray for them as your Lord commands, and heed the invitation to the banquet yourself.

Come to the foretaste of that banquet today, you who have heard His voice.  And, no doubt, there are people you know who have thus far rejected the invitation—“I have bought a field…I have bought five yoke of oxen…I have married a wife” or a myriad of other excuses.  But remember that God has made each of you members of a priesthood.  Priests intercede before God, and you priests have access to God’s throne: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph 2:18)  So I would suggest, as you come to the Lord’s table to taste of His banquet, bring a name or names of people you know of whom you are afraid.  

Remember the example of those in the Gospel who brought others to Jesus that He might bless them: the paralytic who was healed and forgiven, the daughter freed of demons, the servant released from his affliction (Matt. 8, 9, 15).   Those who loved them interceded for them, and Jesus did not fail to have mercy and bring His blessing.

In this way, the Kingdom of God comes among us.  He brings those who were far off near by His blood.  He removes the dividing wall of hostility.  He creates one new man, reconciling and removing the hostility.  God will accomplish His work of peace among us, in our age, in our city.  He will give the increase and build us together into a dwelling place for God by His Spirit.  In the Name + of Jesus.  Amen.

[1] שָׁלֵם  Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977).

Second Sunday after Trinity (1 John 3:13-18)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Second Sunday after Trinity + June 30, 2019

Text: 1 John 3:13-18

The word “love” has taken on a life of its own.  It’s as if everyone has their own private dictionary of what they want it to mean.  So many interpret it simply as an emotion, and a shallow emotion at that.  The word “love” is the same as strong affection—I have good feelings toward you because you put butterflies in my stomach, but as soon as that euphoria wears off, then I can just as easily despise you and cast you off.  Love is a strong emotion, but that’s only a narrow slice of what love encompasses.

It all starts with God, who loves.  Man’s love is fickle, man’s love is finite, and soured by bad history. Man’s love is fallible, no matter how strong or devoted.  The Christian band, Third Day, showed this in their song (appropriately named) “Love Song.” Written first person from the Lord:

“I’ve heard it said that a man would climb a mountain
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It has never been done
I’ve never climbed the highest mountain
But I walked the hill of Calvary

“Just to be with you, I’d do anything
There’s not price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I’d give anything
I would give my life away.”

No matter our experiences or our feelings, God teaches us what love truly is: “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us.”  Here is the gold standard for love: our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is Almighty, and yet He washed His disciples’ feet.  He is a King, and yet wore the form of a servant and was beaten for others’ crimes.  He was immortal and infinite, and yet to seek us He entered this world.  God became flesh.  While we were yet sinners, God died for us.

That’s what love is.  Not just a feeling, although the emotions are involved.  Not just a word, although the Word of God is living and active.  Love is not a passive thing, but a movement of the heart that pours out self-sacrificing action. John 3:16 gives us a definition of love: “God loved the world, namely that He gave up His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish.” (John 3:16, alt. translation) Call this not just love, but divine love.

But there’s a problem when it comes to us and divine love.  It’s problem we run into when we see the difference between God’s perfect love and man’s flighty love.  God made us for love, and even commands, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Yet, it’s easy to find examples contrary to that.

We could sit here all day, talking about what love truly is.  But, it’s not good enough to just have a head knowledge of divine love, looking down on the ignorance of others.  We aren’t just to receive divine love and go on our merry way.  John says, “…And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  How important is this?

Verse 14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”  The presence of divine love for our fellow human being is the evidence that God’s love has had its intended result in us.  When God talks about our loving as He has loved, He’s really talking about a living faith that abides in Him.

Maybe an illustration is best: “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”  Like with love, heart is another word that gets boiled down to simply mean emotions.  But the Greek word, often translated “have compassion,” means the guts, the place where you feel your deepest affection and your deepest unease.  If you close your guts, cut off affection for your brother in need, how does God’s love abide in you?  It’s not a jab, or a religious trump card to manipulate someone; it’s a question of fact. 

The difference between God’s love and our love is important, and where it exists, it is a call for us to repent.  Yes, Lord, I have closed my heart to my brother’s need.  I’ve passed him by; I haven’t picked up the phone; I’ve resented that he never seemed to learn his lesson.  And yet that is exactly what God did for you! In His love for you, in spite of your sin, He did not close His heart.  “And out of compassion, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matt. 18:27)   This is what our heart (our guts) should do when we see others in pain and grief.  Rather than push them away, make excuses why it’s not our problem, we are to live in that love which we so highly prize for ourselves.  It’s the love that won for us eternal life.

How do we get there?  This is the Lord’s doing, to make His people those who know His love in their inner being.  Trust what God is able to do with you, because He is the one who removes your heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).  First of all, trust that He is able and willing to forgive all those times when you closed your heart to your brother, for the sake of Christ. 

Then, with the gift of the Holy Spirit in you, pray for Him to continue making you a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)  Think of this when we sing and pray the Offertory in a minute: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  You are confessing to God that it’s not good enough that you have a cold or lukewarm heart toward others.  Don’t let us be Cain, who was so blinded by his own jealousy that he raised a hand against his brother.  Don’t let us fail to raise our hands in help like the priest and the Levite who passed by the man in the ditch whom the Samaritan helped (Luke 10:29-37).  Give us a heart to recognize that all that we have is a trust from You for supporting the ministry of the word, caring for ourselves and our family who depend on us, and being willing to share our abundance when the need arises. “Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”  Give us a true fear of you, never to become complacent in our place in your Kingdom.  Keep us also from despairing of your mercy and believing that you have called us to be your children.

And remember our Lord’s promise: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:16-17) God grant it for you, for the sake of Jesus.  Amen.

Second Sunday after Trinity (Luke 14:15-24)

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.