Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Second Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 2)

Luke 14:15-24; 1 John 13-18; Proverbs 9:1-10

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The ironic thing about wisdom is that it is the seemingly foolish, the simple, and the humble that often are proven to be the most wise. Little children are often wise. The poor are often wise. The sick and the dying are often wise. Prisoners, pariahs, and social outcasts are often wise. In fact, these are the sorts of people that are continually raised up in the Holy Scriptures as icons of wisdom and of faith. Therefore, this begs the question: What is wisdom? For, certainly wisdom is not mere knowledge, as even unschooled children and the simplest and uneducated can be wise. Neither is wisdom worldly success or power, for the poor and the disenfranchised can be wise too. No, wisdom is neither knowledge, nor success, nor power, nor anything else that the world and humanity values, but wisdom has to do with a right relationship with the LORD – a relationship of fear, love, and trust in the LORD above all things – for, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Thus, it should be no surprise that the Wisdom of the LORD runs counter to the wisdom of the world and of men. “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom,” for the world and men count foolish things as wisdom, evil things as good, temporal things as eternal, and heretical and blasphemous things as valuable and virtuous. And, so it was that Jesus was reclining at a banquet when a foolish man bellowed out, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Just prior Jesus had chided the master of the feast for inviting affluent guests and those who could return the favor of his invitation some day and awarding to these people the best seats at the table. Instead, he directed His host, and all present, to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, [and] the blind” who cannot repay. No doubt enthused by Jesus’ words, this man seems, now, to be relieved and secure in counting himself unequivocally among those “Blessed… who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” However, knowing the man’s heart, Jesus began to teach again, this time about a banquet to which the invitees refused to attend. They each had wise-seeming excuses, common excuses, maybe excuses you might have made, but their refusal was foolish, unbelief, and damnation.
The banquet was ready. All had been prepared. The invitations had been sent. There was literally nothing to do but to come. However, this was no ordinary banquet – the kind you can refuse and expect to be invited again – but, this was the banquet of eternal life in heaven with the Holy Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There was only one choice, and it wasn’t to say “yes” and to come – for the invitees were already inby the gracious work, preparation, and invitation of Jesus – but the only possible human choice, the foolish and damnable choice, was to say “no,” to reject the invitation and to refuse to come to the feast. But, that is precisely the choice those first invited made, and “they all alike began to make excuses.” Oh, yes, they were most practical excuses, wise even! One man had just bought some real estate and had to care for it. The field needed planting. The grass needed mowing. The house needed power washing. There was dusting to do, and so much more. Another had just purchased some livestock. They needed to be groomed and trained and fed and bred, etc. And yet another had just gotten married. There was the honeymoon, and the picking out of window treatments, and both spouses working and commuting. And, that’s not to mention the families with kids! With the football and wrestling and band and orchestra and homework and camping, etc., who has time for banquets and feasts? All very practical, don’tcha think? Great excuses too! No one can argue with them. Nevertheless, a choice had been made, the only choice that could be made, and it was a foolish choice.
The Master was angry. He ordered His servant to bring in all those who had not been invited, “the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” The servant did so, and still there was room. Then the Master ordered his servant to compel still more to come to the feast so that His house would be filled. The Servant did so, and He is stilldoing so, but the banquet hall is filling up, and time is running out. You see, the invitation to the LORD’s banquet is not an invitation that you should refuse, no matter how wise you believe your excuses to be. Of those original invitees who refused to come, none of those who were invited shall taste of the Master’s banquet, but they will find themselves locked outside where there is only weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
In Jesus Christ, all are invited to the Master’s banquet. All are in, no exceptions, through Jesus Christ. In truth, Jesus is the invitation, and Jesus is also the feast. God so loved the world in Him and through Him that He gave Him over into death that no one who believes in Him should perish. And still, so many refuse the invitation. God has reconciled the world to Himself in Jesus Christ, not holding our sins against us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us all. Wisdom has built her house, hewn her pillars, slaughtered her beasts, mixed her wine, and set her table – It is finished. And Wisdom has sent out her young women to call the invited to the feast – Come! Come, you simple. Come, you senseless. Come, you who have nothing. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” You are already invited. You are in. Only you can refuse and make yourself to be out.
Now, that would be foolish, don’t you agree? “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” But, why is that? The fear of the LORD is the acknowledgement that He is the LORD, that He is God, and that you are not. The fear of the LORD is the acknowledgment that He is righteous and holy and just and that you are not. The fear of the LORD is the acknowledgment that you are a poor, miserable sinner deserving temporal and eternal punishment for your sin of thought, word, and deed. But, the fear of the LORD is also the acknowledgment that the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and that for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, He has reconciled you to Himself, He has invited you to His banquet, you are in – only you can make yourself to be out.
The fear of the LORD is terror before His holiness and righteousness, His just judgment, and wrath against your sin and rebellion. If you do not feel this then you need to wake up before it’s too late. However, the fear of the LORD is also amazement, wonder, and joy in the acknowledgement that the LORD is gracious and merciful and loving and that He forgives you all your sins for the sake of Jesus who suffered and died for you that you might live. And, the fear of the LORD is lived out in your life when you readily and daily acknowledge your sin and unworthiness and humble yourself before the LORD and before your neighbor. And, the fear of the LORD is confessed in worship when you confess with your words and your actions that our holy, righteous, just, merciful, gracious, and loving God is really, truly, and actually present with us, as we receive His gifts in deep reverence and humility, listening attentively and actively to His Word, singing the liturgy and the hymns to each other in recognition that they are not mere and lifeless words, but they are His Words which He has spoken to us and which we now confess as good and true as we sing them and live our lives in accordance with them.
Wisdom has built her house. She has hewn her pillars, slaughtered her beasts, mixed her wine and set her table. It is finished. The feast is prepared, for you and for all. Come, eat and be satisfied. Come, drink and be sated. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But, will you come? Will you eat and drink? Will you be blessed by the LORD? Or, will you make excuses? Will you deny that you have need? Will you refuse to submit yourself, to indebt yourself to Him? The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, because fear, love, and trust in the LORD confesses the truth about yourself, what the LORD has said about you: You are a sinner in need of forgiveness. You are dead and in need of life. And, you are invited by the LORD to the feast that He has prepared in His Son – a feast at which He is both Host and Meal. Come, eat the Bread of Life and live. Come, drink the life-giving blood of Life Incarnate for the forgiveness of your sins, the strengthening of your faith, and for life everlasting. You are invited, but do not attempt to bring anything besides your wretched self. And, do not try to buy or merit your way in. This feast is by invitation only, without cost, and with no expectation of reciprocation. However, do know this: If you eat and drink of the LORD’s banquet, you will not return home the same as you came. You will be changed. You will be filled. And, you will be blessed. You will be blessed to be a blessing to all who will not refuse the LORD’s gracious invitation. You will be His servants and His messengers. You will be His hands, and His heart, and His voice, loving, not in word and talk, but in deed and in truth, to the glory of the Father, in the Name of the Son, and through His Most Holy Spirit.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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