Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Second Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 2)


Luke 14:15-24; 1 John 3:13-18; Proverbs 9:1-10


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The social dynamics of the dinner party invitation are a fascinating case study in human behavior. As it goes, we inherently feel more comfortable being the inviter than the invitee. But, why is this? Is it not because the inviter is in control and independent, whereas the invitee is obligated to respond to the inviter and, supposing he accepts the invitation, dependent upon the inviter to some degree? We have a deep-seated aversion to this arrangement, for we do not like to be beholden to others or dependent upon them. Therefore, if we accept the invitation, what do we do but shuffle and scramble to ask, “What can I bring?” We feel obligated to bring something, and that makes us uncomfortable. We feel dependent, thus we are desperate to satisfy our debt and make ourselves independent once again. Truly, we’d rather not go at all, but, it is rude to decline without a good reason, and we are loath to reveal our true feelings and motivations. So, what do we do? Simple, we make excuses.

What are excuses, but attempts to justify ourselves, to alleviate our guilt, and to deny or push off our obligation and debt upon another. Such was the tactic of our First Parents in the Garden when the LORD came a calling after them. Adam blamed his wife, whom the LORD had given him. Eve blamed the serpent and the LORD who had made it. And, that was but three chapters into the Holy Scriptures that started our perfect, righteous, and holy! Truly, the desire to be independent and in control of our lives and our situation is deeply ingrained in us. Truly, this desire is the fruit of the Original Sin that is deeply ingrained in us – Original Sin that is truly sin, and truly our sin, sin that truly hates God and hates our dependence upon Him, because what we truly desire is to be gods ourselves, to be independent and in control, beholden and accountable to no one at anytime.

Yes, this is why we make excuses. This is why, though we would never admit it, the worst thing in our estimation is grace. The very idea that we cannot contribute anything at all to our justification, to satisfy our debt to the LORD, or to gain independence, rattles and infuriates us at the very core of our being. And, so, we run and we hide, we make excuses to cover ourselves, to justify ourselves, but the LORD sees through it all. And, so, we have two choices: Keep running from the LORD in fear and hate. Or, let the LORD’s righteousness have its way with us and kill us, that He might raise us up to new and eternal life in Him.

“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” This is most certainly true! Eating bread in the kingdom of God is blessedness, what it means to be blessed. Apart from this, nothing is blessed. Who could possibly not desire such blessedness? Who, indeed? Those who are not interested in being blessed by someone or something external to themselves. You see, Jesus told the Parable of the Great Banquet to the host and guests at a dinner party at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. Jesus observed that the guests the inviter invited were other scribes, lawyers, and Pharisees, men of great wealth and repute. Jesus also observed how they each vied for seats of honor in relation to their inviter and host. He taught them saying, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the Just.”

Blessing goes both ways, but not in the ways our flesh desires. Those who confess that they have need and that they are dependent are blessed by those who have. Likewise, those who have are blessed in blessing those who have not. Further, as Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, there is blessing in poverty, hunger, thirst, reviling, and persecution, for those who suffer such are in the best position to receive blessing and grace. However, the flesh desires, truly, not to be blessed at all! To be blessed implies that one has need and is dependent, and that is something that the flesh denies, detests, and abhors. Therefore, those who believe that they are independent and self-sufficient invite those who are most likely to benefit them in some way – with their reputation, with their wealth, or with the likelihood of a reciprocal invitation. But, this is not an invitation of grace, but of selfishness and manipulation. The invitees are not guests to be blessed, but they are resources to be used to build up one’s own appearance of independence, reputation, and wealth. Thus, Jesus teaches that true blessing is in giving to those who cannot pay back, for that blessing comes, not from man or mammon, but from the LORD who gives all things to those who can in no way pay Him back.

Those who were first invited each made excuses and refused to come to the banquet. They dishonored the inviter and refused to be in his debt. They considered themselves independent and free. They were concerned only with meeting their own needs and tending to their own affairs. They thought themselves the originators of their own success and prosperity. They had no need for blessing, but that they were a blessing unto themselves. And so, the invitation went out to those who confessed their dependence and need. “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” This is First Commandment stuff folks! “You shall have no other gods before me.” What does this mean? “You shall fear, love, and trust in the LORD above all things.” There is only one Inviter, only one gracious Host, and that One is the LORD. To refuse Him, to reject Him for any reason at all is to fear, love, and trust in something or someone other than Him. That is why fearing Him is wisdom. That is why knowledge of the Holy One is insight. To deny Him is foolishness. To reject Him is death. Your excuses do not cover your sin any better than did the fig leaves Adam and Eve wove together to cover their nakedness. God can see right through them. Moreover, all those things you deem more important than the LORD, more important than His invitation, His banquet, they are even now perishing. Their end is death, and sooner than you think! The field bears weeds and thorns and poisonous herbs. It is depleted and bears fruit no more. Your oxen age and die of disease or predators. Even your spouse you cannot keep forever, but they perish and are no more.

But, 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 for 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 without 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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