In a very real sense, all of God’s Word is a personal invitation to each of us – an invitation to live and nourish our lives by faith in Christ.
Seeing the hours of fear, sorrow, doubt, or despair that at times enter all of our lives, Jesus invites, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (MATTHEW 11:28).
Knowing how much we need God’s Presence and companionship, Jesus calls us together with the promise “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” (MATTHEW 18:20) When we gather here on Sunday mornings – bringing God our thanksgiving, our praise, our petitions, our singing, and our offerings – it is not merely a human dialogue and interchange that takes place. As promised, God is here in our midst – hearing our prayers, our praise, and our thanksgiving – communicating The Divine Word to us – blessing and enriching each of us personally.
To make us even more fully aware of God’s Presence and desire to communicate with us, Jesus issues that wonderful invitation we’ll hear later in our worship service - “Take and eat; This is My Body given for you … take and drink; This is My Blood shed for you.”
Jesus constantly issues two invitations inseparably entwined – the invitation to the ultimate Great Banquet which is an eternity in the visible Presence of God and the invitation to a constant temporal diet of God’s Word. All the earthly banquets where we fellowship with Jesus and feast on the Blessed Word of God are a foretaste of that continuous banquet in Christ's Eternal Kingdom.
How often in THE HOLY BIBLE God speaks of The Divine Word of God as the Bread needed for temporal and eternal life with God. Jesus said of Himself, “I am The Bread of life”. (JOHN 6:41,48,51, et.al.) There is nothing more necessary to the sustaining of real life than God coming to us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Jesus The Bread of life.
We began our worship singing “Let Us Break Bread Together” and preceded our sermon singing “Break Thou The Bread of Life”. The breaking of bread together means the eating and enjoying of a meal together and the Bread in the hymns we sang is God’s Own Word which we receive together and are enlivened by together.
Jesus’ parable tells us that at the time for the banquet the host sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for all is now ready’. 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; I pray you, have me excused.”
How much of life can be missed by working too hard at temporal pursuits? How often do we work so hard and long and worry to such an extent about the physical, material, and emotional things in life that our souls have no taste left for spiritual nourishment? When was the last time we gave our self half an hour for no other purpose than to be alone with thoughts of God’s nourishing Word – or read one verse of Scripture and then sat quietly for five or ten minutes just thinking about the meaning of that one short verse for our life?
We work too hard – and we take it all much, much too seriously.
Even our pleasures! How much frantic work and energy do people often put into our preparations for having a good time - sometimes working even harder at having that good time.
Seeing those huge lines where people stand for hours to buy tickets, I wonder how long would you or I be willing to stand in line to hear God’s Word - to accept Jesus' invitation to the great banquet of life?
Jesus offers us that peace of God which passes all human understanding – that inner peace that keeps us aware of the fact that our lives are in God’s loving hands – that inner peace which enables us to take life as it comes because we know God’s Love will always give us the ultimate victory – that inner peace which builds into our lives frequent and meaningful times throughout the day when our thoughts rest with God alone – that peace of God which passes all human understanding.
Coupled with or following the all-consuming striving of the first respondent in the parable can be the pride or unhealthy self-sufficiency we see in the boast of the second respondent – “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.”
Referring to the self-sufficient who doubt the need for God and God’s Word, St. Augustine compared the second respondent’s five yoke of oxen to our five senses. Take those five senses and put them together with the brain to analyze, plan, and command; add muscles, skills, and talents – achieve success – and the temptation is there to forget God Who created us and everything we possess – to forget God and to pat ourselves on the back as self-made successes – to celebrate our successes with no thought of God.
The worst epidemic in our nation and world today is not some physical illness – horrible as those plagues may be – but human self-pride rising to a point where many turn their backs on God or consider God to be a mere cosmic bellhop who dare not impede our pursuit of self-gratification and pleasure.
The third invitation receiver said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”
Through our words – and even more through our actions – we show what Jesus means to us. Are our most cherished and important human relationships places where Jesus’ Presence is most treasured or excuses used to reject the gifts He offers?
And Jesus keeps issuing the Invitation to us and through us.
And The Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
Jesus issued that blessed Banquet Invitation and then commissioned His apostles to share the invitation and spread The Good News. He said to them, “You shall receive power when The Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” And we all know Jesus’ command became a historical reality. Christ’s Church began first to spread The Gospel in its birthplace – Jerusalem. Then it moved out into Judea – then Samaria – then the entire then known world in a single generation.
We are all called by Jesus to share His Invitation and spread His Gospel. That's what we mean each Sunday when we proclaim "The mission to which The Lord has called us is to lovingly and faithfully proclaim the Word of God as revealed incarnately in Jesus Christ and inerrantly in The Holy Bible" – inviting the world to feast on and to share The Bread of life.
The Gospel - The Good News - for this day has forced us to think together about those who refused Jesus’ royal invitation to the great banquet. Sadly, all of us find some kinship with the people in the parable. But this is The Gospel we’re speaking of – “Gospel” means “Good News”. Our text is ultimate GOOD NEWS.
The invitation is what Jesus’ parable is about – the invitation is in God’s Hands and God lovingly gives it to us. The responses are merely examples. The ultimate response for each of us is up to each of us – to accept this greatest of all invitations – to accept it and to share it.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS – OUR LORD AND OUR SAVIOR. AMEN.
19th Sunday of The Trinity Season
October 15, 2017
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio