Summary: Is God’s eternal feast a potluck, a BYOB, or completely "on the house"?
Sermon: So What DO We Have To Do?
Text: Luke 14:16-24 (Parable of the Great Supper)
Occasion: Trinity II
Who: Mark Woolsey
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, June 25, 2006
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
One of the most frustrating times of my life was when I was trying to figure out what God required of me and what He supplied. Was God’s eternal feast a potluck, a BYOB, or completely "on the house"? How did one get to the feast? As I saw it, God had done everything He would, and now it was up to me to complete what He had started. He had done His 99% and now I had to supply the remaining 1%. But the question always arose, "Had I done enough? Was my effort sufficient?" As someone else put it, "Everyone wants to get to heaven, but no one wants to do what it takes to get there." The Gospel reading today is a parable that addresses this question, thus I have called it, "So What DO We Have to Do?".
This parable falls near the beginning of a new season of the church. If you remember, about half of the Christian year, from around December through May, is taken up with the important events in the life of our Lord: His Announcement, Birth, Revelation (to the Gentiles), Temptation, Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Bestowal (of the Spirit). The second half of the year is from about June to November, and is called Trinity season, or sometimes, Common Time. It is Common Time because it is important to see Christ in our everyday activities, and not just the "religious" high times we have set aside. Christ makes all time holy, all efforts spiritual. It is called Trinity because of the central importance of this doctrine to our salvation and worship. Indeed, all heresies ultimately spring from a wrong understanding of God’s nature. In Trinity season we don’t focus so much on Jesus’ life as we do His teaching. Today’s parable gives us important insights into the Kingdom of God.
To properly interpret and apply this parable, it is necessary to understand it’s context. When we understand what occasioned it, we can better understand the main point that Jesus is trying to make.
Beginning at the first of chapter 14, we find Jesus at a Pharisee’s house for dinner. In fact, it’s important to note that much of the surrounding verses have to do with a feast. Jesus never seems to be far from a party. This theme of a meal is one of two that tie the events and teachings of this chapter together and helps to make a complete whole. Furthermore, He seems to be quite dedicated to insulting His hosts. At this Pharisee’s party they catch Jesus "sinning" when He heals on the Sabbath. His defense of His propriety and accusation of their hypocrisy does nothing to endear Him to them. Into their wounded pride He pours salt when He gives some unsolicited advice about seeking the lowest seat at a banquet rather than the highest. This contrast of high versus low is the second, but most important, theme of these teachings. We look down on the Pharisees as childish in jockying for preferred seating positions, yet how many of us likewise ignore Jesus’ advice and promote "number one"? After all, if we don’t toot our own horn, who will? Jesus has turned our priorities upside down. Based upon our performance, we might call this requirement to seek the humblest places the "Ignored Command".
Before I mention the next teaching of our Lord, let me take a poll. How many of you have ever thrown a party? Who did you invite? Friends? Relatives? If so, you have just disobeyed a direct command of Christ. How so? Look at vs 12 - 14:
"When you give a dinner or a supper, do not as your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors ... [instead,] invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind..."
Of those who said they had thrown a party, how many of you have ever invited a homeless person? A blind person? If the last story was titled the "Ignored Command", we might call this the "Most Flagarently Disobeyed Command". I know of no one who actively obeys this command, yet here it is in black and white (or red and white, depending upon your Bible). Not only that, but this command is not primarily given to help the poor, but to help us understand what God has done in inviting us to His party. If God has been so gracious to us, oughtn’t we be the same toward those we know?