Summary: A sermon for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, proper 23, Series A
22nd Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 23] October 12, 2008 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, you have poured out your redeeming grace to all who come to faith in him, and have opened to us your heavenly kingdom. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your word and grant us the gift of faith, that we might prove to be worthy disciples. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
One of the first lessons that I learned in seminary as I began to study the New Testament, was that some passages of Scripture are not as accurate in recording the teachings of Jesus, as are others. Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one such passage that appears to embellish the teaching of Jesus with the author’s own thoughts. In fact, as was pointed out in nearly all of the commentaries that I read, the Parable of the Great Dinner, as recorded in Luke, is much closer to the overall teachings of Jesus, than is our text from Matthew.
So, as I was preparing to write my message for this morning, I compared Luke’s version of this parable with that of our text from Matthew, and I found some interesting contrasts. So let me begin by sharing with you the parable as it appears in Luke.
Jesus said, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those invited, ‘Come; for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’
So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you order has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’” End quote.
Did you notice what is missing in this parable, as Luke records it, from that of our text from Matthew? First, in Luke’s version, there is no mention of those invited to the feast seizing or mistreating the master’s servants, or killing them. Nor is their any mention of the master sending out his army to destroy those who murdered his slaves or burning down the city.
Clearly this is an embellishment of the parable on the part of Matthew, which clearly changes the message of the text. In Luke’s version of this story, those invited did not simply make light of the invitation to attend the banquet, they gave what they considered to be legitimate excuses for not responding to the invitation, extending their regrets.
As a result, the point of the parable centers on the invited guests focusing on their own concerns, which they believed were more important, than attending the banquet. Since Jesus’ parables are teachings about the kingdom of God, the message may be that God, out of his benevolent grace, is inviting us into his kingdom, and throwing this great party. But because of our earthly concerns, we fail to behold the significance of God’s invitation, and fail to respond.
And oh, how we all have done this! As Christians, we have allowed so many things to take priority over worship. We have allowed so many things to distract us from giving thanks to God for his gift of grace, not only on Sunday mornings, but also on a daily basis.
I will admit that I have done this. The first thing I used to do upon waking was my daily devotions, and praying for those on our prayer list. Now, the first thing that I do is to get the paper, read the headlines, and work the puzzles. I make the excuse that it is to wake my mind up, so that I can later pray without cobwebs.
But those cobwebs still seem to follow me around the rest of the day. So, since writing this sermon, I’ve returned to putting God first. Even pastors can learn from their own sermons. Of course, if you come into the office some morning and see me working a puzzle, know that I’ve already spent time in devotion with our Lord.