Summary: Our purpose as Christians, as the Church, is contained within Jesus purpose for coming to us, which He outlined in Luke chapter 4, quoting from Isaiah 61. And we are sent by Jesus as Jesus was sent by the Father to fulfill Jesus' purpose. Nothing less.
Wellspring Anniversary Sermon - November 1, 2015 - Luke 14:15-24
The Parable of the Great Banquet Revisited
Thank you so much for having me today. It’s a privilege to worship with you and share with you today, and I want to say congratulations on your anniversary. I like anniversaries.
My wife Barbara and I just celebrated our 28th anniversary, and actually we still have ‘mini-celebrations’ that we call monthiversaries. This past Wednesday was our 337th monthiversary. So there you have it. We’re a little daft.
How many years is it been for Wellspring? (118, I learned)
Well, however many years it’s been, that number represents how many years God has been faithful to you as a congregation.
It represents how many years God has been with this church through its ups and downs (do you guys have ups and downs or does that happen only at the mission?).
And that number represents how many years God has sought to bless those around you in this community through your presence here.
I really believe that those 3 things are key to remember in any anniversary celebration –
1. God`s faithfulness in a general sense. 2, His faithfulness in journeying with us over the years, and 3, His heart for the community around you right here in Willowdale.
We know, with a general knowledge of Scripture, that His heart is a heart of love. We know that His heart is a heart of joy. We know that God’s heart is a heart of justice.
Today`s Scripture passage is a great one. It`s a passage that has had a big impact on me personally, and on The Yonge Street Mission, where I serve.
It’s inspired us as we’ve endlessly experimented over the years and have thought long and hard about how it is that God wants us to be a blessing to the city.
We`ve never forgotten that are an extension of the Church in Toronto. We are the heart of God in the heart of the city, as the old slogan goes.
It's always important to read a passage in its context, so let's consider for a minute that our key passage that was read by ________ happened in real time, and in the midst of a party. Jesus had gone to enjoy some hospitality at the house of a pharisee.
At the start of chapter 14, it’s the Sabbath, and we see Jesus under some scrutiny at the house of an important Pharisee.
Jesus is being carefully watched, because He is known already at that time to be someone who was less about the letter of the Law and more about the well-being of the people.
He loved more than He legislated, and that made the legalists a little queasy.
So there’s a sick man with abnormal swelling in his body. Jesus heals the man after asking the Pharisees and experts in the Law: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”
They say nothing, and so Jesus takes hold of the sick man and heals him and sends him away.
Then at lunch Jesus notices the way certain guests pick the best spots at the table - the places of honour - and Jesus uses this to rather boldly and a little uncharacteristically for Jesus, teach bluntly and directly that it’s better to take a lesser spot at the table and be invited upward to a better position, rather than take the better spot and be demoted, as if were.
And here also Jesus not only critiques the pride of those who took the best seats, he tells them that they shouldn’t just invite those they are comfortable with - family members, friends and rich neighbours - who can quid pro quo return the favour.
Instead Jesus says that when you give a banquet you should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and doing that you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (vv7-14).
At this point someone sitting there at the table is clearly moved, clearly excited and says to Jesus: [Exag. hands flaying] “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
And that is when Jesus launches into the parable that we have as today’s reading.
Now, I mentioned that this passage had particular significance and meaning to me personally. The truth is my personal life has been someone intertwined, enmeshed in The Yonge Street Mission for a great many years.
Like your own Bill Ryan, who is a great friend and mentor to me (he’s kept me sane more often than I’d like to admit), I have come to view Scripture very much in light of trying to figure out how to be loving and obedient to God by practically loving the community I serve, which is the poor in the inner city of Toronto.