SERMON FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 6-10-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
To the children of God gathered at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God of Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
King David spoke of the wonderful invitation and banquet of the Lord, saying, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” The 23rd Psalm. The Lord prepares the table, your cup runneth over with forgiving blood. The Lord God is the master of the feast – His Son is the Banquet – the food and the drink. Jesus is Himself the cook, the butler, the waiter, and the meal. It was He who was roasted in the Father’s wrath on Calvary for the sins of the world – making peace by the blood of the Cross – laid in the grave but risen – living – ascended – and yet among us in his life-giving body and holy blood.
Risen from the grave on Easter afternoon, he walked among those confused disciples, troubled over Jesus death, yet not recognizing the Lord of life among them. Everything changed, however, when this stranger took bread, blessed it, and gave it to them – their eyes were apocalyptically opened – they recognized the Lord. Understood his ongoing presence, wherever his word is spoken – and his supper shared. In a life-giving meal, a banquet of his body and blood – given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and salvation.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”
This morning the Lord’s Supper will be celebrated on altars across the world. Christ stands at the altar and pulpit the world over with his arms wide open, graciously inviting all to come, saying, “come, eat, drink, for everything is ready.” Every creature plagued by sin, death, and hell should run with delight to this feast and find strength and joy, forgiveness, and health – eternal life and sublime happiness.
Imagine, that feast centuries earlier spoken of by Isaiah: A banquet on God’s holy mountain – of rich food and well-aged wine for all people. The best meat and the best of wine. That God would lift the veil spread out over all the nations - swallow up death forever – banish all sadness - and wipe the tears away from every face.
Imagine the thousands of years that God had prepared his people for this magnificent feast.
And now that feast has come where Christ is present offering just that feast: himself…. Imagine God’s grief, the sorrow in his heart, that this invitation would be met with indifference. The whole world shrugs their shoulders at this mystery of God’s presence in weekly worship.
Jesus said “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses: one fella had bought some land, another had some animals to see, another guy, thought being recently married, was a decent excuse. “Too busy,” they all said! More important things to do. They all rejected the banquet.
But sin of course makes us stupid. The excuses for abstention are ridiculous today just as they are ridiculous in the Gospel this morning. Sports, real estate, sleeping in, hectic schedules, a day for myself to sleep in. It’s easy to fool our own family members, friends, and maybe even the pastor with all our excuses. But the excuses are still foolish. And while me might fool one another with excuses for rejecting the banquet, or giving up on family prayer, or bible reading, because our schedules are so hectic – we cannot – and will not ever pull one over on God. He’s knows what’s behind it all; because it’s personal. It’s all fundamentally a rejection of him.
He’s God; he’s knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. The misplaced priorities. The greed, the anxiety, the faithless fears. It aint pretty. Now Yes, Jesus is mostly warning the Jews of their rejection of him, God’s special people, whom he had taken such a special interest in to spread His Gospel to all nations. And yes, today’s text is mostly a warning to those who are not here this morning – those fallen away – or in need of prayers to be restored.
But it’s also a warning to all of us. The Lutheran version of those excuse making privileged Jews, is to become bored or indifferent to the holy things of God: such things as the words of absolution – or real presence of Christ in the Supper.
Repent and be filled with wonder this morning that God has not changed his mind about you. That despite the week you just had, the numerous times you fell, sinned, and were silent in prayer, that God is not silent toward you this morning. Unlike your treatment of Him, he has not given you the cold shoulder. No, he is not silent, but inviting you, and loving you, forgiving you – and speaking loudly and clearly that your sins are forgiven. That you are loved by God and have a special place at the table.
Repent and live like that other group, who considered an invitation to God’s heavenly banquet as the most unexpected, wonderful, and greatest thing in the whole world.
Consider again the surprise, the complete and total surprise, that God’s love has overpowered your sins, that they are cast away, as far as the east is from the west. And that God remembers those sins no more.
What a surprise! Because you know the truth. God your Father, the master of the Heavenly Banquet, could have made a lot of good excuses for excluding you, leaving you out of his heavenly banquet. But he didn’t do that. It’s his good pleasure to give the kingdom to those who think they are unworthy of it.
God could have made excuses that the price to save you was too high – the suffering and sacrificial death of his own Son – But for God who loves you, with a love that is incomprehensible – it was worth it.
So consider those frivolous excuses made in today’s Gospel and consider those greater things that God gives:
Consider that the first excuse-maker had bought a mere piece of land, but now consider that God gives you the real estate of paradise itself – he gives you an everlasting kingdom. The second excuse-maker ran off, to consider the sacrifice of oxen, but you receive the sacrifice of Christ, the finest meat and finest drink – that truly gives life.
The third ran off to his wife. But now in this banquet you are about to taste, he nourishes you and declares you to be not any old spouse, but the zealous object of his love, his perfect bride, the church.
He is pleased that all of you are here. He’s got you right where he wants you. In his heavenly house, at his banquet, where you forever remain his most prized possession. So eat, drink, be merry. Bask in the undeserved love of God and boast that you, who were once far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
The Lord invites you to the altar, saying “come, for everything is now ready.” Consider that the charge of the pharisees is so gloriously true, that this man, Jesus, welcomes sinners and eats with them. He welcomes and eats with you. And just as wonderful he actually enjoys your company. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
Heavenly Father, bless us, Your baptized children, who were once far off but have been brought near by the blood of Christ, through whom we have access in one Spirit to You. Hear our prayers and supplications, and unite us together in the unity of faith and the bond of peace. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Gracious Father, through Your faithful servants, You invite all sinners to come and feast at Your great banquet. Send forth such faithful servants and bless them to proclaim to all, “Come, for everything is now ready!” Through the faithful preaching and administration of Your Holy Word and Sacraments, fill Your banquet hall with sinners redeemed by Christ the Crucified. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Merciful Father, look upon the poor, hungry, homeless and unemployed with compassion, and tend to their needs. Fill us with Your mercy and compassion, and remove from us any excess love of earthly treasures, that we would be moved to provide assistance to those in need. Bless the charitable organizations and social agencies of our land, that relief would be found in them for those who need it. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Loving Father, have mercy on all who are suffering and desire Your aid at the present time, especially our homebound members: Carol, Dorothea, Betty, Doris, Cliff and Carol, Teresa, Ethel, Paul, Maude, and Lou. According to Your gracious will, heal their infirmities and give them strength to bear all their crosses in Christian patience, always looking to Your Son, Jesus Christ, for courage and care. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Holy Father, here at the holy altar we are blessed to receive a foretaste of the feast to come at Your great banquet. As we partake of the very body and blood of Christ, which is, for us, the medicine of immortality, forgive our sins and preserve us in body and soul unto life everlasting. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, we remember all who rest in Your nearer presence, especially those in our families who have gone before us in the faith. Prepare us every day to fall asleep in the wounds of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, that we may rise with them in glory at our Savior’s return to judge the living and the dead. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.