Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Thoughts on Trinity 2

And one by one they began to make excuses for why they could no longer come to the banquet despite having already given their RSVP: Yes, I'll be there.
"I have just bought a field. I must go try it out. Please excuse me."
"I have just bought a team of oxen. I must go try it out. Please excuse me."
"I have just married a wife. I must go try . . . ."
You get the point. It seems that Jesus has a sense of humor. And thus he shows just how laughable these excuses are. In other words, these excuses don't hold up. I have other things, better things, more important things to do than to come to your party. I don't much like who you are and what you stand for, so I'll show you by not coming to the party. They're meant as an insult. And they do just that. The master became angry.

Jesus said all this in response to what one who reclined at table with Him had said while at the party held by a ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1). This person said, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God" (Luke 14:15). This statement is an excuse like unto the ones our Lord listed in His parable. The statement seeks to excuse why the Pharisees don't invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to their banquets. Those who Jesus said they should invite because they are not able to repay them. And those who do this are blessed for they shall be paid at the resurrection of the just.

The resurrection is pictured in the Old Testament as a great banquet. All those who are righteous will be at the banquet. The Pharisees don't invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind to their banquets because they are not righteous. If they were righteous, they would not be poor, crippled, lame and blind. So "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God."

This, too, is a laughable excuse. But Jesus isn't laughing because it is meant to insult Him. On the face of it, it seems like a harmless statement. The Pharisees apparently understood plausible deniability. The problem is, and what our Lord points out, is its tense. "Blessed is everyone who will eat . . ." future tense. Not now, but in the future. What the Pharisees refuse to see is that the kingdom of God is at hand in the coming of the Son of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. What the Pharisees refuse to see is that they are eating bread in the kingdom of God because they are eating with Jesus. And they refuse to see it because they don't like who Jesus is and what He stands for and who else He eats with: tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus makes the point clear: If you will not eat with me, the coming of God's kingdom, you will not eat bread in the kingdom of God in the future. "Not one of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet." If you do not see that the kingdom of God is already here in the coming of the Son, you will not taste of the banquet yet to come. If you do not recognize the one who is both Host and Meal in the Lord's Supper and eat with and of Him there as the coming of God's kingdom already, you will not taste of that which has yet to come.

The Pharisees didn't see it. They refused to see it. But what of us? How do we refuse to recognize the coming of the kingdom of God in our midst already? I'm not talking about those who are playing hooky on Sunday mornings. How do those who are present at the Divine Service commit the same error as the Pharisees?

Well, let's ask it a different way. How does God's kingdom come? God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
That by His grace we believe His Holy Word. 
That by His grace we lead godly lives here in time. 
A godly life is a life lived in faith toward God and fervent love toward our neighbor. A godly life is lived inhaling the grace and mercy of God in Christ and exhaling that same grace and mercy toward our neighbor. A godly life is a life lived in confession and absolution, in receiving the forgiveness of sins and forgiving those who sin against us.
"Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:13-18).
We make the same error as the Pharisees when we refuse to see the hurt in our fellow Christians and reach out in love to help them in their need. For in so doing we have failed to see Christ in our brother. We have failed to see that God's kingdom has come. We have failed to believe in His Holy Word for we have not done what it says: Love in deed and truth. We have not lived a godly life because we have not believed His Holy Word. We have abused His grace because we have not believed His Word or lived godly lives. You ought to lay down your life for the brothers. For that is what love is.

And are not our excuses just as petty and laughable? Are we not like Adam who blames God for the woman He gave? And Cain who asked: "Am I my brother's keeper?" What is our excuse? There is none.

Repent while you can for the kingdom of God is at hand. He has laid down his life for you. The sacrifice is complete. All is now ready. Come to His banquet to eat with Him, with tax collectors and sinners, with your brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lamb of God, roasted on the cross, is prepared. Jesus is your Host and your Meal. He takes away your sins and gives you His holy Spirit so that by His grace you will believe His holy Word and that by His grace you will lead godly lives here in time and by His grace, there also in eternity.

1 comment:

  1. "It seems that Jesus has a sense of humor." -- Rev. Fr. Braaten

    If I may be allowed to force a digression from the main points of a most wonderful sermon, above: One convincing example of a superb "sense" in this area, of course, is the incident at the wedding of Cana; the Word of Creation didn't let it go at producing something "similar" to what had been consumed before. No, He ratcheted things up as to quality (and quantity), and then perfectly let the baffled master-of-cermonies grab the groom by the collar, and proclaim, "Buddy, you left the best for last. What gives?" I suspect the servants who had manned the jugs were rolling on the floor, giggling in delight, even as our dear Lady went about magnifying the Lord, yet again.

    And what about Lazarus, the poor beggar with the sores? Did Jesus think of yet another Lazarus, the fellow with two sisters, who maybe (wink-wink) "begged" for his own crumbs from the table of the imperial sibs ("Lord, had you not dawdled, our brother would not have died!"). The latter Lazarus went to Fr. Abraham's bosom ... for a time ... too. Reinforcing the convictions of Abraham, his return from the dead did not convince the opposing religious hierarchy as to the true meaning of "Moses and the prophets," which was none other than Christ Jesus. Instead, they used Lazarus' return as a goad to settle plans to put the Holy One of Israel to death. Which only resulted in yet another, and grander, Resurrection.

    Which only proves that you just can't keep a Good Man ... or a Good Shepherd ... down. Which only proves that you can call Him God, as He intimated once to -- "behold!", says Mt 15:16 (AV) -- an over-confident, rich young fellow. Based on the nature of the verbal exchanges, there is a fair chance that the youth was greeted with a divinely affectionately, wistful smile. After all, the Lord had only taken up the weak and the helpless into His receiving arms, only a short time before (Mt 13:15).

    Sometimes I think the best demonstration of Jesus' sense of humor, is the selection of blessed St. Peter to be prince of the Apostles. The fellow is a bundle of extraordinary impulsivity and energy, incredible highs and incredible lows. One moments he's treading on water; then he takes His eyes off the Beckoning One so as to ogle an onrushing wave. Whoopsie! No banana peel necessary as prop, for this chap. So one moment he's making the greatest confession the world has even seen since the wilderness's Baptizer, then he's trampling God's will for a crucified Son. He's the subject of an angelic jail-break, then he's left standing at the door of the believers, because the report of Rhoda the servant girl can't be believed. Of course, not long before, Peter at the court-yard of those high-priest rascals, was all too concerned that another maiden's report WOULD be believed. So naturally he lets fly with the sailor's expletives. Then he bows his head and grieves, bitterly. That's our man, as well as God's; God, who incontrovertibly has a sense of humor.

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor


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