Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost 2020 Year A
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning I would like for you to take a moment and reflect upon a very important celebration that has occurred in your life; and as you think about that moment recall the setting and the occasion that helped make that event so special.
Now, I suspect that for many of you the joyful event included a meal or food because for most of us it is hard to conceive of any kind of celebration that does not involve food or sharing a meal together.
Birthdays, for example, are celebrated with a cake. And weddings conclude with a banquet. And the Thanksgiving Holiday and the Christmas Season that will soon be before us includes food and recipes that have been handed down for generations.
I think that most of you would agree with me that something special does happen when we break bread and share a meal together.
And so, it should come as no surprise this morning to hear in our readings that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is compared to a great banquet.
In our lesson from Isaiah, for example, the coming reign of God is described as a GREAT FEAST that will be set for all people that will include rich food, and well-aged wine, and an abundance of other gifts that God FREELY offers to all who show up.
And in our Gospel text today, Jesus compared the coming Kingdom of Heaven to a king who planned a great wedding feast for his son and invited everyone to come and share in his joy and excitement.
And so, the overall theme presented to us this morning informs us that God invites everyone to come and participate in the feast and join the celebration that He has prepared.
But the problem (as we just heard in the Gospel text) is that not everyone who receives the invitation wants to come and participate in the feast.
In fact, we are told that there will be some people who will refuse to join the celebration because they are simply too busy to attend the wedding feast.
And we are told that there will be other people who will make light of the event and not appreciate the importance of the occasion.
And the sad truth is that today we still have people that refuse to accept the invitation to come to the Lord’s Table and receive the blessing that His meal gives to us.
As a Pastor (for example) I have heard of many reasons why people do not want to come and be a part of the celebration of God’s grace and mercy on Sunday morning and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior.
Why? Well for some Sunday is the only day that they get to sleep late. And for others, Sunday is the only day to go fishing, or to clean the house, or cut the grass, or to B-B-Q brisket. For some, Sunday is the only day… and I will let you fill in the blank.
Now, do not get me wrong. All the reasons that we can come up with to avoid coming to Church to receive God’s Gift of Word and Sacrament are not bad activities by themselves.
All of the reasons just mentioned are valid activities that are important to us, but they become a problem when they become our main focus and when they take our eyes off the jubilation of the feast that God has prepared for us.
And that is the point that Jesus was trying to make in our parable today. Our lesson today is not just about rejecting the invitation to come and celebrate at the feast that God has prepared for us, but also about refusing to come and celebrate at the time that God has set for the occasion.
I think that all the invitees would have been happy to attend the wedding banquet if it had been convenient for them. But when the king insists that they come at his pleasure they refuse to come because it does not fit in with their schedule.
So, what does the king do??? The king withdraws the invitation and punishes those who reject his generosity. And the startling truth contained in our gospel text today is that God’s invitation to join Him at the feast can be/will be withdrawn if we choose to seek God on our terms and not on His terms.
Even though everyone is invited to come and take part in the feast, not everyone will take up God’s invitation to be clothed and fed and nourished by His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
My friends: To be included is God’s gift to you. To exclude yourself is up to you. God will not force anybody to come to His table of grace. The guests at His table are free, and not prisoners. God will not force anyone to stay.
Martin Luther once said that the doors of the church swing in both directions so that those who wish to come may come, and those who wish to leave can leave. But Luther also said this: Be careful what you choose because the alternative to the feast is outer darkness, and weeping, and gnashing of teeth.
In a little while you will be invited to come and receive a foretaste of the feast to come. May we all respond as the words of the well-known Communion hymn state:
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come
Let us pray: We give you thanks, O God, that you welcome us to your table and satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst. Enable us to hear your invitation and respond with joy and thanksgiving to the gift that you have given us through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.