Mommies understand the problem. The kiddos sometimes don’t like what’s good for them. If you gave them the choice, they’d pick the bag of M&Ms over the broccoli, the ice cream over the slice of whole wheat bread, and sleeping in till noon over getting up and helping with chores around the house. They focus on the immediate pleasure and have little developed sense of the future – they don’t think about what a life time of pigging on the M&Ms and downing the ice creaming and shunning work will do to them. But mommies know and so mommies insist: “But this is good for you and you’ll thank me later. Do it!”
Problem is that that kiddo inside never really goes away. We grow up and we continue to make a multitude of bad choices, mostly because we love instant gratification and think little of the final consequences. No, this is not a lecture on diet. It’s a sermon on today’s Gospel reading.
For there our Lord tells us that His heavenly Father has prepared for all people – and so for us - the most wonderful banquet. It’s all gift! All free! You couldn’t pay for it if you tried. AND it’s utterly wholesome. This banquet, this feast, it isn’t designed to satisfy some temporary hunger or scratch some current itch; it’s designed to impart to those who will but allow themselves to be given to forgiveness for all their sins and a life that never ends – a life of communion in the Spirit with the Son and the Father. It’s designed to give us what life itself was meant for: communion with God in the company of the holy angels. The feast takes the poor and makes them rich. It takes the naked and filthy and clothes them in shining robes. It takes the starved and hungry and fills them with an everlasting satisfaction. The feast is what our gracious Giver God serves up in His Word and in His Sacraments – a veritable banquet of life.
And to make sure that no one misses this feast, He sends out His messengers with a word that is astonishing: “Come, for everything is now ready.” How big is that everything? Bigger than you can imagine. Everything means everything. He has done it all. His perfect life of obedience His unbroken "yes" to the Father, was for you. The pouring out of His blood to blot out the sins of the whole world was for you. His resurrection from the dead to leave death trounced on in the grave was for you. His sending of the Spirit was for you. And for you, He has prepared a table where you may sit with Him in His royal banqueting hall and feast as kings and priests with your brother, THE King and THE Priest, Jesus Christ, as He delivers to you all that His life, death, and resurrection secured for you! When you arrive at this banquet, there is a crown for your head and a place of honor at the King’s own table. And what is it that you have to do for such an honor? Not one thing. Except to come. Except to allow yourself to be given to. Except to receive from Him the gift that is wholly gift and which it is the burning desire of His immaculate heart to give to you.
But the response? Excuses. The invitation turned down. “I have bought a field, five yoke of oxen, married a wife…whatever else. I cannot come. I have something else I must do. Please have me excused.” And so the choice is made, fatefully made. To pursue some business or pleasure of this world that is passing away and to spurn the gift of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken and that endures forever.
Let me step on some toes. You make that same choice every time you choose for any reason other than sickness or dire emergency to absent yourself from the Lord’s house when His Divine Service is being held. You make that same choice when you think: “Coming to church once or twice a month or four times a year surely should be enough.” You make that same choice when you leave your Scriptures closed in your home and do not open them and read them to your children and yourself and you lie to yourself saying “you just don’t have the time” while you watch an hour or two of TV. You make that same choice when you put recreational or sports activities ahead of attending to God and His word. And it is a foolish choice. Foolish, I tell you. Repent!
The M&Ms and ice cream of this age that you allow to distract you and pull you away from God and His Word and His Supper are not evil in themselves. Buying stuff is not evil. Marriage has God’s command and blessing. BUT when you allow your legitimate use of those things to crowd out of your life – and I mean your daily time in Scripture and your weekly commitment to His Divine Service at minimum – you are hurting YOURSELF for you are neglecting to feed your immortal soul the very Word of God that it needs to survive, let alone to thrive, and which God would feed it richly and freely.
Mommies know best about these things. Eat your broccoli, enjoy your whole wheat bread and set about your chores with a cheerful spirit. Which being translated is: Listen to Mother Church on this! Never let a Lord’s Day go by that does not find you hearing and heeding the Lord’s invitation to come to His Feast. Never let a day go by that finds you too busy with the stuff of this world, to open the Sacred Scriptures and read a bit and hear and think about and practice what God says to you there. Do this, lest you be among those of whom the Lord said in today’s Gospel: “For I tell you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”
The invitation does not ring out forever – not for individuals, not for congregations, not for nations. A fearful judgment awaits those who spurn the Word of God. Luther once described the way the Gospel works as a passing rain shower. It doesn’t stay where there is no thankfulness for it; where people won’t listen and are too busy with their lives. It moves on to those who WILL hear it and heed it; to those of the street and lanes of the city, the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame. For the Master will have His house filled.
So, people loved by God, you have a Lord who is rich in mercy and kindness. Though you have spurned Him in the past, today He comes anew, seeking you, inviting you, cajoling you to come and feast with Him, to partake of the riches of His banquet. To let yourself be crowned and robed and feasted royally. He is not interested in receiving your excuses – he is interested in receiving you. Come to Him in repentance today and pray for a clean heart and that His Spirit might renew you, and then feast on His pardon and be strengthened at His Table in your commitment to live your life at the receiving end of His gracious giving. “Come, for all is now ready.” Amen.