All This Happens At God’s Word (Pentecost 5)


All This Happens At God’s Word

It went where I did not expect. We have a new house. And the previous owner planted a bunch of plants in the ground. So there are flowers I don’t know the names of blooming around our house. But in the front, there’s this bush. And seemingly, everywhere I look, it grows in directions I did not expect. Five, almost ten feet away, it’s sprouting up volunteers. This morning in Luke’s gospel we don’t look at a weed or an invasive bush. Instead we see the same pattern with God’s word. When God’s word is preached and heard is silently and hiddenly goes in many different directions. And so, in Luke 5, we read: 1 As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, he was standing by Lake Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then he sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”” (Luke 5:1–5 CSB17)

In these words the disciples are at the beginning of their long journey of learning God’s word from Jesus. And Jesus is teaching the people from the boat. And these four disciples hear Jesus as they are fishing beside the boat. But at the end of his teaching time with the crowds, he tells Peter to put the boat out into the water and catch some fish. And Peter’s words here are fascinating. He tells Jesus that all throughout the night they didn’t catch anything. But—But, at your word, I will put out the nets again.1 These are some amazing words. Because at God’s word, faith was created in their hearts. And that faith naturally and beautifully followed. It might seem like a simple fact to focus on in a sermon. But it’s not. Every time a person across the street or on a bus confesses Jesus as his or her Savior, that is a reason for us to rejoice. For that faith did not come from them. Instead, it came from our Triune God. At God’s word Peter and his friends were given faith that followed. But what else happened? 6 When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners.” (Luke 5:6–10 CSB17)

At God’s word they were given faith that followed. But what happened next? At God’s word, they failed. These words are shocking to us because they happend just the opposite of the way we might expect. We would expect that Peter would see this miraculous catch of fish and conclude, “If Jesus can do that to provide for my physical needs, just think of what he can do to provide for my spiritual needs.” But he does not. Instead of being convinced of forgiveness, he is convicted by fear. And when this happens, he begs Jesus to go away from him.

Peter failed. He had faith in Jesus, but it was a faith that needed to grow. It was a faith that needed to thoroughly understand the difference between Law and Gospel; sin and grace. In fact, it failed so much that he even accused himself of sins that he didn’t even commit. The words that Peter uses here for “sinner” is the the word for a “professional sinner.”2 It was the word used for those who, in order to make a living, directly and deliberately, went against God’s clear word, like tax collectors and prostitutes. Peter was a fisherman. There was nothing wrong with his occupation. It’s one thing to confess our sins. But it’s something else entirely to confess to sins that we are not guilty. And that’s where we are quite able to fail right along with Peter.

And so, let me ask you, how do you know? How do you know if you are feeling bad for a sin that is really a sin? Do you trust your conscience and your feelings? They can be misguided. Do you trust the power of your own reason? It can be mislead. How do you know if you have the right to feel guilty for what you are actually guilty of? the simple answer is this: study God’s word.’ Years ago there was a pastor in Utah I met. He shared God’s word with Mormons. And he told me that, more than anything else, the people who joined his church, loved to study the ten commandments. Month after month, and even year after that is what they loved to focus on. Why? Imagine if most of the sins you were told your entire life were not really sins? Imagine that you were told that drinking caffeine was a twisted, wicked sin. Wouldn’t you want to know what the truth was? So they studied God’s word with their pastor. And you have that same privilege.

So how do you know if that sin is really a sin? Study God’s word with your pastor. But also talk to your trusted friends. And here what I mean is people who read God’s word and know you and know God’s word well. And where there there are those times you are in doubt, as iron sharpens iron, so they will sharpen you with the truth you need to hear. And all of this happens at God’s word. At God’s word faith follows. At God’s word there are times that we fail. But, finally, what else happens at God’s word? 10 “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.” 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.” (Luke 5:10–11 CSB17)

At God’s word, Jesus removes our fear. Listen to those beautiful words that Jesus says to Peter: “Do not be afraid.” These are not wrath-filled, condemning words. Instead, these are words of comfort and compassion. These are words they would hear so many times throughout the next years. When they were terrified that Jesus would leave them as orphans, Jesus said, 1 “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1–2 CSB17) When Jesus rises from the dead and they are frightened and fearful that their sins are still not paid for and not forgiven, again they hear the words, 5 “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:5–6 CSB17)

Jesus removed their fear. And Jesus removes our fear. But after that what does Jesus do? He trained them and taught them to remove the fears of others—to properly apply law and gospel. And he does the same for us. Some months ago I saw a mom. And she had a bunch of children. And as little children do, they got into a number of disagreements throughout the day. And one after another, she would tell her children, “what do you say? Say to me, ‘I am sorry, mommy.’” And when they said this, she said, “I forgive you.” What was she doing? Just as surely as Jesus was training his disciples to set aside their expertise in applying nets to fish and instead, apply God’s word to people, this mom was doing the same. She making sure that when they felt bad, they felt bad for the right reasons. And, then, when they did, she made sure that she removed their fear of punishment. And one by one, child by child, when she said those words of forgiveness, they ran off without a care, sins forgiven, and even forgotten.

Look what happens at God’s word. At God’s word, by this miracle of faith, we follow. At God’s word, sad to admit, but true, we fail to apply it properly. And at God’s word, just as Jesus removes our fears, so to, we also remove the fears of others. Amen.

1 “ⲉⲡⲓⲇⲉⲧⲱⲣⲏⲙⲁⲧⲓⲥⲟⲩ” (Luke 5:5 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲁⲛⲏⲣⲁⲙⲁⲣⲧⲱⲗⲟⲥⲉⲓⲙⲓⲕ̅ⲉ̅” (Luke 5:8 GNT-ALEX)

Our Savior Loves Lifers (Pentecost 5)


Our Savior Loves Lifers

What about the other people? In Sunday school and in sermons we learn about a guy by the name of Naaman. We are told that he was a big man.1 2 Kings 5:1}} But he had leprosy. And we learn how he went to the man of God thinking that God would heal him because he was a big man. But, through Elisha, the Lord taught Naaman that healing and forgiveness is a gift from God not something earned or bought from God. We teach this to our children. We hear it preached in sermons. But what about the other person? At the beginning of this part of God’s word there is a slave girl. She lives in the northern part of Israel. And then what happens? There are raiding bands that go out from Aram. And they capture her family. And we don’t know what happened to the rest of her family. Did they die? Were they sold off into slavery to different people just as she was? In either case, she is left there alone with no family as a slave to a new master. And instead of running away or hating her master Naaman and God above, what does she do? She works hard to create a new family. She works hard so that her master Naaman knows the Lord just as much as she does. Where is her sermon? There are people in God’s word that get the spotlight. And there are others that fall into the background. Last week we had the opportunity to see our Savior’s love for the lost son. But what about the son who was not lost? So, in Luke 15, we read: 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.” (Luke 15:25–28 NIV11-GKE)

Notice in these words that our Savior doesn’t just love the lost. He also really, truly loves lifers too. When I say, “lifers”, what I mean is long-time or even life-long Christians. And that is important for us to see because this is a man who needs our Savior’s love. The lost son comes home. He confesses his sin publicly and desperately in front of so many people. The father forgives him and embraces him. And then the party begins. But when all this was going on, where was the older son? He was out in the field.2 He didn’t see his brother’s confession. He didn’t see his Father’s care and compassion. He gets to the edge of the property, and he hears the sound of happy musical instruments and singing. He gets a little closer and he sees people dancing. So he calls over a servant boy and asks him what is going on. The servant shares the father’s joy and says that the brother was lost and now is found. And then, when the brother hears about this, what does he do? He does nothing. He just sits there. In my own mind I picture this at night. And I picture this big house in the middle. And there is the brother sitting there on the fence just where the light fails and the sound dims. He’s just sitting there sulking.

This is a man who needs to see our Savior’s love for him. For this man, just like us, is a lifer. And we see in him a progression from bad to worse. The first sin he committed is one of omission. He left out the good he should have done. If he had a problem with his father or with his brother he should have been a grown up and gone in and talked to his brother. But he didn’t. He just sat there on the fence and refused to go in. From that the second sin started: the sin of bitterness. The more he sits there the more he stews. And he hates his brother and even his father more and more.

It’s important for us to look at this older son—this lifer. For his sin is the same sin that tempts us today. The longer we are Christians the more of a temptation we have toward entitlement. We too commit this sin of omission. When people, our fellow Christians, say words that we do not like and they offend us, we owe it to them and to our God above to reach out to them and speak to them face-to-face. God’s word says, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19 NIV11-GKE) Notice the point: a witness—someone who speaks about an issue face to face. God’s word says, ““If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” (Matthew 18:15 NIV11-GKE) Again, notice the point: we speak to each other face to face. And the great temptation we have as lifers—those who have been Christians for a long time if not even our entire life, is to conclude that these words don’t apply to us. And technology has not helped us in this area. You can go on Facebook and hear strange rants that go like this: “I wish some people would realize that hymns that are 1000 years old should stay 1000 years behind us.” Or you can hear the opposite, “I wish some people would realize that new songs don’t add anything to our worship. Nobody knows them and nobody can sing them.’” What’s the problem with this? We just like the lifer-brother are there sitting on the fence, letting that bitterness grow inside of us until it lashes out. And then through gossipy-third parties the truth comes to the person it is intended to arrive at.

So, with lifers there is a sin of omission that we can so easily fall prey to: concluding that we don’t need to actually speak to those around us face to face and person to person. But, on the other hand, there is also a temptation to commit a sin of commission: 28 So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” (Luke 15:28–30 NIV11-GKE)

The other real temptation we face as lifers, is to conclude that God owes us his grace. Notice how the older son speaks. He speaks of his life in his father’s house as slavery.3 And that is our great temptation too, to conclude that God owes us forgiveness along with food, shelter, and clothing. And from that sin flows another: When we conclude that God owes us his grace, we very quickly take the every day gifts our God gives to us for granted. Parts of God’s word that show us our sin become offensive. And parts of God’s word that show us how much our Savior saves us from our sin become boring. The blessings of baptism are forgotten and the Lord’s Supper quickly becomes a show instead of a sacrament.

This older son—this lifer needed to see our Savior’s love for him. And so do we. And in the final words we see this amazing love our Savior has for us lifers: 31 My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”” (Luke 15:31–32 NIV11-GKE)

The first detail we look at is what the father does. The lifer son is there sitting on the fence. And even though he does not need to, what does he do? He goes out to the son who is there sitting in the darkness on the fence. The father had every right to stay inside. After all, his son was lost, but now he is found. But what does he do? He goes out to the son sitting on the fence in the darkness. And he does the same to us. When we do not speak to others and instead that root of bitterness grows and then we gossip when we shouldn’t, through other Christians our Savior comes to us and brings us back again.

Then the father reminds the son that everything he has belongs to the son. The father doesn’t take away the gifts from the older son. The older son didn’t deserve the family and friendship that he had with his father. And he didn’t deserve the food, shelter, and clothing the father provided too. But the father loved the lifer son so much that he let him know that what belongs to the father belongs to the son.

And the same is true for us. We do not deserve the forgiveness and faith our Savior gives to us. But yet, out of his amazing grace, what belongs to Jesus is also ours. And not only the spiritual blessings, also the earthly blessings are ours too. The food, shelter, and clothing that we do not deserve our Father in heaven graciously showers on us.

But his love for us does not end there. The calf was the one who was slaughtered in the story. But Jesus was the one who was sacrificed in real life for us. All of this our Savior does for us so that we would know that it’s not just that lost that have our Savior’s love. It’s those long-time, even life-long Christians too that have his love. Our Savior Loves Lifers too. Amen.

1 הָיָ֣ה אִישׁ֩ גָּד֨וֹל

2 {\ath “ⲉⲛⲁⲅⲣⲱ·” (Luke 15:25 GNT-ALEX)

3 {\ath “ⲇⲟⲩⲗⲉⲩⲱⲥⲟⲓ” (Luke 15:29 GNT-ALEX)

Our Savior Loves The Lost (Pentecost 4)


Our Savior Loves The Lost

It’s worth the price. Years ago there was a man who had a daughter. And the daughter wanted to be a scientist when she grew up. When she was young he told her that she had to work hard and get good grades. And if she did this he would help her when she got into college. Years later, she graduated. And with her diploma in his hand he gave the dollar amount that he had paid in helping her with tuition. And with a huge smile on his face he said that it was worth every penny. This morning we find the same sort of pattern. Our Savior loves the lost. And he shows us this by telling us three stories that illustrate this fact. And the way we see how much he loves the lost is by showing us the cost. In Luke 15, we read: 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”” (Luke 15:1–10 NIV11-GKE)

As we walk through these parables, notice the cost. A shepherd loses a sheep, then look at the cost. He risks the other 99 being attacked by a lion or bear to go out and get that one lost sheep. And with joy in his heart, he shows by his actions that it was worth the cost. It would have been easier to wait till morning. But she burns costly oil to find that coin.

This shows us an important truth: loving the lost means loving the cost. Jesus loves the lost. And that means that loving the lost will always be costly for the church. And our Savior expects that is we love the lost we will also love the cost. And yet we all face this temptation to pretend to love the lost and ignore the cost. One of the ways our Savior has chosen to show his love to the lost is by choosing and calling pastors to share that message of Christ’s love. And there is always this temptation then to say, “I love the lost but I’d like to not deal with the cost of having a pastor.” It’s unfair to have a church council ask and maybe even beg for a budget to be met. But there’s also the cost in time. Loving the lost is also costly in time. Years ago I remember taking two families through Adult Instruction Class. That takes so very much time. And I remember one of my members one of my members complaining that I wasn’t helping out enough at church. And that was my answer: if we love the lost, we also love the cost. And that means that there might be times when a pastor can’t be at the meeting or ministry you are involved because there’s a cost in showing love to the lost. For my own part the area I’ve struggled with is the ten percent of our budget that goes to missions. It’s ever-so-tempting for me to say, “I need to be paid and my church needs heat in the winter.” But then I am humbled by these words and the great cost shown in loving the lost.

Jesus’ love is costly. It’s costly for the church. But it’s even more costly for himself. We have these temptations to say we love the lost but then pretend there’s no cost. Is that how our Savior treated us? There was so much cost in Jesus finding you and he gladly and graciously paid it all. Look at what happened on Good Friday as Jesus paid for the sins you know you did. But what’s even more amazing is that he also paid for the sins you never knew you did at all. What cost he paid. What cost in time and energy the Holy Spirit spent on you. For he is the one who created faith in your hearts through the power of his word—not with commands and demands, but instead, with gentle promises of forgiveness. Look at the cost the Father spent in giving you parents. And for many of us here this morning, how many hours and years did they spend taking us to church amidst all our wrathful rebellion? And look at the great cost our Savior spent in training a pastor to teach you God’s word in catechism class or in Adult Instruction Class. If ever then you doubt the considerable cost involved in finding and keeping the lost, remember that you too were once lost. Then remember the cost your Triune God spent to gain you and give you his forgiveness. Our Savior loves the Lost. His love is costly. But as the words continue and other fact is preached to us: 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:11–24 NIV11-GKE)

In the third story of those who are lost we meet a son who threw all his good gifts away. The father amazingly welcomes him back. But when he welcomes him, why does he put the ring on his finger and the robe on his back? He was doing this to let his son know that his status was returned to him. And that status would not change. Even though he threw away his sonship, the son could conclude and justly so, that he was a son once again. And why does he slaughter the fattened calf and through a long party into the dark hours on the night? He does this because he wants everyone to rejoice in pondering the fact that his son was once lost and now is found.

And my dear friends, the same is true for us. Our Savior’s love for us is continual and constant. Jesus had no reason to choose you. But he did. He had no reason to wash your sins away in those waters of baptism. But he did. He had no reason to teach you God’s word so that you were ready to receive the Lord’s Supper week after week, but he did. That fact and your status as “child of God” does not change.

And this is so important for us to dwell on because each of us has a sinful nature that wants us to conclude that it’s too good to be true. Not all that glitters is gold. And you cannot get anything for free. But that’s the exactly the point, isn’t it? It’s free for us. But it wasn’t free for our Savior. It was so costly for him. And because it was so costly for him, we can now conclude that it is true for us.

And not only is it true, he also wants us to bask in that fact. They killed the fattened calf and threw a long party. And there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than for the other 99. How amazing it is that our Savior Jesus in heaven along with so many angels rejoiced in the moment we knew who he was and trusted in him. And that rejoicing will be our joy when we meet him with our own eyes in heaven.

Our Savior Loves the Lost. His love is costly. His love is continual and constant. I urge you then to love the cost in loving the lost. And I urge you to remind yourself that you are found. And that fact cannot be taken from you. Amen.

You Are Invited To The Dinner (Pentecost 3)


You Are Invited To The Dinner

Idon’t belong here. When I was a new pastor and conducted my first wedding service, those were the words I told myself. I had challenges with the details—what side the groom stands on and which side the bride is on. Who comes in first and last—those sorts of problems. And then, if I felt out of place in the wedding service, what happened after made the situation even worse. There was the wedding reception. And at the wedding reception they had a place setting for each guest. And when I sat down I saw, not one, not two, but instead four forks. Why in the world would you need four forks? Sometimes you can have the right music, the right setting, the right food, and yet you still feel out of place. And if that was how I felt, then what Jesus was going through in these words must have been so very much worse. Here Jesus was, a middle class to lower class carpenter. And he was invited to a banquet. But there was no one there to tell him to use the forks from the outside in. No, He was alone. And he was there so that others could look down on him, not listen to him. And yet, instead of saying, “I don’t belong here,’” he sets aside the time to preach out and reach out to the guests at the banquet. In Luke 14, we read: 15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’” (Luke 14:15–20 NIV11-GKE)

The opening verse gives us all the context we need to understand the parable that Jesus speaks. The rich, smug people there at this banquet were sure that they were going to be there in heaven at the feast in heaven. And Jesus makes them question their smug assumptions. And so, he tells them a story. There’s a master of a household who has a fancy dinner. He sends out the first round of messengers to invite people—his closest friends and associates to his feast. They agree. Then, he sends out another round of messengers at the hour of the feast.1 But then, one by one, each of them makes excuses. And what is fascinating about these excuses is that all of them are valid excuses. One guy just bought a field and another buys a pair of oxen. They have to check them out. How could the master of the house object? Everybody has to work. The third guy just got married. Who could object to that? But what’s the problem? It’s the matter of priorities. It’s the matter of making sneaky excuses to get out of important invitations and conversations that God wants us to have. The first commandment comes before all the other commandments.

In these words there is an invitation to the dinner in heaven. And there are no excuses. How important this is for unbelievers to hear. I’ve been a pastor long enough to hear the excuses. I invite my neighbor to come to church, and what does he say? “I have to work on the weekends. I think we’d both agree it’s important to provide for our family.” I invite a friend to church and she says, “I’m spending the weekend with my husband. And I think we’d both agree keeping our marriage strong is important.” Finally, at the end of the day, they’ve made so many excuses that the first commandment is squeezed out. But Jesus lets his hosts know that there are no excuses.

There are no excuses for unbelievers. But also, there are no excuses for us too. Sunday after Sunday you have an invitation to an amazing banquet and dinner in the Lord’s Supper. You have an invitation to receive the forgiveness of sins and lift your head up to the wedding feast of the kingdom of God. But the question each of us needs to ask is: “Am I making excuses?” Am I placing the duties in my life or the gifts God has given to me in my life above God himself? And this is usually where the questions start: “Pastor, is it ok for me to have a cabin by a lake?” “How many weeks can I be away at that cabin?” “If I put my kids in sports, how many Sundays can I miss before I get a phone call from the pastor and elders?” Simply put, this is not a question I can answer. What I can give you is an attitude from God’s word to understand. Ask yourself: “Am I doing this to appreciate this gift and then get back to the better gift of God’s word in worship?’” Or is it simply, “I am using this gift to get away from the Lord’s Supper and from remembering that this wedding banquet of heaven could come to me at any time?’” If the second is the case, if we go through our lives making use of God’s good gifts to get away from the better, greater gifts of worship, and the invitation to heaven we have in the Lord’s Supper, then Jesus says to you the same as he does to the smug, rich people here: There are no excuses. You have an invitation to a dinner. There are no excuses to that dinner when we put other gifts above that dinner. But the parable continues: 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”” (Luke 14:21–24 NIV11-GKE)

Parables usually have a plot twist. It was not out of the realm of possibility that when upper-class people, when they were invited to a banquet, would that excuse themselves—even the second invitation. But what happens next would have been shocking to them. The master of the house sends his servant out and invites the people hanging out in the streets and market place in town. That was shocking because rich people didn’t spend too much time in the market place. After all, they had servants to do that for them. But even worse, how shocking and shameful it must have been to hear about the master of the house sending his servants out to the hedge-ways and highways. That’s where the “icky” people are. The beggars and poor and crippled are there.

And realize my dear friends in Christ, who are the blind, crippled, and poor in this parable? It’s us. We are blind because of our sin. We are crippled because of our sin, not able to know who Jesus is and come to him. We are poor, not having even a dime that could help take away our sins. But that’s precisely the point. You have a dinner invitation. And if our attitude is to make excuses to avoid that banquet, then there are no excuses that are valid. But notice the point of these words: There are also no exclusions. The rich, the poor; the healthy, the crippled—they are all invited. And if they are all invited, that means you and I are invited too.

And as if that isn’t encouraging enough: to know that we have a place at the dinner in heaven, what gives us even more joy is to know how we have that place. Who of us, if we were at that very same banquet would have been able to put up with their pride? Who of us has used the good gifts God has given to us perfectly, not forgetting the first commandment? Jesus does all of this for us, in our place.

You have an invitation to a dinner in heaven. There are no excuses. And there are no exceptions. Amen.

1 “ⲧⲏⲱⲣⲁⲧⲟⲩⲇⲓⲡⲛⲟⲩ” (Luke 14:17 GNT-ALEX)