Sermons

Archives - September 2019

Are You Listening?

September 29, 2019
By Rev. David French

As we continue to work our way through the gospel of Luke, it’s important to remember that we’ve been looking at one section of Scripture or, if you will, one piece of a puzzle each week that when put together, gives us the big picture of God’s plan for our salvation.

In this chapter alone, for example, verses 1-13 speak of the proper use of money. Verses 14-18 show the Pharisees’ displeasure with Jesus’s statements about the use of money. And, the lesson assigned for today shows us that the improper use of money is a fruit of choosing to ignore God’s Word, which is what Jesus was saying the Pharisees were doing.

But, even though the Pharisees are the ones Jesus points to in our lesson, this chapter begins with the words, “Jesus told His disciples,” that is, believers like you and me. And, like all who have believed before us, we also are taught by the Scriptures that all we have comes from God as a trust to be used in the building of His kingdom.

We teach and believe that our offerings are simply our returning to God a portion of what He has first given to us. We teach and believe that were it not for God giving us the mental and physical abilities to work in many different vocations in life, we would have none of the things we call “our own.” We believe and so live by these truths … unless, of course, we’re like the Pharisees.

My friends, the point of this parable is not to judge wealth or poverty, but to judge those who ignore God’s Word. Of course, there’s a temptation for those who have wealth to trust in it. It’s true some give into that temptation. It’s also true that some don’t. Those who don’t - serve God as He enables them. Those who do - often use their wealth to justify their actions.

There’s also a temptation for the poor to think that God is ignoring them, or worse, punishing them. Again, some give in to that temptation and some don’t. Those who don’t - also serve God as He enables them. Those who do - often use their poverty to justify their actions.

In our epistle lesson we read, “the love of money” (and notice it makes no reference to having a lot or wanting more, it only says the love of it) “is the root of all kinds of evil.” The truth is, rich or poor or wherever you fall in between, money can be a blessing or a curse. What it will be in your life, Jesus teaches, is determined by your relationship with God.

A relationship that, as you know, is the result of our heavenly Father sending His only begotten Son into our world to restore what was lost when our first parents brought sin into the world. That is, a relationship with God based on His love as opposed to His Law. But, to do that, sin first had to be paid for and the guilt of sin removed. However, that could only be done with blood, the blood of a Lamb without blemish, the blood of Jesus the very Lamb of God. And so, it’s by the life and death of Jesus that sin has been paid for and forgiveness now freely offered through the Means of Grace that is God’s Word and Sacraments so that new life might be created in you and me and all who do not ignore His Word.

In our lesson we see a rich man who did give in to the temptation that comes with wealth, and ignoring God’s Word he lived only to satisfy himself. He was a person for whom money had become his god. His god richly blessed him with all kinds of luxuries, but those luxuries were only a blessing in this life, and at the end offered no benefits at all.

Outside his gate was a beggar named Lazarus. He was, as we see by the fact that he went to heaven, a person who did not give in to the temptations that come with poverty. He is described as a man who could not walk, as we read, “[he] was laid in front of the gate.” He was someone whose only source of comfort(ish) comes from stray dogs that lick his sores. He was sick, lonely, hungry, and completely dependent on the mercy of others. He was the physical equivalent of a spiritually poor, miserable sinner. The only thing he seems to have in common with the rich man in our lesson is death. So, this morning we consider the differences, focusing on the words spoken to the rich man, “… in your lifetime you received your good things.”

You see, there is a very big difference between our lifetime and the lifetime God gives to us in Jesus Christ. And now, as then, it is the Holy Spirit who works in our lives through the inspired and inerrant Word of God. If we choose to ignore and so, in practice, reject that Word, we will indeed have received all the good things we’re going to receive in our lifetime.

But, thanks be to God as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The way we are brought into Christ, we are taught in Romans 6, is through baptism. And what gives baptism, for lack of a better term, its power is the Word of God, specifically the words in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Not overly impressive words, to be sure, but when used according to Christ’s command, they deliver to us the Holy Spirit who creates the faith that holds to the promise that, even now, we are God’s children, and even now, Christ is preparing a place for us in heaven.

And so, we live in this world of sin knowing that our faith is not a matter of willful determination, right thinking or anything else that can be found within us. Christian living is a fruit of the spirit. We also know that while the new nature or new Adam is created within us in our baptism, the old nature, as Luther says, must daily be drown, and that implies that we will struggle daily.

Surely, you know that no matter how good you want to be, sin is always right there with you. There simply is no escaping the effects of sin while we live in this fallen world. So, what can we do? Follow the advice of Abraham to listen to Moses and the prophets, that is, to God’s Word. It’s there we’re taught that satan, the world, and our own flesh will always fight against God; that even by human standards, we will stumble and fall many times and in many ways, but we also learn that as “we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”

When we listen to God’s Word, what we hear is there’s nothing we can do to earn forgiveness, because Christ has already earned it for us. As you listen to God’s Word, you hear God’s promise that: nothing can pluck you out of His hand, you hear that because of His grace, you are a part of His body where none is more or less important than any other. When you listen, you hear Jesus still calling you by name: “Come to me, … and I will give you rest.” When you listen, you find that as you repent of your sins, no matter how great or how many, His words never change “… as you confess your sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteous.”

Amen.

Never Forget

September 22, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Old Testament text where Amos records, The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

When you read the entirety of Amos’s prophecy, you find that he is not one to mince words when it comes to the rich taking advantage of the poor – and this text is absolutely no different. It comes on the heels of a devastating vision YHWH has just given to Amos wherein the prophet is shown a basket of summer fruit, fully ripe and ready for harvest. He is then told, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” declares the Lord God. “So many dead bodies!” “They are thrown everywhere!” “Silence!”

Dark and foreboding, but then we get into why this people, this summer fruit is ripe for destruction. Amos declares, “Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?’” These hucksters are so base, so evil, so fallen from who they were called to be as God’s people that they were anxiously waiting for the Sabbath day to be over and done with, so that they can resume their shady business practices, shakedowns, and all-around malfeasance. The Sabbath day of rest, intended by God to be a time of worship and rest and re-creation … was something that these hypocrites couldn’t wait to be over. They wanted to get back to making money and taking advantage of the poor, and not be bothered by these archaic rules that had no meaning to them and just got in the way of their bottom line.

Well, YHWH will NOT let this stand. Amos continues: The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” If you are one of the monsters who was perpetrating these heinous crimes against God and neighbor, these words ought to have left you shaking in your boots. Just that phrase, I will never forget any of their deeds, is terrifying. The Hebrew phrasing is even more bone-chilling: I will not forget FOREVER their deeds.

Chilling as those words are, YHWH doesn’t stop there. Going beyond our text, He continues by saying, “Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?” “And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.”

This Day that YHWH metes out His punishment is not going to be pleasant. It is not going to be fun. But frankly, it is well-deserved. These people were treating their fellow Israelites more shamefully and more abusively than the Egyptians did while they were still in bondage! They, who once had been oppressed sorely by Egypt were now oppressing their brothers and sisters, with no remorse, no contrition. This is wholesale sin, as bad as it gets, and they were reveling and wallowing in it like pigs rolling in manure … and YHWH was not going to forget.

The time had come and gone for Israel to repent of her sins. She’d had innumerable prophets beckoning her, pleading with her, to return to YHWH her God, but she would not listen. The people of Israel hardened their hearts, and they forgot the Lord almost altogether … but YHWH would not forget them. He would always remember the unfaithfulness, the cruelty, the evil and wickedness of that godless people.

And He did remember, as He meted out His divine justice in 722 B.C., when the Assyrian empire washed over the wicked land of Israel like a flood of swords and death. The celebrations of the wicked were cut short in that day, as Israel was rightly punished for her perversity and godlessness and contempt for the less fortunate. They were snuffed out or sent to the four corners of the earth, never again to know what it means to be a member of God’s people. YHWH promised He would not forget their deeds, and He didn’t.

But … He has also promised to always remember the righteous who endured Israel’s godless deeds, and yet believed the promises that YHWH their God had given them. The reality is that God remembers the poor, the needy, the outcast – not on the basis of their poverty, but on the basis of their faith. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus would say nearly 750 years after Israel’s destruction, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Our heavenly Father remembers us, His people, poor and destitute in spirit as we are. He remembers us, knowing full well that we could not save ourselves. Thus, He sent Jesus to become poor and needy and outcast. The incarnate, sinless Son of God became sin, and as a result would incur the full wrath of God. The land did, indeed, tremble as He breathed His last upon the cross. The sun would indeed go down at noon and darken the land until Jesus yielded up His spirit in death. God Himself … would bear the punishment we rightly deserved, all to save us from a fate worse than death.

That’s the reality. He remembers you and me, not in our poverty of possessions or income, but in the poverty of spirit. We are a needy people, so hopelessly lost without the grace, the divine intervention of our God and our Lord. But we rest upon His promises that, for the sake of Jesus, our crucified and resurrected Lord, God will never forget us nor forsake us, forever.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Amos 8:4-7

Poured Out on You

September 15, 2019
By Rev. David French

As I read the words of our epistle lesson earlier this week, it’s obvious that Paul is sharing with us a very heartfelt confession of his and our relationship with Christ. A relationship born of God’s grace and seen by the faith Paul received and the love he now has for Christ: who came into the world to save sinners. And to do that, Paul points to or looks at what he knows to be true about himself.

The apostle begins by thanking Jesus, as he says, for appointing me to His service, and he speaks with words that show true reflection and great humility. But, understand that humility is not the result of knowing all the things God has done through him as a church leader and planter.

No, Paul is reflecting on his life in Christ. What humbles Paul is not how Jesus has used him - he clearly understands Jesus is God and can do all things, what humbles Paul is that Jesus uses him. That he should be called faithful when he knows what once filled his heart.

“Look at me,” he says. “I was a blasphemer (someone who slanders the name of God).” He was a persecutor, or literally, a hunter carrying the idea of one who seeks out his prey. And, he says he was a violent man, using a word in the Greek that’s defined this way: “One who in pride and insolence deliberately and contemptuously mistreats and wrongs and hurts another person just for hurting’s sake (and sets out) to deliberately humiliate the person.”

So, Paul may have been advancing in Judaism beyond those his own age. That is, while he was a really religious guy, he was also, to put it mildly, not a very nice guy. He persecuted the church of Christ with a hatred that was unmatched by anyone at that time, and he did it all in the name of God.

We read for example these words of Paul in the book of Acts: Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify.

But in our lesson today, Paul’s not so proud of what he once held up as proof of his zeal for God. In fact, in our lesson today, Paul admits that what was in his heart was not zealousness for God, but pride and ignorance. 

Just five verses before our lesson, we read these words about some of the teachers who were causing trouble for the church where Timothy was the pastor (1 Timothy 1:7-8), Paul writes: They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. In other words, they are just like he was, that is, full of pride and ignorant of the proper use of God’s word in both law and gospel. Before his conversion, Paul saw the law as the way to heaven. After his conversion, he knew it was showing him how useless his efforts to save himself had been, finally acknowledging: I would not have known what sin was if not for the law.

And that is the Law’s purpose today as well. The Law is meant to cut through all the false pretense, all the false ideas of holiness, all the pride that fills our hearts, all the fig leaves, if you will, with which we have covered our shame. It’s true. The law was not given as a challenge, but to show us just how sinful we truly are. To force us to see how deeply sin has infected us and all of our relationships.

The Law shows us what is pleasing to God, to be sure. But, at the same time, it shows us how our hearts have become a breeding ground for sin. As Jesus says in Matthew 15, out of the heart comes … evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. And, while it’s true we can hide what fills our hearts with just a smile, it’s also true that we cannot hide what fills our hearts from the One who searches our hearts.

It’s neither fun nor easy to admit the things that, in the light of God’s Word, we can see fill our hearts, but God already knows what you’re hiding. And still, He sent His son for you. Still, He calls out: … come unto me and I will give you rest.

You see, what Paul is teaching today is why the Law of God is good, even when it hurts. That is why we need to look honestly into the mirror of God’s Word. And so, he begins by looking at himself, and he speaks honestly about what he sees. While we may or may not be able to run a list like Paul’s, we can all understand the idea of confessing who and what we are on the inside, knowing that God would have every right to simply leave us to die in the mess of sin we ourselves created. But that’s not the God who comes to us in Scriptures, the God we worship. That is, in fact, a false god; a god created in man’s image; a god who was created of ignorance and unbelief.

And that, Paul writes, is the reason he was shown mercy. Paul had not rejected the truth; he had never been taught the truth. But when he received the truth, there was an out pouring of grace in Paul’s life that brought with it the gift of faith and love for Christ.

And so, as he suffers from the guilt that he has earned, Paul takes comfort and finds peace as he reflects on God’s love for him. Again today, he offers that comfort to you with these words: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.

Now, Paul’s not saying that there never was nor ever would be anyone in the world more blasphemous or more driven to persecute others or more hateful then he was. But, like you and me, Paul can only look into his own heart. He knows his sinful desires and the secret things he works so hard to hide from others. Paul looked at himself as we also should look at ourselves, that is, in the light of God’s mercy, and asked, “Has there ever been a greater sinner than me?”

The Law, when used as God intended, always leads us to that question. Our lives, when looked at honestly through the Law, always lead us to answer with a heavy heart. But, my brothers and sisters in Christ, there is good news. Christ our Lord came into the world to save sinners, sinners just like you and me.

By God’s grace and the working of His Holy Spirit, you have received the gift of faith, and you do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And while satan, the world, and your own sinful flesh will never stop sowing seeds of doubt; still, you know that you are forgiven in Christ. You know that God has called you out of the darkness and has set your feet upon a rock. That rock, His Son, stretched out His arms on the cross so that you and all who call on Him in faith might be forgiven and strengthened, as day after day He continues to pour out on you the fullness of His grace.

In His Name, Amen.

Counting the Cost

September 08, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel text, where Jesus tells the crowds, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Here ends our text, dear Christian friends …

Lately, it seems like we’ve been inundated with the sayings of what some may call the “Mean Jesus.” We like the Jesus who heals diseases, who washes feet, who provides miraculous food for starving masses. We like that Jesus, the “Nice Jesus.” … But this Jesus … talking about hating one’s mom, dad, brother, sister, wife, kids, and oneself in order to be His disciple … well, that just sounds mean. It doesn’t sound like Jesus at all! I won’t dispute that; it does sound mean … but let’s allow Jesus’s words to stand. Let’s take His words honestly, examine them closely, and try to understand what He’s saying.

First, the context. Jesus has a large crowd around Him, presumably people who have been following after Him for some time. No doubt, many in the crowd had thought following Jesus would be wonderful! They had seen Him stick it to the authorities, do these incredible signs and wonders, and who knows? They might get a free meal out of it! To follow Jesus certainly seemed nice, easy going! Well, at a certain point, Jesus turns, presumably without warning, and drops this mean-sounding truth-bomb upon all within earshot: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” That word … hate. That hits us hard, especially considering who Jesus is telling us to hate: our families, our loved ones, our closest neighbors. How can Jesus possibly ask this of us? Does He realize what He is asking us to do? His words here make us uncomfortable, and undoubtedly, they made the crowd uncomfortable when Jesus first spoke them!

Not surprisingly, some scholars have suggested that Jesus is using this word as a Hebrew idiom, a turn of phrase. They’ve suggested that it should be translated with the idea of preference or comparison – you know, your love for and devotion to Jesus should be so great, that your love and devotion for family would seem like hate by comparison. But the Greek doesn’t play out like that. This word miseo is best translated as hate – as in, detest, abhor, not merely as a lesser form of love. Looking at other places you see it in the New Testament, there’s no evidence it should be translated otherwise. Indeed, the only reason to suggest a different translation … is because the reader needs to soften the shocking implications of Jesus’s statement. We want to change His words here into good news. We want to soften it and make it say, “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well.” I get it; only four chapters prior, Jesus confirmed the summation of the law was to love God and love neighbor. Now, He says that those who don’t hate their closest neighbors cannot be His disciple. In the face of this cognitive dissonance, let alone the rest of Jesus’s teachings, it seems absurd to suggest that He is calling us to hate our loved ones.

But that’s what Jesus says … and He doesn’t end there. He then speaks a word even more audacious, scandalous, and radical: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” If hating one’s family seems impossible, this is downright unfathomable, especially for the masses to whom Jesus has just spoken. See, to the ancient Judeans in that crowd, to bear a cross was a sign of abject humiliation, of being degraded to subhuman levels … and Jesus said it was required of any who would follow Him! The impertinence of Jesus! To suggest that one willingly subject himself to that shame and scandal, and yet here He is, telling the crowds that only one who subjects himself to this ultimate form of dishonor could be His disciple.

Shocking as Jesus’s words are, they are not there simply for shock value. This is not Jesus engaging in first-century click-bait. This is a call to heed the radical nature of the call Jesus places on those who would follow Him, that they would count the potential cost and realize “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has, all that he is, cannot be my disciple.”

This is the theme that has been building through Luke’s account of Jesus’s ministry: there is a very real cost to being a follower of Jesus. It will cost the entirety of your being. There is not time to go back and bury the dead, no time to say farewell. The cost of discipleship is nothing less than a complete breach with the things of this world. And what are the things of this world if not those nearest and dearest to us – our father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and ourselves? This is a call to abandon oneself, to renounce self-reliance and self-justification.

Does this mean that we can have no relationship with our mothers and fathers, our sister and brothers? Of course not. As we look to the teachings of Jesus on what it means to follow Him, we see that it would be impossible to follow Him and not have deep meaningful loving relationships with those people. However, it does mean that our relationships are transformed by our relationship with Christ. Our relationships with everyone from family to neighbor happen in light of—because of—our relationship with Jesus. And this relationship, we are assured, will cause discord. Jesus promised, repeatedly, that persecution will come to those who follow Him; there will be those in the world, those who are counted as friends, those who are family … that will reject us—that is the cost of following Jesus.

Have you considered the cost? Is it one you can pay? It’s a hard question, no doubt, but are you willing to allow your family, all those you love most dearly, to persecute, harangue, and shun you because you are following Jesus? Will you willingly walk away from friendships you’ve enjoyed for years because you refuse to worship any other gods but Jesus? Will you continue to pray for your children, even as they taunt and mock you for your belief in Jesus’s death and resurrection? Are you willing to endure the scorn and the shame and the humiliation that often accompanies being a Christian? Are you willing to stand for the truth in spite of the inevitable blowback you will receive? Are you willing to deny your very being, take up your cross, and follow Jesus?

I’ll let you wrestle with that … and you will wrestle, because this is the reality of being a Christian – it does come with a cost. You are called to sacrifice, but truthfully, it’s often more than we can bear. This is why we take solace and comfort in the One who sacrificed himself on our behalf! We bristle at the thought of hating our loved ones, and we squirm away from the notion of having to sacrifice of ourselves, but the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, who was despised and rejected by men, who gladly bore the scorn and shame and humiliation, the wagging heads, the spitting lips, the striking fists … and the oppressively heavy wood of the cross. All borne for you. The same Jesus, who in our text explained the truly radical demands of His calling, would reveal the radical nature of His love as He died on that cross to pay for the sins of the feeble, weak, pusillanimous creatures He called man and woman. Jesus has called you, my friends, to an audacious and scandalous faith. Your sins are forgiven, so count the cost – especially the cost Him who paid.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

To Heal or Not to Heal

September 01, 2019
By Rev. David French

In today's Gospel reading we find Jesus attending a meal at the home of a prominent Pharisee. Pharisees often invited a variety of people to Sabbath dinner in order to stimulate interesting conversation and debate. It was a community thing, known for welcoming even the uninvited to come and observe. One member of the community who came to observe this particular Sabbath dinner was a man who had dropsy.

This man with dropsy puts in motion a conflict that Jesus had faced on other Sabbath days – that is, to heal or not to heal. You see, the Pharisees had come to the conclusion that healing was work. Since work was forbidden on the Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath was illegal. The crowds, those being healed, however, had a different opinion. If healing on the Sabbath was a sin, why would God honor that sin by healing the victim?

Jesus responded to the experts in the law and the Pharisees by asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” The experts and Pharisees remain silent. The threat of the crowd, no doubt, was a factor. Jesus healed the man and then pointed out the foolishness of their thinking. He said to them, “Which of you, having a son or … an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”

The problem that many Pharisees had was that they were worried about the appearance of keeping the Laws of Moses and understood the praise of the people as proof that they were. They reasoned that if they prospered here on earth, God was pleased with them and would reward their good works in the next life. The problem, of course, is that they were trying to work their way into heaven, an idea that Jesus will soon correct.  

As guests were choosing the places of honor at the dinner table, Jesus used the opportunity to teach them about the true nature of heaven. He told a parable about people choosing places at a wedding banquet. The first part of the story speaks of people so arrogant they assume they deserved a place of honor. When the host comes, he asks these people to surrender their place to others, and the arrogant are humiliated as they move to the lower place. Then there are those who humbly wait in the lowest place for the host to assign them places. When the host comes, He honors these humble people by giving them the places of honor.

Even if there were no spiritual meaning to this story, this would still be a good lesson on manners: consider others before yourself. But, of course, there is a spiritual meaning that goes beyond good manners. Jesus often compared heaven to a wedding feast. In fact, many places in the Bible refer to heaven as the eternal celebration of the wedding of Christ to His bride, the Church.

The guests who think more of themselves than they should are those who believe they deserve a place in heaven, at least in part because of their own “good works.” When Jesus comes to judge the world, He will tell those arrogant people that they must surrender their place to others. That is, because they relied on themselves for their place in heaven, they lose their place in heaven.

The humble guests who trust the host to seat them are those who believe that they deserve nothing but punishment, both here on earth and forever in eternity. But by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, they humbly wait for Jesus to show them to their places. And when Jesus comes, He calls them friends and gives them a place of honor. The point? “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

After Jesus spoke to the guests, He spoke another parable to His host. He said, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” While it’s true that the parable of the wedding banquet makes good sense in this world as well as the next, it’s also true that this next parable, at least in this world, makes no sense at all. Why would anyone entertain people who can’t, at least, return a favor? I mean, we all know life is all about give and take, cause and effect, payment and repayment. If I do you a favor, it’s understood, you owe me one. We all know that’s how it works out there in the so-called “real world.”

And yet, while that may be the way the so called “real world” works, it’s certainly not the way God works. When God invites guests to His wedding banquet, He invites those who are spiritually poor, crippled, lame, and blind. In fact, He invites those who are spiritually dead, those who have no way in this life or the next to repay Him even for the invitation. And yet, mercifully He invites us to come to the wedding.

He invites us with the same words that He first gave to the apostles and the prophets - the Words that they wrote for all generations to come - the words of Holy Scripture, God’s own inerrant and infallible Word. With His words, God tells us that our invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb did not come without a price, that is, what it cost Him to redeem worthless sinners like you and me, making us His own priceless children.

And as you well know, God did not pay the price for the wedding feast with gold or silver, but with the holy and precious blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus the promised “Christ” of God. Remember, when we see Jesus lying in the manger, when we see His suffering and dying on the cross, we are seeing the payment God made so that we, you and I and all of humanity, who are not just spiritually poor, crippled, lame, or blind nobodies like those in our parable, we come to Him spiritually dead.

It is the faith created by the Holy Spirit alone that opens ours eyes to God’s gift of life eternal as we trust His Son for the forgiveness of our sins. That is, it is Christ who makes us worthy in God’s sight to receive an invitation to His wedding feast in the heavenly banquet hall.

Jesus said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Nowhere are those words more deeply fulfilled than in the saving work of Jesus Christ. As God reveals through St. Paul, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

May God in His mercy grant the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord be always in your heart and on your lips, that you also by faith might know and live in His forgiveness and the eternal healing it brings.

In His Name, Amen.

Tags: Luke 14:1-14
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