It's Not A Curse, It's A Gift

Text:  Luke 14:15-24

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Our Lord is not stingy.  He loves to give.  The Lord loves to give out good thing – ordinary things, each and every day.  For example, He gave you life.  Each and every one of you has been uniquely created.  The Lord knows all the hairs on the top of your head.  He delights in His creation; He delighted to knit you together in your mother’s womb. 

The Lord also delights in giving eternal gifts to you.  He delighted in baptizing you – when His name was placed upon your head and your heart.  He delights speaking to you through His most Holy Word.  He delights forgiving you in the words of Absolution.  He also delights inviting you to His heavenly banquet, before this altar, where He gives you His true body and blood.

We also hear about this giving Lord in today’s Gospel reading.  In our Gospel reading we hear about a parable – a great supper where many are invited. This was no brownbag meal or fast food McDonalds gathering.  This was not a meal where Pizza Corner pizzas have been cooked in the oven.  Oh no!  This meal was the finest you could imagine.  The meat had been seasoned and cooked to perfection.  The bread was freshly baked.  In fact, the bread was still warm, steam was rising from it.  And the finest wines had been brought out to the table.  Every spot around the table – down to the smallest detail – had been prepared and thought out.  Everything perfect!  A great bountiful feast! 

What made this great feast even better was that it was free.  Yes, free.  The owner of the house had invited guests to this tremendous feast and then when everything was complete and perfect and ready, he sent his servants out to inform those who had been invited that everything was ready!  We can imagine them going out and saying,

“Come and eat; come and feast!  The owner of the house anxiously waits to give to you.  He wants to bless you with this great feast that has been prepared out of great love for you.” 

This parable of the great feast is showing us and teaching us about the Lord’s invitation to humanity.  Indeed, the Lord has invited millions upon millions to this great banquet.  For example: the Lord has invited Adam and Eve; He has invited Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The Lord also sent prophets in the days of old to invite people of the nations to the great feast.  The Lord has sent His Apostles out far and wide in order to invite.  And today, the Lord has sent out pastors and missionaries to invite as well.  Yes, the Gospel of the Lord is the great invitation to the multitudes to come and receive the Lord and His gifts.

What does this all mean?  It means that you have been invited to the banquet and are now in the banquet. That is right; whenever Christians are gathered together, there you will find the great banquet.  In other words, the preaching of the Gospel is the main course of food.  The servers are the pastors.  Christ is the food.  Through the mouth of the pastor, the food is laid on the table and served to those invited.  Through the pastor serving the guests, the bread and wine are laid upon the mouths of those invited.  In other words, the food of the banquet is Jesus – the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.[1]

What a simple parable to consider today!  The Word and Sacraments are like a great feast to consume and everyone is invited to eat and receive!  Indeed, the Lord has been inviting people to Himself for centuries upon centuries.  It gives the Lord great delight to invite.  It gives the Lord delight to feed and sustain and to bless those at the banquet.  The banquet and invitation and the food are all pure gift – given from the delight and joy of the Lord.

Hearing all of this, who would not want to go?  Who would not want to be there?  We are not talking about a soup kitchen meal or some prepackaged TV dinner meal, but the real deal! 

Well, even though this feast is so rich and the entrance to the meal is so easy, it may surprise us that a bunch of people who were invited in our parable had excuses.  Yes, even though this meal was extravagant and cost nothing, it catches us off guard that that many excused themselves. 

We hear in our Gospel reading that the guests – one after another – excused themselves from the meal. 

“I have bought a field and must
go out and look at it; please excuse me.  I have bought some oxen and I am going out to look at them; please excuse me.  I have taken a wife and I cannot come; please excuse me.” 

Excuses, excuses, and more excuses. 

Some things never change though.  The persons in the parable had many excuses for denying the great free banquet and the same thing continues to this day.  In other words, there are many of excuses in our day and age for people not wanting to receive God’s gifts, but really only one reason.  That reason is that many people are already committed to another feast.  In other words, the reason why people have excuses for rejecting God’s gifts as given from His beloved Church is because people are already committed to another feast.  What feast is that?  This other feast is the feast of the world.

Let it be perfectly clear, the Lord’s invitation to His great banquet has been open to all and for all since mankind first fell into sin in Genesis 3.  However, mankind loves the darkness.  Mankind seeks the riches of the world, that is to say, mankind runs to a banquet of death where the passions of the flesh, the passions of the eye, and the pride of life are served up (1 John 2:16).  Tragically, excuses are offered up over and over and over in refusing to come to the Lord’s banquet, because mankind can become so busy chasing the excesses of life.  For example, we can say,

“I cannot come to the Lord’s banquet because I am too busy trying to acquire food, drink, and clothing.  I cannot come to the banquet because I am too busy taking care of my stuff and acquiring wealth.  I cannot come to the banquet for I am too busy doing things with my own family.  Can’t you see that I have more important things to tend to?  Perhaps I can fit this banquet in at another time.” 

This is the way that it unfortunately is.  Tragically, when the invitation of the Lord keeps going out day after day, these same persons will eventually end up saying,

“Don’t you know that I am busy doing more important things?  I don’t have time.  Quit inviting me!  Yes, you are annoying me.  Leave me alone; for I am too busy trying to take care of myself.  I’ve already got too many things to do.”

Dear friends, the invitation from the Lord to come to the great banquet is not a curse, but a gift that the Lord longs to give.  The Lord will not stop inviting and giving His gifts.  With that said, the problem that can happen is not that it is wrong or sinful to own land and property or to buy oxen and cars, or to have a spouse and family.  These things are not evil, but are good.  In other words, everything needs to be kept in perspective.  God does not condemn the owning of land and property and having a family.  However, the problem occurs when our sinful nature takes the Lord’s gifts of the Word and Sacraments in the Church and measures it with these other things.  Oh, dear friends, let’s us repent right here and right now.  As soon as we measure God’s gift of the gospel with other things around us, we have then destroyed the gift.  Yes, when we start measuring the Word and Sacraments and start comparing it to other things and weighing out what we think would be best for us and what would give us the most advantage…well, we have then – without evening knowing it – made God’s Word and Sacraments into some sort of curse.[2]  For example, we will say to ourselves,

“I want to go fishing, but there is Church.  I want to sleep in, but there is Church.  I want to watch the pre-game football show, but there is Church.  I want a day off, but there is Church…  If only there wasn’t Church, then I could do what I want.  What a curse the Church is!  What a curse that the Lord keeps inviting me when I have better things to do!”

Repent dear friends!  Yes repent.  The Lord’s Word and Sacraments, His gifts of the Gospel, are not a curse!  They are gifts!  When the Lord invites you to His banquet to receive from Him, He does not do this to inconvenience you or curse you – He does this because He delights to give you the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. 

But what of owning land, buying things, and having a family?  The choice is not an ‘either or’ between the Gospel and these things.  But rather the point is that we must beware of clinging to our land, oxen, and families at the expense of neglecting Christ and His gifts of the Word and Sacraments!  The point is not to compare the Gospel to these other things and then think of the Gospel as some sort of inconvenience or some sort of curse and then to neglect it. 
Dear Baptized Saints, the way of the Lord is the way of gift, not a curse or an inconvenience.  The way of the Church is the way of gift, not a curse or inconvenience.  You have been invited to the great banquet because the Lord delights to give to you.  You have been made a member of the Lord’s Church, because the Lord considered it worthwhile.  Indeed, Christ Jesus Himself has redeemed you from the devil, death, sin, and hell, and taken away from you God’s wrath and a guilty conscience.  And today, He invites you again to partake of a great supper, where He feeds you His body and blood. 

As you receive the gifts from the Lord’s Table, He will not only forgive you of your sins, but strengthen your faith toward Him and grant you fervent love towards one another. 

Dear Baptized Saints, dine today at the Lord’s great banquet.  Receive!  The Lord loves to give to you.  As you continually receive from the Lord’s Word and Sacrament though, the more you eat the more you can eat, and the greater the delight in His gifts.

So, come, for all is now ready.  Come and receive and rejoice.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Martin Luther, Complete Sermons of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 243.

[2] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 163.

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