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26 Jun 2022

The Gospel. St. Luke xiv. 16.

A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Today, Jesus tells us a story about an invitation to a dinner party. You and I have been invited to dinner many times--including by Archbishop Hartley-- and we know that an invitation to dinner is something that we accept, not only to enjoy the meal, but because there is a special bond that is established between the host and us. It is really for this purpose that we ourselves have guests for dinner: to share the intimacy with the guest. It is often a time for great joy and happiness. 

Because you and I understand what a dinner invitation is really about, Jesus used it as an example. Often Jesus couches His teachings in terms of a shared meal together.  Look at the different times that Jesus used a meal as a setting for a teaching during His lifetime: He worked His first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana - at a meal. He also did some teaching and some criticizing at a meal with Simon the Pharisee about the behavior one should display in this new kingdom that He had come to establish. Jesus shared with His disciples, the night before he died, what was most important on His mind before he would leave them. At that same meal He gave us His own body and blood as our food. After the resurrection, He appeared to His disciples at a meal in the upper room. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus related in the Book of Acts came to know Him in the breaking of bread.  Over and over again, there was this setting of a shared meal. It is no wonder that Jesus would also use such a setting in His parables as He does today. 

There is a parallel story that you are familiar with in Matthew's Gospel. There was a king who gave a banquet for his son and he sent out invitations. When all of the invited people failed to show, they were excluded. Then he brought in anybody he could find, from the highways and hedges, to fill the hall. There was also the added detail in Matthew's Gospel about the man who wasn't wearing a wedding garment. 

But Luke's story, our Gospel reading this morning, is simpler. This was just a man who was giving a dinner party and he invited many. The excuses that they came up with are absolutely beyond belief. "Well, I just bought some land and I have to go off and see it." I suppose that individual was so consumed with the accumulation of things that he really didn't have time for the intimacy between himself and his Lord. And then there is the next individual.  "I've just bought five yoke of oxen and I've got to go out and try them." For this man work was more important than the call of hospitality and joy.  The third was by an individual who fell back on the Word of God for his reason using something that was in the law of Moses to excuse himself. (Deuteronomy 24).  However, this was really a feeble reference to Scripture and was certainly not an honorable reason.

Each one of them had spurned the invitation to the coming closer the invitation offered. When Luke gave us the parable, he had in mind something profound. The people who had been first invited were the Jews, but they had rejected the Messiah.  Now the invitation was sent out to everyone. Jesus teaches us that His church, His kingdom, is not an exclusive club.  He had come in order to invite all of humankind to accept the message of salvation, to set mankind free of sin and death.

He says, "Go out and find the blind, the beggars, the lame people, all of the people that are the poor of society. Get them all in here. I want a full house.” You know that you and I here today at Good Shepherd after all the centuries are a part of that second group collected from the highways and hedges.  We are all crippled by our sins. We are also beggars for we know very well our spiritual poverty.

The banquet that you and I have been invited to this morning is a very special one. Here at this time we do the most important thing that we can  do this week. We offer ourselves, all that we are and have - body and soul - to God our Father, through and with Christ our Lord. In this way we have accepted the invitation God offers that others foolishly reject.  We have joyously accepted the invitation - to obey the words of Jesus Christ our Lord at that first Eucharist when He said to His disciples, "Do this in memory of Me." 

Source: Second Sunday after Trinity--July 2, 2000

Fr. William Sisterman

St. Dunstan's Anglican Church, Minneapolis, MN 

Bishop Edwin Tompkins


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