April 22, 2020 – The Invitation to the Banquet- Luke 14:15-24

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When one of those who reclined at table with him (Jesus) heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he (Jesus) said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” Luke 14:15-24 (ESV)

Some of us find great enjoyment in large gatherings and in ceremony and in wearing fine clothing.  Others of us are uncomfortable with and avoid large gatherings and formality.  Some of us have a hard time slowing down long enough to enjoy the feast that is spread in front of us, because we are too busy tending to all the peripheral and not-so-important things.

Jesus’ invitation to His banquet is a great honor.  It is one that requires us not necessarily to abandon the necessities of this life, but to prioritize them. Tending to one’s business and property is something we all need to do. At one time or another in our lives most people do get married, and it is important to spend time with and to cherish one’s spouse. Those are good things and parts of our vocations, but they become idolatry when we put them in a higher priority than Jesus.

The Ten Commandments show us where we fail to obey God’s Law.  We are always putting material things and activities before the things of God. Jesus reminds us of this tendency of ours to put off the invitation to His banquet because we are so distracted by the things of this world.

The other point that Jesus brings to light is that those who are poor in material things are free to be far more attentive to the things of God.  When we are in places where we are alone, hurting, or struggling, we are drawn to Jesus’ banquet.  In our loneliness and poverty and grief, God in His mercy puts us in the place where we can slow down and taste and savor the rich sweetness of His provision.  In our times of crisis and wondering, we are reminded that all provision comes from Him, and the illusion that our gifts are given apart from the grace of the Giver falls away.

In these times where our priorities have changed overnight, we can hear the call of Jesus much more clearly.  Come to the banquet! All is ready! This is a meal none of us want to miss.

Lord, we thank you for the banquet that You graciously provide for us.  Let us come to Your banquet with joy, and create in us clean hearts that long for You.  Forgive us for those many times when we forget You or put other things in the place where only You should be.  Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your life to save us, and thank You for the faith to trust that  You will never leave or forsake us.

December 15, 2019-Advent 15, Luke 15- Lost and Found

lost coin

Read Luke 15.

Jesus is teaching in the temple, answering the Pharisees’ indignation at Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners.  He explains His mission is of finding and restoring those who belonged to Him but have become lost.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? Luke 15:3-4 (ESV)

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10 (ESV)

Jesus begins with the Parable of the Lost Sheep- leaving the ninety nine sheep to find the one who was lost.  The Parable of the Lost Coin stays with the theme of finding lost things, but puts it in a perspective that most people could identify with.  Who hasn’t lost a precious object and then been thrilled and relieved when the object was found.

Then Jesus moves into the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  A younger son demands his inheritance and leaves home to engage in good times and to squander his father’s fortune.

The son had gotten to the point where there was a famine in the far away land and he was reduced to feeding pigs.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:17:24 (ESV)

The father was ecstatic that his son had returned to him.  No matter what he had done, no matter that he had spent the inheritance. Yet the father’s older son was not nearly as thrilled at his brother’s return.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:25:32 (ESV)

The older brother was not nearly as happy at the younger brother’s return.  After all, the older was faithful to his father, while the younger was not.  The older brother resented the attention that the father paid to the younger one who was not faithful to his father.

It’s easy for us to say, “well I didn’t do that,” and fail to see all the ways that we too have been lost and found.  Both the younger and the older brother were reliant upon the love and generosity of the father.

No matter if we have believed and trusted Jesus from our earliest days or if we have recently been brought to faith, we have all been found and redeemed not by our own faithfulness or righteousness, but by Jesus.  We have all been lost, and He is the One Who finds and redeems the lost.

Do we truly celebrate new people being brought the the Good News of Jesus no matter their background, the litany of sins in their past, or their need?

Father, forgive us and welcome us when we are the lost sheep.  Forgive and comfort us and bring us back to Your table when we take on the role of the younger brother and stray from being faithful to You.  Keep us from becoming arrogant and haughty like the older brother when we fail to realize that it is only by your grace that we can remain faithful to you, and even then we sin and fail You every day.

December 14, 2019- Advent 14, Luke 14- Jesus is Still Lord of the Sabbath, Come to the Banquet, The Way of the Cross Has a Cost

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Read Luke 14.

Jesus asks yet again, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?,” after He healed the man with dropsy.  Jesus heals people many times on the Sabbath, whether the Pharisees liked it or not.  He extends His gifts of wholeness and healing in ways that the religious legalists found challenging to accept and difficult to understand.

When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:8-11 (ESV)

Jesus teaches that we should not seek our own honor, but to let others elevate us.  We should not overestimate our own importance.  We appreciate the humility of others.  Jesus was the ultimate example of humility as He put on human flesh and subjected Himself to death on a cross.  In His act of humility and shame, He was lifted up above all others, the King of Kings. We should not hesitate to take the places of “lesser honor.”

Jesus also encourages us to be generous with others, especially those who will never be able to repay us for our kindness.  He also explains to the Pharisees and other people born into the Jewish tradition that the kingdom and inheritance that was prepared for the Jewish people will largely end up being inhabited by those who were once outside of Israel.

“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” Luke 14:16-24 (ESV)

The Jewish people largely rejected Jesus’ message- finding excuses not to attend the wedding banquet that He prepared for Him.  So He extended His invitation to all.  His invitation is still open, to all of humanity, for anyone who would hear the Good News and be brought to faith. We never know who will join us at Jesus’ table, so we are called to welcome all who will come.

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Luke 14:25-30 (ESV)

Many people followed Jesus around because of the miracles he performed, especially the miracles of feeding multitudes.  The idea that Jesus would be some sort of magical bread king did much to heighten His popularity.  But learning the real cost of discipleship thinned down the numbers.  Jesus wasn’t about just filling bellies temporarily.  The life of following Jesus is not always easy.  However, those He calls He also equips.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 (ESV)

God calls us through His means of grace- through hearing the Gospel, through our baptism, and through the prayers of the saints.  By faith, which itself is a gift of God, God gives us what we need to follow Jesus and assures us that we will be raised up with him on the Last Day.

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:34-35 (ESV)

In our culture, referring to someone as “salty”  usually means that a person has had many hard years of experience and their language is a little rough around the edges- like a long time sailor that has spent years at sea.

Jesus was referring to a form of salt used in the Middle East that was not 100% salt, and that over time the sodium chloride would leach out of it, leaving it tasteless.

Like that Middle Eastern salt we can have the saltiness leached out of us= the world wears on us.  Our own desires and selfishness can keep us from the study of God’s Word, and from worship and prayer. We can very easily become cynical, tired and colorless.

In these times we see our need for Jesus, our need for the nourishment only He can give to keep us “salty,” to keep us firmly in Him.

Lord, we pray that we would humbly accept the invitation to Your feast.  We pray that you would give us the grace to invite others and extend Your hospitality to even the most unlikely.  We trust in Your promises and we look forward to You coming back to remake and restore this world and establish Your kingdom forever.