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I invite you to turn to our Gospel reading for today as we are reminded that God has invited us to feast with him.
As I was thinking about this parable of Jesus, I was reminded of the many times that God invites us to come to him because he wants us to be with him or because he wants to give us something we need.
Maybe the most well-known example is Jesus’ invitation, come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. On another occasion Jesus called out to the crowd that had gathered in the temple courts, if anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. God issued his invitation in the Old Testament through the prophet Isaiah when he said, come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. And he repeats his invitation again in Revelation. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
What a gracious and generous God we have! There is no reason he should do anything for us. We aren’t his co-workers. We are his lowly servants. As we heard a few weeks ago, we have not done anything for him that requires that he repay us. In fact, we are all his disobedient servants. We are thankless servants. We grumble and complain about whatever he does. We are always looking for excuses not to do what he asks. We are constantly breaking his rules, rules meant only to keep us safe. Instead of inviting us to a feast he should throw us in prison, lock the door and throw away the key forever.
But what does he do? Over and over again he invites us to a feast! It’s not a pot luck either. Everything is provided for free! It’s not the cheapest he can get by offering-PBJ or box Mac and Cheese, or hot dogs. It’s a feast of choice food, a feast of the best wines, with the best cuts of meat, and the finest of wines. Despite our natural enmity and rebellion against him he wants only what’s best for us now and forever.
Through those he has called to do it, he sends out a formal invitation in advance. The invitation says, “The master, the king of the universe, the holy and loving LORD, requests your presence with him at a feast.” Everything is provided, even the clothing. You don’t have to bring anything. Just come. And then, when the big feast day arrives, he sends out the wonderful notice, Come, because everything is now ready. The feast is ready, come to the feast!
But those who had received the gracious invitation and who heard that the feast was ready, that it was time to drop everything and come, they all alike began to make excuses. “The first one told him, ‘I bought a field, and I need to go and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’ “Another one said, ‘I bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, and so I am unable to attend.’ ALL made polite excuses. Not a single one who had been invited made the feast a priority. They all thought they had something more important to do.
Who would do that? Who would pass up such a wonderful opportunity? The Jewish leaders and the Pharisees did. John the Baptist and Jesus came proclaiming the feast is ready, the kingdom of God is among you. But they ignored the invitation, often not even making polite excuses.
We are often like them, for this parable speaks of those who have received the invitation in advance, who have easy access to the word of God. The Bible is on your bed stand. The devotion book is on the kitchen table. The Bible app on your phone reminds you of your reading plan. The church bells ring. The church doors are open and the Holy Spirit is calling out, come to the feast! Come and dine on the best food and drink there is, food and drink for your soul; the only food that can satisfy our deepest yearnings for peace with God, and the only drink that can quench our thirst to be righteous in the sight of God. But we all alike make excuses. I’m running late for work or school. I’m behind in my work and if I take time to feast on the word I’ll miss my deadline and I might lose my job. I stayed up late watching that move, or celebrating with friends. I had to catch up on the news, or see how many people liked my post on Facebook. The excuses go on and on, some polite, some maybe not so polite.
How does God respond when his gracious invitation is ignored? The master was angry. At the end of the parable we find out how angry the master was. He declares, none of those men who were invited will taste my banquet.
These are words that remind us that God shut the door of the Ark as the rains came down and the waters rose. God’s invitation went out though the preaching of Noah, but everyone made excuses, and then it was too late. These words remind us of other parables were Jesus says that the door to the banquet was shut and those who are begging to be let in late are told to go away because they are not known by the master.
God is a loving and gracious God. He has provided a way of salvation for free to all in Jesus. He sends out his invitation to all to trust in Jesus for salvation. But when the time comes for the greatest feast ever, when the feast is ready and Jesus comes again in the clouds of heaven, the door will be shut. Those who continued to ignore his invitation or who took it for granted and made other things a priority will be locked out of his glorious eternal kingdom.
God has invited you to his feast. He has made sure that you received his invitation through baptism, through all the opportunities that he has given you to hear, read and study his word, and through his offer of the body and blood of Jesus so that you might have no doubt that he wants you to feast with him forever. Your sins, your polite excuses, your messed up priorities, all your sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus. They are covered by the white robe of his righteousness that he gives you to wear so that you may feast in God’s presence forever.
Our gracious Lord is determined that every seat at his banquet be filled. Even though he is angry that those who had his written invitation excused themselves and didn’t make feasting with him a priority, he doesn’t give up. He says to those he has called to do it, Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ “The servant said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.’ “Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and urge them to come in, so that my house may be filled.
He says to you and to me, who by grace know that the banquet represents the offer of his gracious forgiveness in Word and Sacrament, and that the word that everything is ready foreshadows the last day—he says to you and to me go out quickly. There still is room. God wants all to be saved. He wants everyone, regardless of social standing, or ethnicity; he wants everyone to be invited to come to his feast. Go out quickly and URGE them to come in. Let them hear the urgency in your voice. Let them clearly understand that the night is coming. This world as we know it won’t last forever. Everyone will stand before God in the judgment. Let them know that only those who trust that Jesus has paid for all their sins will be permitted to enter the banquet hall and be allowed to dine on the choicest of food in the presence of the Lord forever. Everyone else will be shut out. They will never get a taste of the banquet.
What a gracious God we have! We have received a written invitation to feast with him now and forever! It’s the most coveted invitation there is, greater than being invited to an audience with the queen, or to lunch with Warren Buffett. There is no way we deserve to be invited. We realize that we can’t afford the proper clothing. But we are assured that everything is taken care of for us. Jesus himself has put our name on the list of guests and provided us with the proper clothing. Everyone who has been baptized into Christ is wearing it. Don’t take God’s gracious invitation to feast on his word and sacrament now, and to feast with him forever in heaven, for granted. Make it your top priority. And, filled with joy and gratitude that God would invite you to his feast, go quickly, and share God’s invitation with others before it’s too late.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” You are invited to a feast! It’s all free, but don’t let that fool you. It’s the richest of fare. Don’t ignore the invitation. Don’t delay. It’s a matter of eternal importance.