A certain man made a great supper, and invited many…
This Trinity season which is now before us is really an invitation from the very highest authority, from God himself, to grow more deeply in the spiritual life – to enter more fully into the Kingdom of heaven – to feast at His banquet! And what is that but to be directly illuminated by God, to know the thoughts of God, to know his will and his love, and to be able love as God loves. It sounds like an offer we couldn’t refuse, right?
Jesus says, “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.
Why would they not come? It is the eternal question, a mystery – why this resistance in the human soul to the grace of God?
In the parable, why did they all begin to make excuses? They were preoccupied with the good things in their own lives. In each case it is about a kind of moment of growth in their lives – the expansion of their possessions – I have bought a new field and must see it; or the enlargement of their career – I have bought five yoke of oxen and I’m going to examine them; or even the expanding of one’s life to enter into marriage – I have married a wife and cannot come. What was on offer, a heavenly feast, could not match what those who were first invited thought to be better. They do not love the goodness they are offered by this Lord – eating bread in the kingdom of heaven, what is that? They also don’t fear the consequences of walking away.
Those first invited to the feast don’t love the goodness offered by the Lord:
There are so many ways our desire can be directed in this life, things that could preoccupy us until the day we die – but they will not satisfy us. What is the good of having property if we have no love of the Creator of it? What is the good of a job or a career, if it is vain ambition, with only a worldly end? What is the good of marriage that is not connected with an understanding of its higher purposes – as a place of love and spiritual growth, even to be a sacrament – a microcosm, a witness to the world, of the love of God for the Church, of Christ for His bride? If we picture “religion” or “our faith” as simply something added to the good things of this life, if we have enough time, as a kind of icing on the cake, an extra, and not at the heart of what it is to appreciate possessions, or to guide and direct us in a career, or bring about a marriage after God’s design – then all will be lost.
Those first invited to the feast don’t fear the consequences of walking away:
In the parable, Jesus says that those who refuse the invitation – will not taste of my banquet. This is not about suffering some sort of external punishment after we die (as in last week’s parable) – but this is about missing out on what is most important in this life (which is also directly related to what we will know in the next life).
All these things – our possessions, our work, our family life – can only be truly enjoyed in the light of Christ, in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the light of God. And perhaps there is a special warning about the moments in our lives when we are expanding our involvement in this world, to be especially cautious that it will not draw us away from God but rather closer to God.
In the Parable, Jesus says that the master of the house, a figure of God, is angry. God’s anger here, is his love expressed in a way that is meant to awaken us, enliven us, that we might live more fully. These parables of Jesus are God’s warnings to us to have a right fear of the very real dangers that attend the spiritual life. As embodied souls, we cannot see all the dangers God sees. We are his sheep, and he wants us to be alert.
Have you ever known an ambivalence within you that is spoken of in the parable? a hesitation to draw closer to the living God? There are all sorts of invitations made by God to us. Do we realize the high gift of Christian fellowship – that others here today bear the image and likeness of God, and can help to awaken us, encourage us, in our journey? Do we realize the greatness of the gift of God’s Word written to us – a word that has changed the world, and has power to change us not just at the beginning but in the middle and to the end of our earthly lives? Do we realize the power of Christ’s promise that His Spirit, Christ dwelling in our hearts by our baptism, known especially as we deeper our prayer life? How can we properly estimate the value of God’s gift of the Holy Communion of Christ’s body and blood – the call to do this in remembrance of me. All these are invitations to feast in the Kingdom.
We are all a little sleepy, it is frightening the opportunities we let slip by us, the invitations to God’s kingdom because of a satisfaction simply with what we already know? (my property, my job, my family – Jesus says to us this morning that it is not enough!)
Maybe I’ll go to church, maybe not… maybe I’ll love my neighbour, or maybe not today… maybe I’ll hold on to hatred of my brother or sister just for one more day. But John says, whoever hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him – yikes! And…If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother or sister in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Who doesn’t want God’s love, that is, God’s Spirit, God Himself dwelling in us? John says open the doors wider to the opportunities to love our neighbour and be filled with God’s love. Accept the invitation! (Today Rianne and Roald Berkhout will be giving a talk at the coffee hour on their ministry to children in Uganda – one very practical for us with this world’s goods to help our brother or sister in need.)
As Christ’s flock we are greatly beloved – and Jesus sees the danger of a spiritual sleepiness – He’s come to us lovingly, to move us along.
Mieps (who is blind from birth) asked me a good question last Wednesday, as she was so patiently correcting my pronunciation of the Dutch translation of today’s Gospel (for the early service) – why didn’t the king first invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.
Perhaps we can understand this best by remembering what Jesus says elsewhere to the Pharisees (Mark 2:16-18) when they complained about who he had supper with – Jesus said – “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” And in saying this, he was not saying that the Pharisees were well, but that they did not think they needed him, and so they missed out – it is only those who really see they are needy that take heed to the invitation, and benefit. It is the same with today’s parable.
We are here today, out of our love for God, but also, I hope, because we see ourselves as in need and we fear turning away from his invitation – we are the poor in spirit, we are crippled by sin, we are all blind to the fullness of God’s truth, and we are all in some way lame, unable to run as we would like when it comes to love – we see it. And praise God, we are the very people Jesus has invited, and the very people who have heeded his invitation – and we will not go home today, disappointed!
A right love, and a right fear of the dangers of not heeding the invitation, is what will lead us to participate in the divine life today and every day in our earthly pilgrimage, to be lifted into heaven and given a glimpse of His glory, to eat bread in the kingdom of God!