16. June 2012
The Sunday of the Great Banquet
Repentance is an act of humility. Repent. Confess the sin that plagues your conscience or at least admit your name is Sinner. Say it. Lay open your shame and guilt before God. There is no more humble thing to do that to take off the fig leaves and tell God who you are and what you did. Adam and his wife Eve couldn’t do it. They hid and made God come after them, so ashamed they were.
Come to think of it, we’re little different. We’re completely indifferent to the true God and His Holy Word. We hide in our homes, in our cars, at work, at the park, anywhere. We hide from Him for shame and guilt. We cover ourselves with all sorts of clothing of our own making, inadequately covering our sin and never quite able to avoid the piercing stare of Jesus. He is the Light that no darkness can avoid, escape, or overcome. You cannot hide from God. Your sins are known. Your old name of Sinner is spoken.
Adam and Eve feared God, hiding in the bushes. You cower in fear, unwilling to confess the secret shame. Why? Repent! But Pastor… I’m too busy. I don’t have time. It’s not that big of a deal. No one was hurt. I’m over it. I can work it out. I just need time. I’ll try harder next time. Excuses, that’s what they are. Excuses to exalt yourself over God. Excuses to love yourself. Excuses and lies. As the saying goes: You can run but you can’t hide.
Fear of judgment isn’t going to work, at least not by itself. No one repents because they know they’re wrong. No one repents because God’s slaps them on wrist or chastens them with the rod of iron. But that’s not God’s final word. It’s not His ultimate work.
“Properly speaking, repentance consists of these two parts: one is contrition, that is, terror smiting the conscience with the knowledge of sin, and the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, believes that sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terror.” [The Augsburg Confession, XII.3-5]
It is true, the Law terrifies you, shames you, and lays guilt upon you. God lays us low in the sorrow over our sinfulness. But the second part of repentance, faith, is the result of the Gospel. We hear of God’s love and sure promises for us, and we rejoice in His gifts and believe His promises. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Promises and gifts. Good things!
Our God loves us but not with some generic kind of love. Not with heart shaped Valentines, a pat on the back, or even nice stuff. No, He loves us in a way that cannot be repaid. He loves is in a way that is completely outside the realm of our possibility. He loves us as with generosity undeserved and gifts unmerited. He loves us with a great banquet, no cover charge, no secret invite, not special status. He gives to those who have nothing to give in return.
Jesus tells us a parable: 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.” Do you see? Repent and believe the Gospel. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Come, for everything is now ready. Your sin is atoned for in Jesus death for you. Your death is destroyed by His cross. Your life will never end at resurrection of the just. Come, for He has gifts for you. Drop your self-appointed works. Destroy your idols. Forget about pulling up the bootstraps. Come, for everything is now ready. Come, and be fed with food and drink unlike any other.
Ah, but this sounds to good to be true. 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 five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore cannot come.”
Excuses. All good sounding ones, too. I have stuff to do at home. I have work. I have family needs. These are all the sorts of excuses I hear as pastor why people don’t come to church, or arrogantly leave before Bible study, or complain about “extra” services. Pastor, I have stuff to do. I’m too busy. I need to work. I need a vacation. I’ve enough Jesus to last me a little while.
How does Jesus respond to this? The servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry. That’s right, Jesus is angry. Many are called. Many have the invite in hand, baptized into His name. Many though, spurn the invite and refuse to come to the banquet. He hates their excuses. He is angry at those who think vacation is more important that receiving His blessings in the Divine Service. He is mad as hell at those who think the study of His Word is optional to the Christian life, even when He sends a man to you to do this very thing. And while He is patient for a time despite His anger, but that patience will run thin. Eventually He will move on and have enough of the invitees hard-hearts.
So He 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.” Do you see? There is no entitlement in the Christian church. Calling yourself Christian does not make you one. Your membership is this congregation does not mean a lick if you ignore the gifts. Saying you are Christian, all the while opening spurning the gifts of faith is rejecting the invite to the feast. Your neglect of God’s gifts—the Divine Service, Christ’s Absolution, your Baptism, and the Holy Communion—treating God’s gifts like they are some kind of optional thing. This is a denial of the God’s gracious invitation. You are saying “no thank you” to the rich man, the king who has plundered Satan and wants to give you His great gifts. Come, for everything is now ready and you say, “I’ve got better things to do, places to go, and people to see.”
Repent! You have not loved God with your whole heart, mind, and strength. Otherwise you’d be beating down those doors every day of the week, begging to hear Jesus’s invite again, and come like the poor, crippled, lame, and blind that you are. Repent, and come out of hiding in the hedges. Repent and stop the busy travels on the highway, your hustle and bustle and all the stupid excuses.
Repent and receive. Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight. Our Lord desires to feed you from His table. He has laid out a banquet spread before you, with His succulent Word prepared as rich liturgy, sweet hymns, satisfying proclamation. He wets your parched lips with the water of life. He gives you the finest wine of His blood for the forgiveness of sins. He feeds your hungry soul with bread of life. He even sets in His stead a steward of this food of mystery. This steward calls Come, for everything is now ready so that you are never tempted to neglect the feast. The Lord and master of the feast is here. You are fed and nourished. And not just today but day in and day out.
You are invited by the Word to the great banquet. You are carried by the Word made flesh to the banquet hall. You are Spirit-compelled by the Word of promise to come. Receive rich food and drink. Receive the Bread of Life come down from heaven. Drink deeply from the wells of salvation, from the river of life that flows through the new Jerusalem. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church