Monday, July 25, 2011

Fishers of Men

LUKE 5:1-11

5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

In the name of Jesus:
Have you been fishing lately? The last time I went fishing was over ten years ago. I had never been fishing before, being a city boy from Cleveland. Drew and Mark wanted to go fishing, some of their school friends had been fishing with their dads and both boys thought it would be a good idea to go with their dad. I had no idea what to do, the only fishing I saw were people fishing on the rocks jutting out to Lake Erie when I was growing up, and I distinctly remember Andy of Mayberry taking Opie fishing at the local pond. But me, fishing? I had no idea what to do.
Luann suggested that I go to Lancaster Sales to pick up a license and some inexpensive rods and reels. I asked around and purchased what we needed but had to go to a store to pick up bait, something to lure the fish to bite the hook on the line. I went to a store that sold bait and found out more than I wanted to know about bait. There are different baits for different fish, some like worms; others prefer something else like chicken. Different lures will entice different fish, as each fish has their own likes and dislikes.
The day of our blessed fishing event was comical. The boys took to it well, but I kept getting the line hooked in a tree or a bush. When we were lucky enough to catch a fish, the boys took holding the fish’s mouth and taking out the hook. Me? I rather watch!
Fishing is great fun, and I enjoyed my brief career as a fisherman. My experience taught me that you don’t have to know a lot about it to enjoy it. Fishing was a major industry in the days of Christ. If you live by Buckeye Lake, or one of the Great Lakes or the oceans, you know that fishing is big business today. People dedicate their lives to the sport. Fishing is a way of life for many.
Fishing is a way of life for the Christian as well. Jesus says as much when He tells Peter that He will make them catchers of men. Instead of fishing for men they will catch men. But what does Jesus mean?
Peter knew about fishing. He was one, as James and John, who dedicated their lives to the fishing industry. They knew of the lures, the bait, the right times to fish, they could tell you how to fish and make a living out of it. In our text for today, Peter, James and John, the fishermen of the bunch, were out all night fishing. The text says, “We have toiled all night and took nothing.” These men worked at their trade, they did everything within the realm of possibility to catch fish, using all of the resources of their intellect, will, and body to catch fish. But in the end, they came up with nothing. Nada. Their efforts were fruitless.
Jesus, knowing this, told Peter to “put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”. Peter probably thought: “Lord, I have been there and have done that.” But Peter responded to the Lord by saying: “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Peter had nothing; he could only trust Christ and His Word. And so he did, and Luke records that the fish were of such number that they were caught but that the nets enclosed around the fish, so much so that the boats were filled with fish and began to sink. Peter in faith recognized the power of Christ and His Word, confessed His sinfulness and begged the Lord to leave him alone, for a sinner is not worthy to stand before the Holy God. But what does Jesus do, but forgive Peter. He forgives and empowers him to do something other than hunting and killing fish; Peter would be empowered to seek to gather mortal men to everlasting life. But how would this be done?
Not by power or earthly might. Not by human wisdom or insight. To gather people to everlasting life can only occur by the power of God. So where is that power? Listen to the Apostle Paul: 18 for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,” I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:18-25).
The only fishing lure that God uses to bring people to eternal life is His Word, the Law which shows us our sins and our need, and the Gospel which provides the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Note what Paul is saying here. The Church is called to fish for sinners. Sinners will be gathered to God in Jesus Christ. The power of salvation is found only in Jesus Christ, in His innocent life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Only by the shed blood of Christ does God forgive sins. Only by the sacrifice that Christ paid on the cross are sinners saved. Not by human wisdom. Not by human effort. Not by hooks or tricks or modern philosophy. Only by Christ.
Christ grants salvation only through His Word. At the Lord’s Word did Peter cast the nets out, and at Christ’s Word did the fish gather to be collected. Not only Peter but also the fish obeyed the Lord! Humanly speaking, it didn’t make sense to Peter. After all, he did all he COULD do. There was nothing else FOR HIM to do but trust in Jesus and His Word. Peter’s faith merely accepted what Jesus was giving him, a whole haul of fish!
So too Jesus gives you salvation only through His Word. In Baptism the Spirit gives faith in Jesus. Modern man scoffs at such talk! It is just water, what can water do??? But Baptism is not just simple water, but it is water comprehended in and connected with God’s Word. Without the Word Baptism is no Baptism but is only water, but with the water and the Word Baptism gives faith in Christ and eternal life.
Jesus today comes to you in, with, and under the forms of bread and wine. Modern man once again scoffs at such “silliness”. It is just bread and wine, the “wise people” say. What good can that do? But Jesus says that He is really present, He invites you to take and eat, take and drink His body and blood. Why? For the forgiveness of your sins, for the strengthening of your faith, so that you might go in peace and serve the Lord. Without the Word the elements are simple bread and wine, but with the Lord’s Word God gives His gifts of salvation won by His cross.
Peter trusted the Lord’s Word. He was blessed, called by God to cast out the net of salvation to sinners and see many believe in Jesus BY THE POWER OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST. For man is saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not of his own doing but solely by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. God has so blessed you this day with faith in Jesus, and has so strengthened your faith in Jesus through this Meal that you are now sent by Him to fish for men, that through the Word of Christ working in and through your life sinners will be gathered to the Savior, Jesus.
Peter in one sense hit the fishing jackpot. He caught a boatload of fish which, when taken to market, would have been a huge financial windfall for him and James and John. But Peter wasn’t interested in the cash. Recognizing his sinfulness, he confessed his sin and trusted in Christ. And note: “when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Peter and the others had a change in their life and priorities. What mattered most was not financial gain, or the growth of the fishing company. What mattered the most was Jesus. Receiving Christ’s forgiveness they were empowered to reach out and gather sinners to Christ, by simply proclaiming Christ crucified and risen again.
God has given to you a calling. Whether you are a husband or wife, parent or child, worker or retired, God has called you to be His disciple in this time and place. As God’s disciple God calls you to live out your faith. As Martin Luther wrote: “It is a great gift of God to live in the light of the Word and the divine calling. For the Word directs the course of life day and night…we should do nothing contrary to the obedience and reverence we owe to God.” (LW 8:83).
Dear friend, in Baptism God has called you by name, you now belong to Him. As a disciple of Jesus, Jesus now calls you to a life of discipleship. Daily you are to follow Him, listen to His Word, trust in Christ for forgiveness and life, and live out that faith in Christ for all to see. Even as Jesus sent Peter to share the Gospel of Christ, so too this day Jesus challenges you to become a fisher of men. that through your words, actions, and attitude you will proclaim Christ as Savior, to the glory of God.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Standing in the place of God

GENESIS 50:15-19

15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

This past week at VBS I had the opportunity to teach the pre school children. One of the techniques that were suggested in teaching 3, 4, and 5 year olds was play-acting. When one play-acts in teaching children, the teacher lead the children in acting out the story being told. For example, in the case of Moses parting the Red Sea, the students will act out with their arms the separation of the waters, and make believe that they are walking through the Red Sea as on dry ground. These types of techniques can be helpful in learning.
In the area of the fine arts and drama, actors will attempt to learn all they can about a character in the part that they play in the drama. Actors will seek to get inside the character to actually and accurately portray the part. They will, in a sense, stand in the place of the person they are trying to portray.
All of this is in good fun and is entertaining for the actors and those engrossed in the story. There are times we need to be engrossed in such types of entertainment, to divert us from the problems and trials we all face. We need to be engrossed because life itself is all too engrossing. It is easy to get all wrapped up in our own problems that we fail to not only see the big picture, but that we also lose perspective. The Old Testament lesson for today serves as a reality check for us today.
The story in the familiar story of Joseph, he of whom Andrew Lloyd Webber popularized in his play: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream coat”. Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, was an interpreter of dreams. His God given ability to interpret dreams got him into trouble with his jealous brothers, who sold him to traders when he was young, then lied to their father Jacob over Joseph’s whereabouts, saying the Joseph was dead!
God however had amazing plans for Joseph, even though those plans led him to an unjust imprisonment over the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife. While in prison, Joseph was able to interpret a butler and baker’s dream, and once Pharaoh got wind of Joseph, the Egyptian leader summoned Joseph to interpret his own troubling dream. Pharaoh, upon hearing of an impending famine through Joseph’s interpretation, appointed Joseph to be one in charge of preparing for the famine. Joseph, because of God’s blessing and God’s gift of interpretation of dreams, became second in power only to Pharaoh in all of Egypt.
The famine was severe, and Jacob, along with his family, was suffering back home. Jacob sent his sons to see if they could buy any food in Egypt to bring home with them. They came to Joseph, who told them that they could have food only on one condition that they would leave Benjamin behind. The sons reluctantly agreed to this and brought food home with them to Jacob and the family but Jacob was none too pleased. Thinking Joseph was dead, he wondered if Benjamin would meet the same fate. Soon the food bought from Egypt would run out and Jacob once again sent his sons to buy some in Egypt. Once again the brothers approached Joseph, who gave them food along with returning the money they used to purchase the food. Upon returning to Egypt, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, and they in turn went to get Jacob, to take him and the rest of the family to Egypt, there reunited with Joseph, and Jacob with all of his children, lived until he died.
After Jacob’s death, the sons of Jacob were fearful. Would Joseph now seek retribution? Would he now act in vengeance toward those who had wronged him? This was the question, the big elephant in the room so to speak, that everyone wondered about. And this is where we pick up our text for today. And we read: “15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
Note Joseph’s powerful words: Am I in the place of God? Can I stand in God’s place and judge you? Heaven forbid, says Joseph, for God is only the one true Judge. He alone brings about good from evil, and because God has shown mercy to me and has used this to His glory many people are alive today! Joseph thus spoke kindly to them and comforted them, for Joseph rightly understood that he could not stand in the place of God and judge his brothers.
You see, God was merciful to Joseph, so he in turn, in thanks to God, was merciful to those others, even though they wronged him. Joseph trusted in God’s mercy throughout his life and having been a recipient of His mercy, he could do no less than share that mercy with others.
Do you stand in the place of God? In one respect, yes , you stand in the place of God when you seek to take matters into your own hands. When you are wronged and then stand in judgment against the one who has wronged you, you stand in the place of God. When you seek retribution and harm over and against those who have wronged you, you stand in the place of God. And this is not pleasing to God. Who are you to judge or to stand in God’s place to work your will when He alone is God and is able to do anything, which pleases Him? God doesn’t call you to take out your anger on another! Listen to what God says: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” (Romans 12:14-21). When you condemn another or seek to avenge yourself, you put yourself in the place of God, seeking to stand in God’s place. Does not God say that you shall have no other gods besides Me? To seek vengeance fails to trust in God that He is just and that He will do what is right by you.
This is what God has exactly done! He has sought vengeance and accomplished justice on your behalf. It is not as a result of anything that you have done or what you could accomplish. God has done this solely by His almighty power and His justice flows from His everlasting love.
For God’s good News is that Jesus has stood in your place! He accomplished all that you could not do by keeping God’s Law perfectly. When wronged, Jesus did not seek retribution but turned the other cheek, again, and again, and again. Jesus is the Lamb of God and when led to the cross He was like a lamb led to the slaughter, not opening His mouth but He willing lived, suffered, and died on the cross to pay the price for all sin and injustice. God’s justice in found in the cross of Christ, His only Son who gave His life for your sins and the sins of the world.
Only Jesus is merciful, as His Father is merciful. Just as Jesus forgave those who condemned Him to death so He also forgives you. His blood washes even the vilest sin away. He doesn’t condemn you today, rather He gives newness of life! Jesus places you in Him so that by God’s grace you can stand as His child. In Baptism God has placed you in Jesus so that now you are in good standing with God. Today He feeds you with His true body and blood. Nourished by Jesus you now by His grace stand in His place to share His mercy and love with others.
In Jesus you are now a son of the Father. In Jesus you are called to be merciful to those who have wronged you, forgiving those who have hurt you, doing good even to your enemies. For this is God’s good and gracious will; that you would “be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” For as you stand by grace through faith in the mercies of God in Christ, you are now sent to stand in His mercy to share His mercy with others.
To God be the glory.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A New Bible Handbook

I recently ordered, and received in the mail today, "Concordia's Complete Bible Handbook for Students" published by CPH. At first glance it is a beautiful book with lots of helpful information. The pictures and illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. I plan on using it as reference, along with the Lutheran Study Bible, as a tool in my sermon and bible study preparation. But one thing that I have noticed which is lacking in this book is an index. I tried to find information on Pharisees but couldn't find it easily. I know it is in there, I just have to find it. So, in the next edition, perhaps it would be helpful to include an index for easier reference.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sinners on Trial


15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
In the name of Jesus:
In the world of judges and juries, we have recently witnessed another “Trial of the Century” in the events, which transpired in the Casey Anthony trial. Not since the O J Simpson trial has our nation’s attention been fixated on a verdict of a trial. The headlines in the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday blared the news: “Casey Anthony Cleared in the Death of Her Daughter.” Then, in an Associated Press story, the article explained: “Casey Anthony's eyes welled with tears and her lips trembled as the verdict was read once, twice and then a third time: "Not guilty" of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Outside the courthouse, many in the crowd of 500 reacted with anger, chanting, "Justice for Caylee!" and "Baby killer!"
In one of the most-divisive verdicts since O.J. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of murdering his ex-wife, Anthony was cleared yesterday of murder, manslaughter and child-abuse charges after weeks of TV coverage.
Anthony, 25, was convicted only of four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators who were looking into the child's June 2008 disappearance. Anthony could get up to a year behind bars on each count when she is sentenced Thursday morning. But since she has been in jail for nearly three years already, she could walk free. Had she been convicted of murder, she could have gotten the death penalty.”
Many who watched the trial were stunned at this verdict. From the circumstantial evidence, it SEEMS as if Casey Anthony killed her daughter. And yet, the verdict was not guilty. Note, the verdict was not guilty; the jury decided that they had reasonable doubt as to whether Casey killed Caylee. Casey was NOT proven to be innocent, there is plenty of blame to go around in her dysfunctional family, and Casey is not without fault. But the verdict was not guilty, and she will be able to walk away a free person, no punishment for whatever crime might have been committed by whoever killed Caylee.
The nation’s sense of justice has been violated. Many think that this verdict is a travesty. It is not my intent to place blame on anyone in this case in this message, what I do want you to see, though, is that people do walk free who are as guilty as sin of crimes committed. It happens all the time. Maybe not in a court of law, but in God’s scheme of things, in His divine justice, sinners who deserve the death penalty hear the verdict of NOT GUILTY all of the time. That is the message of our text for today; it is the message of the Bible!
In the Old Testament there is a scene recorded in Zechariah 3 of a vision that Zechariah has, to explain God’s sense of justice. The scene is a courtroom and Joshua the high priest is on trial. He stands before God as a sinner. All of the good things that he has done in life are like soiled garments when placed in contrast to God’s holiness and goodness. Satan stands on the side accusing Joshua of his sins, reminding Joshua and God of Joshua’s unrighteousness. God in His divine justice has every right to give Joshua the death penalty, to damn him to Hell. But Joshua has the best defense attorney, the Angel of the Lord, none other than Jesus Christ Himself, who orders that Joshua’s clothes be changed, from soiled garments to clean garments, to signify that Jesus has paid the price for Joshua’s ransom from sin. God the Father, looking at Joshua and hearing Jesus’ plea renders His verdict: NOT GUILTY! Another sinner goes free! Such is God’s justice. And Joshua receives this verdict in faith, leaving the courtroom singing praises to God and telling others of God’s mercy in Christ.
Humanly our sense of justice is that someone who commits a crime should be punished. The punishment should fit the crime. Why would and why should the guilty go free? And yet, in God’s divine justice, this is what has happened to you and me, indeed it is offered to all.
If you were on trial before the throne of the one Holy God, how would He judge you? God has told you what is expected of you, of how you are to love Him above all things, to show love and mercy to your neighbor. In light of God’s commands, how have you fared? What would you say to God when He would inquire of you of how you have lived your life? King David prayed: “Search me O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there is any grievous way in me and lead me in the way of life everlasting!” (Ps. 139:23-24). Have you searched your heart? Have you seen yourself in the light of God’s mirror of the Ten Commandments? If so, you will see yourself as you really are. You have not feared, loved, or trusted in God, as He demands. You have not properly used and heard God’s Word. You have been angry, resentful, and unforgiving toward your spouse, your family members, your friends and your neighbors. You have been envious, coveting that which does not belong to you, and you have spoken slanderous words to others. And these are only the things that you know! Think about those sins that you don’t know, that you have no clue that you have committed, but God still holds you accountable! Your unclean heart has led to a life polluted with sin. In light of God’s holiness, you are unworthy to be called His child. You have offended God with your ungratefulness. What should God do? He has every right to judge you as GUILTY, for your life shows that you are guilty of sin. You deserve no good thing from God; instead you should get God’s death penalty.
But God points you to His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus has rendered full payment for your sin. With His innocent life led Jesus stood in your place, offering Himself as the Substitute for sin, for He is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! You who should stand condemned before God’s throne of judgment now hear God’s verdict in Christ: NOT GUILTY! For God’s declaration is that Jesus who knew no sin actually became sin for you, that you might be right with God!
God has given this verdict. How then should the sinner respond? Some will reject the verdict, saying that it is baseless and without fact. Even though God says it in His Word, there will be those who reject the message. Others will hear the message of God’s forgiveness in Christ and rationalize why it doesn’t apply to them. Still others will shake their heads in disbelief. And do you know what? It is normal. Why? Because sinful man in his sinfulness cannot comprehend nor accept the things of God, for the Scripture says that sinful man’s heart and will is hostile to God.
So what does God do? God calls the sinner to change, to repent. But how can you repent? Even then God is gracious, sending His Holy Spirit working through Baptism and the Word to break the hearts of sinners to turn them to Him. The Spirit gives faith and works faith in your heart; so that you can know and believe that what God has done He has done for you! Even though you may regard yourself as one of the worst sinners, God is merciful and just, forgiving your sins in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul knew this from experience. He violently persecuted God’s Church, seeking to destroy those who believed in Christ. Yet God was merciful to Paul, forgiving His sin in Christ and changing his heart and life so that Paul became one of the foremost of the Apostles, dedicating his life to serving Christ and spreading the news of God’s forgiveness.
This is why Paul is able to stand before God and share His love with others. And just like Paul, God has forgiven you. No matter what you have done, no matter what you have thought, no matter what you have said, Jesus has paid the penalty for your sins in His innocent life, His bitter suffering and death. In Baptism God has laid claim to your life. You now belong to Him. Called by God He now sends you to share His verdict of forgiveness with those around you. As shocking as that verdict might be to the ears of sinners today, it is sweet music to those who stand guilty before God. God forgives sinners!
So let the sinner come to Jesus! Turn to Him for He is merciful and tenderhearted. Trust in Him all of the days of your life. Serve Him in thankfulness. And share His Good News with others. For this saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Great Banquet

LUKE 14:15-24

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 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.’ 18 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.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 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.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 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. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
In the name of Jesus:
It’s the Fourth of July Weekend, so let’s have a party! Imagine, if you will, that you have decided to throw a party for all of your closest friends, in honor of the 4th. You have spared no expense to make certain that all is in place. There are table decorations, party favors, a red white and blue theme, and the food, oh the food! You have purchased the finest of meats and the beverages are free flowing and will be unlimited! What a great time you are planning for your friends!
Everyone shows up. The food is all prepared, the barbeque and all of the fixings have been spread out, and the table service is set. You are ready to eat. Then one friend pipes up and says, “I am sorry, I have to leave. I just bought a house today and I need to go look at it so as to see what kind of house I bought and how many rooms it has!” Now, you being you, the perceptive person that you are, recognize that this is the Fourth of July. NO ONE sells homes on the 4th, NO ONE closes on a house on the 4th, in fact, you recognize that people just don’t buy homes THEN decide to look at them, the proper course of action is that the buyer looks at the house FIRST THEN decides to make a purchase or not. You see right through this person who you called a friend and realize the flimsiness of the excuse.
Soon, another person approaches you and says: “I need to go because I just purchased a car today and I need to look at it.” Immediately you wonder what is going on here, for the car dealerships are closed, no one buys a car on the 4th, no one can get financing on the 4th, and who in their right mind buys a car without first looking at it, knowing what they purchased and at least having a test drive! And so, this friend leaves with his excuse in tow but the excuse doesn’t hold water.
Immediately another friend says to you: “I need to go and be with my wife.” And you respond: “Your wife is here with you!” But that person winks and nods, and leaves. Soon, the banquet that you prepared for your friends has more than enough spaces at the table. What do you do? Probably you stew, your feelings are hurt, and you will write these so called friends off of your “friends” list.
Get the picture? Can you relate, even if this has not happened to you, anyone with feelings would feel incredulous at this type of thing happening to anyone. And yet, this situation is exactly what Jesus is describing in our text for today. Jesus is seated at a table, having a meal with the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day. The host would have gone to great expense to make certain all was in order at this meal, for Jesus was the guest. One who was eating with Jesus remarked: ““Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” And then Jesus responds by telling this parable.
In the Scriptures, a life with God is explained in terms of having a meal with God. One way to explain it would be table fellowship. In other words, just as you have Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners, cookouts with family and friends which show your close relationship with your family and friends, so also those who of the family of God, who are God’s children, have friendship or fellowship with God in terms of having a feast or banquet with the Lord. This is an image, which is consistently used throughout the Scriptures. This is why one says in our text: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” This one is remarking that whoever breaks bread with the Lord, whoever has a relationship with the Lord is truly blessed by God!
Listen to how Isaiah the prophet describes it in chapter 25 of his book: “6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, 
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Salvation is described in terms of a banquet. God prepares this banquet for ALL PEOPLES. On that day, God will dispose of sin, of death, and he will wipe away all tears and pain from His people so that God’s children will live with the Lord forever. On that day those who have been saved by God’s grace in Christ will sing praises to the Lord saying in effect: This is the day we have been waiting for! Praise God, let’s rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness to us forever!
Note, the Bible says that ALL ARE INVITED. But the point of Jesus’ parable is that even though all are invited, many refuse to come. Many find excuses as to why they cannot fellowship with the Lord. This is more than evident every Sunday where the Lord provides His banquet of the gifts of salvation in the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus gives us Himself, His very body to eat and blood to drink so that we might taste of God’s salvation. But how do those who are invited respond to God’s invitation to come to His house on a Sunday morning?
Sadly, with excuses such as I need my own time, it’s the only day off I have, I need to sleep in, it doesn’t interest me. What excuses have you heard, or used????
Dear friends, God has invited you to His Great Banquet. This relationship and feast has already been prepared. God’s only Son offered up Himself, giving His body and shedding His blood on the cross. God has invited and called you into a relationship with Him, not on the basis of your works, or excuses, but on account of His Son, Jesus. For you have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ, it is not of your own doing. He has called you by name in the waters of your Baptism. By the powerful working of the Spirit through water and the Word you possess a saving faith in Christ. Even though many today make excuses and reject God’s gracious invitation, know full well that God will not be mocked. His judgment is swift. For those who reject Christ, on the Last Day they will be rejected by Him, but those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be satisfied.
God invites all to the Banquet that He has prepared, but note that the Banquet is for only those who are hungry, who hunger and thirst after His righteousness. If you are righteous in your own eyes, don’t come to the Banquet. The Banquet is not for those who are full of themselves; it is not for those who don’t believe that they are sinners; it is not for those who don’t want what God has to offer; it is not for those who believe in Jesus; it is not for those who reject Christ; or who love the world more than God. God offers this Banquet to those who are truly hungry, who hunger for a relationship with God. God offers in this Banquet help for sinners who repent of their sins and turn to Him for salvation. God offers in this Banquet His Son who was sacrificed on the cross for your forgiveness. God offers in this Banquet the Lamb of God who takes away your sins and the sins of the world.
So God invites you and sinners who hunger for what God offers satisfaction for your hunger by giving you Jesus to be your Savior. Today in our Old Testament Lesson God issues an invitation to you: “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” (Prov. 9:5–6). The Lord calls you to repentance and faith. Repent of your sins, turn from the wisdom and the temptations of the world and trust in Christ for all things. Today He offers Himself to you in this Holy Supper, as a foretaste of what is to come. Even though many reject His offer, as did the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, His invitation to you is to come and taste and see that the Lord is good, that His mercy lasts forever.
His offer of salvation if for you this day, and His offer of salvation proclaimed through you as your live your life for Christ. For you have been reconciled to Christ, so that by the power of His Spirit you are empowered to love one another, in keeping with God’s will. For in Baptism you have been placed in Christ, and through His Word and Meal you have been fed at His Table so that you might be strengthened to live your life in His service. For this is the good and gracious will of God: “16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3: 16-18).”