No audio this week. Yesterday was a concatenation of silly little blunders: waking up at 8:45am for the 9am service, my interesting pubescent voice change during the Salutation, and a complete mind-blank on my sermon when a page of my manuscript went missing (which wouldn't have been a problem if  I'd had time to review my sermon text a few times before the service as I usually do or  I'd been more awake--for which, again, I have no one to blame but myself). So...for the members of St. Peter who didn't get to hear the portion of this that got lost between printing and preaching, the bold print is what you missed. My apologies. I'd like to say that it won't happen again, but instead let me say that I'll do everything I can to prevent this from happening again.
Ringing the Dinner Bell
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
"A certain man gave a great supper and invited many." This certain man is God the Father. The supper is the banquet of forgiveness and life which Christ His Son purchased by His death for sin and by His victory over the grave. In fact, Jesus is Himself the meal, the bread of life given in His body and blood. God has sent out His Holy Spirit to invite many through the preaching of the Gospel to come to the feast. All things have been prepared by God; there is no cost to you. Those invited may freely dine on the finest of fare which God has to offer.
"But they all with one accord began to make excuses." They all had other things they thought were more important to do. Being with the Giver of the feast and sharing in the joy of His meal was low on the priority list. They all demonstrate unbelief in the Gospel invitation. The first said, "I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused." This man is caught up in his property and does not believe that in Christ the meek shall inherit the earth. He seeks to gain the world and in the process forfeits his soul. He sees the value of land but does not desire the priceless land of the new creation. He elects to go and see his piece of ground, showing his destiny to return to the ground in temporal and eternal death.
The second said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused." This man prefers his work to the work of Christ. This man seeks to produce His own righteousness before God, walking under the yoke of the five books of Moses' Law, rather than trusting in the righteousness of Christ, walking in the freedom of the Gospel. He will find no rest. His labor is in vain.
The third said, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." This man prized his earthly marriage over the heavenly wedding of Christ and His Churchly Bride. He desired a fleeting wedding celebration more than the everlasting marriage feast. He loved union with his wife more than communion with his Creator. When death parts him from his wife, there will be nothing to restore him to life.
On the surface all of these excuses seem pretty reasonable. Taking care of land and business concerns and being with your new wife sound at first like pretty legitimate justifications for saying "no" to the invitation. And it's that same sort of seemingly reasonable excuse-making that we are tempted to engage in when the Gospel invitation comes to us. We too can come up with our own rationalizations for saying "maybe later" to God and His invitation to the feast. And this is true in every stage of life. In youth, sowing our wild oats seems like the most important thing. Reaching adulthood, it’s the responsibilities of family and employment. In middle age, we must work hard for retirement. And then it’s time to retire, when we can finally afford to travel and do all the things we missed while we were getting ready for this day. Please, Lord, have me excused.
And lest we who are here today become self-righteous, what about when we come to the banquet of the Lord but don't eat? What about when we hear the Word of the Lord that is read and preached in this place but refuse to pay attention to it and receive it? What about when we starve ourselves, lest we believe the Supper loses what makes it special? We're at the table, so to speak, but our attention is elsewhere than on God's free gifts of mercy and life in Christ. The food is in front of us, but we're not hungry. We've lost sight of our need for Jesus and what He has to give.
God will have a full house on the Last Day for His feast. And if those who should come don't, then many whom you might not expect will: not only the poor and the lame and the blind, but also even many from among the heathen nations will be brought to believe and be saved. This meal is given not on the credentials of the invitees but on the graciousness of the Host.
Our Lord Jesus offered up His body on the cross to be "roasted" in the fire of judgment. He suffered hell in our place at Calvary. Having rescued us from sin and Satan by His holy death, and being now raised from the dead, Jesus offers Himself to the whole world as heavenly food that we might receive His saving gifts and be nourished by them. Jesus said, "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." And if Christ dwells in you, then the sin and death which troubles you ultimately cannot harm you, for in Christ you have pure righteousness and life which conquers all, even the grave. He will indeed bring you who believe to the resurrection of the body at the close of the age.
And so the Spirit's call goes out to you again this day: "Come, for all things are now ready." The banquet table is laid before you, not only in the Word of God you are hearing, but also in the Sacrament of the Altar. Partake of this holy, life-giving food. Believe in Christ and be saved. Receive the foretaste of the Feast to come, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.