Desiring the Feast
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When our Lord prepares a feast of salvation for the whole world, not many people want to come and receive it. From the very first moment of sin in the Garden of Eden, our Lord promised a Savior. Then, at the right moment, He sends His Son into the world. The Father sacrifices Him on the cross, just as the Passover Lamb was sacrificed, so that Jesus Himself, the Son of God, would be our feast. Christ is given into death and raised from the dead so that He might be our Bread of Life. The Lamb has been slain. All is prepared. The Feast is ready. It is a feast prepared by the Lord for you.
Even though what our Lord gives us is so much better than a pizza from Shiloh Tavern or a steak from Newell House, even though the Lord's feast gives us life and salvation, people don't want it. The world doesn't care. My brothers and sisters in Christ, don't you wonder why, if we have the Gospel here at St. Peter, more people don't join? We know we are surrounded by so many who are hungering and thirsting for something more in their lives. But where are they? But that's the wrong question! Jesus isn't telling this parable to those who are outside of the church but those who are inside it. When someone at the Pharisee's dinner shouts, "Blessed is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God," Jesus tells them that they don't really want bread in the kingdom of God. They've got a bunch of other stuff they would rather do than actually come to Lord's feast. We could go on all day about the people out there who don't think they need Christ and His gifts. But do we, God's own people, really want His gifts? Think about this: What is enough to keep you from the Lord's house and His gifts? What is going on in your life that would bring you to toss aside the Divine Service? What keeps you from crying out for the body and blood of Christ every Sunday? What’s most important to you?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus does not teach us in His parable that having a field or oxen or getting married are bad things. He's not saying that going on vacation or playing sports or going fishing are bad things. But when anything else becomes more precious, more important, more desirable than Christ and His gifts, they've become our idols. They will become our excuses for not coming to receive the Lord's gifts. We must all learn to recognize that we are not in Christ's church because we somehow deserve a place, as if the Lord needs us to show up for His sake. We need to be here because the Lord has invited us and lavished His gifts upon us.
And the Lord knows this. That's why He throws the banquet. He knows that we are poor, miserable, hungry sinners who need to be fed and nourished by His Son. Why do you suppose that we don’t ask for "daily bread" until the Fourth Petition in the Lord's prayer? The Lord knows that, even more than stuff in this world, we need His name to be holy among us, His kingdom to come, His will to be done. What is most important of all things is that we hear His Word, that we live in our Baptism, that we be absolved from our sins, that we eat and drink the feast of Christ's flesh and blood. Brothers and sisters, here in the church, the Lord has prepared a rich feast for you. Here He freely seats you at a banquet of salvation: you are washed for dinner at the holy font. You are seated in the place of honor by the words of holy absolution. Then in the sermon, the special of the day—Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for sinners—is described. Then you come to the main course, the feast itself: Christ Himself and His body and blood given and shed for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.
The day will come when Jesus comes back. He tells us that on that day, none of those who were invited and refused to come will be invited back! There's no chance to take back your excuse that you don't want the Lord's gifts. This is why we practice closed communion. The altar is closed to those who don't want to learn God's Word or repent of their sins. It is a warning that a time will indeed come when the Feast is closed off. Never run from the feast. Never desire to be excused. Come and feast upon Christ Himself, His Word and body and blood. Come as beggars, rejoicing to be brought in to this feast which we do not deserve, but which God spreads for us in Christ. And look forward to the day our Lord will return for His Bride and we shall rejoice to celebrate the eternal wedding feast prepared by the Father for His Son and the Church. 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.