Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
June 13, 2021
When the servant returned to tell his master that those invited had refused the invitation to his banquet, the master got angry. Why is he so angry? I’m sure you’ve all declined invitations to dinners and weddings. And you’ve no doubt had your invitations declined. Do you get angry? Perhaps offended. But that’s life. Why does this master get so angry?
Because this master is God the Father Almighty. And he is inviting the people he loves, who have sinned against him, yet he has forgiven them, who have been unfaithful to him, yet he has been faithful to them. And the banquette he has prepared is his very own Son, Jesus Christ, whom he has sent to bear the punishment for their sins on the cross. Christ Jesus is the Lamb, who has been sacrificed for this meal. He was roasted on the cross to perfection (John 19:30), so that all our sins are fully atoned for. Now he is risen from the dead and offers himself as true food and drink to be received by all the faithful, so that they might live forever. The master, God the Father Almighty invites those who deserve to die to come and feast at a meal that gives eternal life to all who consume. He offers them the Gospel that gives eternal life to all who believe.
This is the God, who spoke through the Prophet Ezekiel, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11) And yet, he watches as his people refuse to turn back and rather go to destruction. This is why our God is rightfully angry. He purchased their salvation. He offered it to them for free. Yet, they spurned his invitation and rejected his generosity and love.
You’ll notice that the excuses they give are not to go and do evil things. The first man says that he has bought a field and must go and see it. Well, what is wrong with that? Isn’t it good to acquire land and to make a profit from it? This is how God intends for us to provide for ourselves and for others. It’s not like the man said, “I go to sue my brother to deprive him of his land.” The next man has bought five yoke of oxen, which he means to test. Again, is this not good work? Did not the Apostle say, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) This man’s trying to make an honest living. It’s not like he says that he is going to steal his neighbor’s oxen. And the third man has just married a wife. Has not God blessed marriage above all relationships on earth, which he defends with jealousy, blesses with children with immortal souls, and likens it to Christ’s relationship with his Church? The man didn’t say he was going off to fornicate or commit adultery.
Yet, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season.” There is a season to work and tend to your marriage, but when God calls you to hear the Gospel, everything else must be put on hold. Remember how Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) When we prioritize other things, even good things, above hearing and learning God’s Word, we prioritize other things above God. That is idolatry. And it is important for us to remember that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And do you know what will happen when you stop working and fussing and put hearing God’s Word before everything else? You’ll find that God will take care of your farm, your oxen, your marriage, yes, indeed he’ll add everything else unto you (Matthew 6:33). Don’t worry. When he says come, come.
You’ll notice that the excuses these men give are the same type of excuses people give for missing church. They’ve figured it out in their minds. They have a good reason to miss. But they don’t. Whatever your reason for avoiding hearing the Gospel and receiving Christ’s body and blood for forgiveness and salvation, it’s not a good reason. If this offends you, remember the words of Solomon, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser.” (Proverbs 9:8-9)
The reason it is a sin to skip church is because it is placing other things above God. And it is dangerous, because it shows a lack of faith in the Gospel. We go to church to receive forgiveness and eternal life. We come to accept the invitation of our Lord and taste a foretaste of that banquette of salvation in heaven, which also strengthens our faith for the road ahead. When we choose other things, we show that we value those things more than Christ. That is a sin. What’s worse, we teach our children to value other things more than the Gospel. There is nothing more valuable than the Gospel. If people received $10,000 for every Sunday they came to church, they certainly wouldn’t miss. If there were fines for missing church, they certainly wouldn’t miss. But here, we are offered something infinitely more valuable than all the money in the world. Through God’s Word and Sacrament, we come closer to the Lord our God, we grow in heavenly wisdom, our sins are forgiven, we receive eternity through faith, we actually commune with the very body and blood of Christ! If our faith recognized this, we would not stay away for all the money in the world.
The first man, who gave an excuse not to come said that he must go and see his field. In Greek it says that he has a compulsion to go and see this field. Well, what is compelling him to reject the banquette to go and do something he could do any other time? What compels us to reject hearing the Gospel? Is it not Satan himself? Is it not our sinful flesh, which constantly rebels against God?
This man has no real need to go and see his field instead of going to the banquette of salvation. But he feels compelled. It’s like the smoker, who says he wants to quit, but keeps on buying another pack of cigarettes. Or the drunk, who says he’ll quit drinking, but his body compels him to consume what he knows is killing him. How awful it is to be under the control of another force that drives you away from what is good! Jesus says that whoever sins is a slave of sin. And so, this man, with ears he does not hear and with eyes he does not understand, but rather he follows his master, the devil, and flees from what is good. We think we are free when we choose to do other things instead of worshiping Christ, but that is not freedom. It is slavery of the worst kind.
Those who have rejected the Master’s invitation will never taste it, but will be condemned to hell. And while the Master, God almighty, is angry at those who have rejected his invitation, he still shows his loving kindness. The Master desires to save all people. He sends out his servant into the streets and lanes of the city to gather the poor and crippled and blind and lame. He tells him to go out quickly. This is an urgent matter. And so, we should recognize it as such today. It is urgent that we hear the Gospel and that we believe it, so that we are saved. Without it we are slaves to Satan. Without it we will die and go to hell. Yet, in this banquet to which the Lord invites us, we have certainty of salvation and friendship with God.
When the servant returns and tells the master that all he has commanded has been done, the master urges him to go out and compel more people to come in, so that his house may be filled. This shows that God desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Yet, what does he mean by this word, “compel.” As the man was compelled by his master Satan to refuse the invitation to the banquet, will Christ then force people into the kingdom of heaven against their will? No, not in that way. Rather, the Lord uses the word compel to show the power of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has the power to change our stone hearts to be hearts of flesh. He has the power to change our unwilling hearts to be willing. Through the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit makes us willing so that we rush into the banquette with the desire to eat with and learn from our Savior.
This should give us confidence to confess our faith and invite people to church. The Lord says to compel them to come in. Well, we all know, with the exception of our children, we can’t force anyone to go to church. And you can’t force anyone to believe the Gospel. But you can confess Christ as the Savior of sinners. You can invite people to come to church. You can tell your loved ones that they should be here to hear God’s Word and to receive forgiveness and salvation. And Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit, God himself, works through these words to change hearts. Through the word alone, he can compel people to come in by changing their hearts.
Perhaps those who will not come think that they are unworthy to come to church, that they do not fit in. Perhaps you think that you are not worthy to sit at the feast of Salvation. Well, you’re right. You’re not worthy. But the Master didn’t invite the worthy. He invited the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. What does this mean? It means he invites those who cannot pay him back. God invites sinners to comes and eat at his banquette, to be his guests, and to receive forgiveness and eternal salvation. It is as Jesus said to the chief priests and elders, who refused to believe in him, “the tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you” because they believed.
This Gospel lesson teaches us that God invites manifest sinners to come to his banquette. He invites those who have ignored his word, skipped church, gotten drunk; he invites fornicators, liars, thieves, murders, adulterers, homosexuals, and any other kind of sinner you can think of. He invites them to turn from their sin and receive healing from him. He invites them to consume Jesus, who was prepared as a meal for them on the cross, through faith. God invites you. Whether you are poor, blind, or lame; whether you’ve skipped more Sundays of church than you’ve gone, whether you feel utterly unworthy; he invites you to rejoice with him at the feast of salvation, to receive forgiveness and kindness, to learn from him and grow closer to him.
The invitation is for now. Not tomorrow. Not next month. Now. Come and feast on the Lord in faith. Come and see that he is kind and forgiving. Come and break away from anything that would compel you to ignore this invitation. Come to church to hear the Gospel and receive Christ’s body and blood, and you will find rest for your soul. Amen.