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12th Sun of Luke Luke 14: 16 -24, Col. 3: 4-11, Dec. 17, 2023
Today, we are invited by the King of Kings, the Master of all Creation, Father God Himself, to partake of the banquet of banquets, the feast of feasts. In Revelations, from the very throne of God we hear the angel say (Rev.19.9) “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the lamb.” We have the invitation, but will we make the effort to come? In Matthew this same parable starts (Matt.22:2) “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” There has never been nor will ever come a more monumental banquet in the history of the human race. This is the wedding feast given by God the Father for His only begotten Son. And if God’s Son, Jesus Christ is the bridegroom, who is the bride? We, the Church, as described all through the scriptures, are the bride of Christ. We are invited not just as honoured guests, but as the bride of the Bridegroom. How sad if the bride stands up such a desirable Bridegroom. Let us make plans NOW, clear our schedule and send in our RSVP! We are ALL invited, the only ones not coming will be those who themselves make excuses and refuse to done their wedding attire and come.
We who accept the invitation, need to prepare, carefully keeping clean and ready our wedding garment – our baptismal robe of light. Those who are just “too busy” with the “important” things of life, will look on with great amazement asking, “What invitation Lord?” “Our wedding garment is soiled, and our lamps have no oil, give us a little more time.” But this great supper has already started! When we receive Holy Communion we have begun to enter inas we joyously sing, “Grant that we may more perfectly partake of You in the never-ending day of Your kingdom.” What could possibly be so important for us that we would be “too busy” to attend?
Let us look at the excuses offered in today’s gospel reading by those who are “too busy” to come, for they really haven’t changed much. We shout them out by our actions, by where we spend our time. The Slavonic would have the excuses stated a little stronger, “Have me repudiated, I renounce your supper.” The first man bought a piece of ground. His focus was completely on the earth, on building his kingdom here in this world, having no time for spiritual work. The second had just bought 5 yoke of oxen. His priority was on building his business, getting ahead here on earth. The Fathers teach the 5 yoked oxen represent the 5 senses of our physical body being completely yoked to the things of this world and allowing for no development of our spiritual senses. Both of these excuses place material gain, money and the things of this world ahead of anything else. The third man’s excuse is that he has taken a wife, this representing placing love of pleasure and comfort before love of God. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities, as long as they are firmly in second place. Yet no matter the culture, no matter the historical time, the story stays the same. We lack balance and get caught up in the less important, in the good things of the world, neglecting the “one thing needful,” the “pearl of great price,” that which is eternal and does not perish. We become blind to our true purpose during the short time we are visiting this planet – to prepare for and invest in our heavenly eternal home.
Notice that the invitations were first given to those whom God had blessed with earthly blessings. They were financially stable, healthy, and able-bodied. The problem isn’t that these were sinful activities, they were diligently pursuing good and blessed things, marriage, a home, a business. They were doing well as far as they and their friends were concerned, self-satisfied, self-sufficient, self-made, and ultimately self-centered and self-ish, as isolated self-absorbed individuals. No “Sorry, got to help my struggling neighbor” excuses listed here. God tells His servants – the angels- to “compel” the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind – US – to come to the great wedding feast. We hear in (2Cor 5:14) “For the love of God compels us.” Love is God’s sole compelling method. Our part is to open our hearts to receive His compelling love.
We all have problems, disagreements, woundings. We hurt each others’ feelings and have our feelings hurt. There is no such thing as living in a perfect loving community this side of the kingdom of heaven. We are a family and every family struggles in this broken sinful world. We are engaged in a war. The enemy will do anything he can to separate us, to get us to listen as he whispers distorted ½ truths. Until we fully become saints, we will occasionally fall for this, and live in a painful place when we do. But, we also have the remedy. Turn to Christ! In today’s epistle we heard (Col.3:11) “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” To carry this into our cultural reality where there are less slaves and Scythians, I would add there is neither Conservative nor Liberal, Republican or Democrat Vaccinated nor Unvaccinated, White, Yellow, Black nor Indigenous. All are one in Christ and invited to the great supper!
The next 3 verses (Col.3:12-14) following today’s epistle reading give us the actions, the postage to mail in our RSVP. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
In today’s gospel lesson, we see the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, eagerly and gratefully accept the invitation to the great feast of feasts. In the verses in Luke 14 just before this parable, Christ is again speaking highly of the same group. He tells the Pharisee’s dinner guests, (Luke 14:12 -14) “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” We are doing just that with out Free Christmas Day Dinner next week. Don’t miss out on your blessing and reward at the resurrection party! Be sure to contribute something even if you can’t come! This dinner is for our benefit as much or more than for those we are serving.
The weak and needy know first-hand they need the help of God and others. (Luke 5:31) “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Where do we see ourselves? Are we the righteous – “doing pretty well thank you,” or are we sinners in great need of the physician? Our presence at the great wedding feast depends on our answer!
There are of course exceptions to this. We can be well off and in humility recognize our utter dependence on God, and we can be living on the street with nothing and yet be fiercely independent and proud. The main thing in today’s Gospel lesson is that rich or poor, in sickness or in health we need to accept the invitation to the great wedding feast with humility and gratefulness, realizing we have done nothing to earn or deserve such love and grace. Thank God for all things!
So what do we do? How do we live a God pleasing life in the midst of the distractions of the most materially diverse and prosperous culture the world has ever produced? We must always keep in mind that the more we indulge the passions, the stronger and more consuming they become until they rule us entirely! Time for David’s practical application 101 list.
- Repent, ask for God’s help, and start with small and intentional changes.
- Forgive anyone we are struggling with.
- Take the Church calendar and mark some feast days into your 2023 Scheduler.
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier 3 days a week and pray or read the daily scripture readings.
- Donate 20% more than last year.
- Take 3 hours every week at the same time and spend it focused on your children and/or spouse. Protect this time and let nothing come between it!
- Come to some Wednesday evening Church studies and attend Great Vespers more often.
- Fast seriously at least on Fridays to get started.
Just take the time to decide what is a true priority and schedule it, but go slow. When we take on too much we usually crash and burn and end up discouraged and give up. Too little and we never get started and find we are doing even less for our spiritual development at the end of the year. Growing in Christ requires action. Inertia is always a backward path. Christ tells us, (Matt. 12:11) “…the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” May God grant us His wisdom to discern what is truly important, open our eyes to our eternal destiny, and give us eager anticipation as we prepare for the great wedding feast!
Glory to Jesus Christ!