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We Are All Beggars (Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 2:13-22; Luke 14:15-24)

Second Sunday after Trinity

“We Are All Beggars”
Paul Norris, Seminarian

Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 2:13-22; Luke 14:15-24

26 June 2022

           

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Once while on traffic patrol as a police officer in Texas I pulled a vehicle over for speeding. The vehicle was traveling 75mph in a 35mph zone. As I customarily did after introducing myself, I would ask the driver, “Is there any reason for your unlawful speed?” This driver quickly answered, “I just washed my car, I was trying to dry it off.” While I admired his quick thinking and creativity with his excuse, it was of no use. He received a hefty citation for his speeding.

Excuses! Our lives are filled with them. There is no shortage of reasons we dream up why we cannot do something. The human inclination towards excuses started in the garden when Adam made excuses for sin when he blamed God for giving him Eve. In our childhoods, we utilized excuses for all manner of behavior to our parents and teachers. “The dog ate my homework”, “Nobody else has to do it! why do I?” Even in Adulthood our propensity to make excuses remains. “I forgot to set my alarm”, or “I’m too tired”, or “I need some me time.” And the world makes excuses, “I was born this way”, or “It’s not a baby, just a clump of cells.”

During his earthly ministry Jesus had a particular style of catechesis; he taught about his kingdom using parables. Parables are figurative sayings or stories that make comparisons. Parables lay side by side things that are profound, and not easily understood with things that are common and easily understood. They reveal the mysteries of heaven and salvation which were not known in previous generations.  Parables can also conceal the mysteries of God, as the secrets of God’s heavenly kingdom are not given to everyone, but to those who hear with the ears of faith. As such, parables guard the mysteries of Christ. They are timeless and applicable in all times.

Some parables teach us of the Father’s great love for mankind and the sacrificial work of his only begotten Son. They illustrate how hearts must be changed by God’s love rather than God’s love being changed to fit our own heart’s expectations. Some parables teach us to not fear death and that God promises us salvation and eternal life through the Son. They teach us that the greatest blessing is not here on earth, but that we inherit the kingdom of God and dwell in the presence of the Father who loves us so much that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for us on the cross.

Now that we are reminded of the purpose of and how to understand Jesus’ parables, we are prepared to better meditate on the Gospel text today. Jesus is eating at a dinner party with the Pharisees and those who held prestigious positions within the religious community. One of these men speaks up and says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15) He does this to communicate his understanding of blessedness for those within the Jewish covenant of faith. This particular man is among those who believe they were already heirs of God’s kingdom because of their genealogy and their perceived keeping of the Law. They believed that the Messiah would bring God’s kingdom to them on earth placing them in a prominent place among God’s elect.

The Pharisees dining with Jesus have lost sight of how to get to God’s heavenly banquet. Admission to the heavenly banquet is by humbling yourself before the Holy and Almighty God, and not rejecting His invitation to “Come, for everything is ready.” (14:17) Their hearts were not in the right place, and they are unprepared to hear the Gospel of Christ. So Jesus tells them the parable and places them in it as the main characters.

Jesus’ parable teaches that true blessedness isn’t from the invited guests’ excuses. They rejected the servant’s invitation to come to the great banquet. All the excuses are hollow and empty. They have to be, for no reason exists why a man should not want to be saved by God’s Gospel of redemption and reconciliation. Therefore, all the excuses are dishonest and sinful.

The first guest’s excuse is, “I bought a field, and I must go out and see it, please have me excused.” (14:18) Oh, that’s nice! he asked politely. His is the excuse of necessity. He is compelled to go see his new purchase related to his employment and business dealings in the world. He allows earthly possessions and money to take a higher priority than anything else, including the things of God. He can’t put this off, he simply cannot come. He “respectfully declined” as we say it today.

But true blessedness is not found in your business dealings and employment. The proper perspective on these things is realizing they’re a part of the daily bread that God blesses you with. You are his beloved child, He loves you and cares for you. He gives you the means to support yourself and often to help others. We need to know when to call it enough, that it’s only work and it doesn’t take precedence over the path to eternal salvation.

The second excuse is, “I bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.” (14:19) Again, this one declines politely so there is at least that. He must be a rich man because only a rich man could afford to buy five yoke of oxen (Ten Oxen). He is ready to test out his newest purchase. He is well on his way, and he cannot afford to change his plans and he is not willing to change. Perhaps the one hosting the banquet should change the date of the banquet to better accommodate this rich man!

True blessedness is not found in your purchases or possessions. Rejecting the invitation of God’s Servant – Jesus Christ hardens your heart to being changed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches us that the time is now, “Come for everything is now ready.” (14:17) And yet many today still turn down His invitation.

The third guest has an even poorer excuse than the first two. “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” (14:20) This one is interesting because it would be the same as us saying, “My wife won’t let me come!” Cf. with Adam excusing himself because of Eve in the Garden. This man does not even bother being polite, he just goes for the clinical and blunt excuse. He does not even ask to be excused, he simply refuses to come. His excuse represents the blatant and blunt rejection of the Gospel of Christ, the community of believers, and the Church. He chases after the pleasures offered in his new marriage and the pleasures of this life.

If we are honest with ourselves these excuses are all too familiar. We use them also. We allow other things to take a higher place in our lives than coming to Divine Worship on Sundays and receiving God’s life-giving gifts. We allow other things like soccer practice and baseball games to serve as a reason why our children should not come to catechesis. We make excuses as to why we cannot or do not want to serve the church on one of the boards or committees or help operate the iPad Sundays so that the church can have organ accompaniment. We think of excuses as to why we cannot volunteer our time to help teach the children on Sunday morning for Bible class, or excuses as to why we don’t even attend Adult Bible study ourselves. “I mean, I came to Divine Service, I checked that box off for the week. Isn’t that good enough?” Why would we reject any opportunity to learn more about God’s Word? Why would we reject God’s request to serve His church on earth?

True blessedness cannot be found in our vocations, or family and friends isolated from God’s love. The proper perspective of family and friends is that they are given to us by God, and you to them by God. With the sight of faith, we see God’s hand at work in our lives, and we know the Father’s love. Through them, God gives us the gifts of vocation, a calling, and a purpose to bless them back. God entrusts them to your care, and you are also to love your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, just as He loved us. The greatest blessing of family and friends is when we worship together, learn together, serve together, and grow in Christ together. And, even though we die, we will be reunited again in God’s kingdom by the promise of Christ’s resurrection.

All the guests in the parable have worldly wealth, money, possessions, and land. Their earthly possessions give them a false sense of security in themselves. They don’t believe that they need anything that anyone else has to offer, not even the master.  But Jesus did not come to congratulate those who view highly of themselves and their perceived successes. Jesus did not come to join in a victory meal for their accomplishments. He came to bring God’s love, mercy, and grace to the lonely, the outcast, the broken, and the hurting. Jesus did not come to save the righteous because there is none righteous. Jesus came to save the sick and lost, the beggars. Jesus came for you, a beggar.

After his death, one of the things that were found in Martin Luther’s pocket was a simple handwritten note which read; “This is true. We are all beggars.” This is how we approach the throne of God, as beggars. We are spiritually poor and separated from Christ. We cannot do anything to merit our salvation. All we can do is come to the Lord begging for his grace and mercy, clinging to the cross of Christ.

Jesus does not leave you a beggar. Because he loves you, he pleads your case for you offering his holy blood as a peace offering between you and the Father. He also invites you to join Him where he promises to be found – in the Lord’s house. It is here in God’s house where Jesus speaks and gives you faith by His Holy Word. It is here where Jesus washed you and claimed you as his own in the baptismal font. It is here where Jesus feeds you with the Bread of Life,  his true body and blood at the altar for the forgiveness of your sin. It is here where Jesus blesses you.

True blessedness is found only in God’s love through his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals this to us today teaching that the kingdom of God is like being an unlikely, underserving guest, invited to a great feast we don’t deserve. If you are worried that He will run out of room, don’t be. Jesus promises, “still there is room.” (14:22)

Lastly in the parable, Jesus is teaching today, the master gives the servant a great commission. “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” (14:23) This time the master tells his servant to go outside the city and seek people, the poor, crippled, blind, and lame outside the city. These are those who are clearly unworthy! God seeks the unworthy, the humble, not the proud. This is a double-edged sword showing both God’s mercy and his judgment. Unbelief is in the back of every refusal of the Gospel invitation. Many from the religious establishment, especially those who were supposed to be shepherding God’s people, and even many of the children of the covenant rejected the master’s invitation. Jesus says, “None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” (14:24)

The twist of this parable is that the Master of the banquet is already before them. He was teaching them that He, Jesus Christ, came to save the sick and the lost. That God’s mercy and love come to those whom the world rejects. This time God invented the sick, lame, and poor from both inside and outside the camp, even foreigners. These are the ones that know they needed a savior. These are the ones who see Christ with the eyes of faith, and whose hearts and lives are changed by God’s grace, mercy, and love. These are the ones who heed the call of the Master through his servant, our savior Jesus Christ.

Blessed are those who heed the call of the Savior, who eat bread in the kingdom of God. These words a pure irony, that is, someone speaks the truth without realizing it! In this case, the Pharisee speaks the truth but doesn’t really believe it. Blessed are those who realize with thanksgiving that their daily bread is a gift from God and that the greatest blessing comes from the Bread of Life himself, our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

The world sees as negatives one who is poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. You are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and you are reviled as evil is spoken falsely by others on account of Christ.  But God sees you, the beggars. You are the ones that Jesus calls blessed. You are the ones Jesus says will inherit the kingdom of heaven! Be comforted, be satisfied, receive mercy, see God, be called sons of God, and be given the kingdom of heaven in Christ Jesus. You are the ones who rejoice and are glad because you know your reward is in heaven. You need not be perfect, only faithful in hearing God’s call by his Word, through His only Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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