How did The Church start? How does it keep on going? That’s what the Trinity season is all about. On Pentecost The Holy Spirit came down from heaven and the Apostles preached. On Trinity Sunday we heard we enter God’s Kingdom by being born from above by water with the word – Holy Baptism put God’s Name on us and washed away our sins. Last Sunday we heard the message is brought to us by the writings of the Apostles and Prophets – The Sacred Scriptures.
Today we hear how and why the message has come to you. A certain man had been making a great meal. He invited people to come. He told them it was going to happen. He kept giving them hints it was getting closer and closer. Finally he sent out his slave to tell everybody he invited the dinner was all prepared. The dinner bell was ringing. It was time to eat! The Great Invitation was fulfilled!
But they didn’t come to eat. They wanted to keep doing what they were doing instead. They made excuses. One had to go see his new field. Did he really buy it sight unseen? One had to test his oxen. Why didn’t he do that before he bought them? One had just gotten married. Couldn’t he bring her along? Surely she was invited too! Their excuses all were silly. It was dinner time. They just didn’t like the inviter.
The slave went back to his lord to report. He told him how everyone rejected it. So his lord told him to go out and bring in anybody and anyone. He said it was done. He was told to keep doing it, to bring in the people those first invited might not even want to have anything to do with. So off he went to bring in more people. The dinner bell is still ringing. He will keep going out with The Great Invitation until the house is filled.
That’s right. The slave is still compelling people to come to the feast. He’s been to the city streets and lanes, to the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. He’s been to the highways and hedges. Where did he find you? You have been brought to the feast. You have been brought to God’s Kingdom, to feast on His holy Word and Sacrament.
How can this be? You replaced others? Who was called first? How was the dinner prepared? The dinner was prepared when Christ took on our flesh and died on The Cross. St. John the Baptist went out to prepare the way for Him. He told the people to repent of their sins and look to The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. The Apostles went out and preached to the people. John lost his head, the Apostles got thrown into jail. God’s own people, the nation of Israel, who had received the call through Abraham and the Prophets, rejected the dinner invitation.
The message has reached you. The Apostles went out to the Gentiles, out into all the Roman Empire and even India. Men like Boniface took it to Germany, Patrick to Ireland, Cyril and Methodius to the Slavs. Then Luther went to work to publish it throughout the world. On this day, in the year 1530, the Lutheran princes presented our Confession to the reigning Holy Roman Emperor at Augsburg. Eventually The Gospel came to our land, to this area; you can name many pastors who have preached to you in this congregation. The faces have been different through these past 117 years, but the message has been the same: Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
That’s what the message is all about: Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins. The preacher must tell you why you need the invitation. You are born without a perpetual fear and love of God’s holy Name. That doesn’t mean they come and go. It means you are born utterly unable to fear and love God. Even when we believe in Him, we still find ourselves falling into sin and fearing and loving other things more than Him. Just think – have you ever let anything get more important than God? How so? To take an example from today’s Gradual, we may like to listen to lying lips and deceitful tongues. Are those lips and tongues your own? We lie to get outta trouble or to get somebody else into trouble or just because it’s fun. We lie because we are born slaves of the father of lies, the devil whose lies led Adam and Eve into sin.
Christ came to deliver our souls from lying lips and deceitful tongues. He came to deliver us from the father of lies. He came to rescue us from the power of the devil. He did that by preparing the great banquet. He prepared Himself. The Jews handed Him over to the Romans, and the Romans crucified Him, but He prepared Himself. He says in John 10 that nobody took His life from Him, but He gave it up His life on His own accord. He makes that clear by saying in today’s Gospel that The Lord prepared the banquet.
Christ Himself is the banquet. He was prepared for eating on The Cross. He sacrificed Himself. A sacrifice is eaten. Jesus says in John 6, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Before that He said: “The work of God is to believe in Him Whom He has sent.” He also says: “The Bread of God is He Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
We gather here to feast on Christ, on His Word and Sacrament. Faith feasts; it hears God’s Word and believes. It trusts. It takes The Word of God you hear and says: “He did this for me! My sins are forgiven! I am rescued from the devil and his lies! I can speak the truth now – God’s truth! Christ died and rose to forgive me and all people. I will confess Him and praise His holy Name!”
The fact that you are here shows you aren’t part of the mainstream world. The Lord sent the slave out into all the corners of the earth, and corners tend to be dirty and cobwebby places we want to disappear. We are the corners of the world. The world doesn’t like having us around. St. John says in the Epistle: “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” He’s simply echoing what Jesus said on the night He was betrayed: the world hates Christians because it hates Him.
So we are mocked and hated. The world hates that God created all things and won’t let it be taught in public schools. The world hates that God gives life and takes life and fights against this at every turn. The world hates that God instituted marriage and we dare not alter it. The root of all this is that the world does not like the message that we need to repent of our sins if we wish to be saved.
So repent of your sins and believe The Gospel. Believe what the slave tells you. Believe that God has sacrificed His Son to save you. Believe that faith eats Him and receives Him – it internalizes Him. Believe that by receiving Him you receive eternal life. He leads you to reject sin, desire to do better, and live according to His Word.
So “Awake, Thou Spirit, Who didst fire the watchmen of the Church’s youth!” Awake, and lead us to believe in Christ. Send out Your Great Invitation to lead many more to Jesus’ Cross. Send Your Word out throughout all the world and bring many more to believe in Christ and receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life so that they will say with us through all eternity: “I will love Thee, O Lord, my Strength, the Lord is my Rock and my Fortress.”