“Do you have your priorities straight?” Has anybody ever asked you that? Perhaps a boss, mom or dad, a friend or sibling or spouse? They might say it to us if we aren’t focused on the task at hand, if we aren’t doing the right things, if we aren’t acting like we care about anything at all. Their goal would be to refocus us, get us back to doing the right thing, back to doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
Today Jesus asks us, “Do you have your priorities straight?” The Church has us hear this Gospel now, at the beginning of the Trinity Season, for many reasons. She wants to remind us that the fruits of Pentecost aren’t done blooming. The green vestments remind us that we are to grow like grass in faith and in the Christian life. So also we are to work for the salvation of many souls. We tell people about Jesus, we invite them to church, we give offerings for missions, like we will next week when we join our English District in taking an offering to support the work of our church out east in Lebanon County. We want people there and here to join us at the marriage supper of The Lamb both in this place and in the life of the world to come.
That is the main point of today’s parable, and one we often hear preached. But there’s another point here we should bring out, especially at this time of year. We’re entering the summer months. There are far more distractions now than there are during winter. There’s the lake or camp, the ballpark, vacation, and along with it the desire to let the brain do absolutely nothing for a while and leave everything behind. Sounds great right?
The only problem is Satan loves distractions. He loves to use them for his wicked purposes. What are his purposes? What does he desire? He desires to take us away from the dinner of the Lord. He wants us to be like those people who rejected the invitation to come eat it. One said he had purchased some land recently so he just had to go out to see it, even though I doubt he bought it sight unseen and he could go see it tomorrow. Another said he just had to test the oxen he had just purchased, even though he should have done it before he bought them, and since he hadn’t, it could wait until the next day. Another said he’d married a wife, so he couldn’t come. He may have married her years before, and besides, it would be totally unlike this lord who invited him to the dinner to not graciously welcome his wife too! They rejected the invitation for no good reasons at all, and they incurred the Lord’s wrath.
What is the Lord’s invitation to us? He has invited us to be with Him, to meet with Him, to love Him, to be His family, to want nothing more than to please Him. He invites us to dwell with Him, to have Him dwell in us, by means of His Means of Grace, His holy Word and Sacrament. He communicates with us that way, and He invites us to communicate with Him by prayer and thanksgiving. He invites us to be with Him, truly with Him, by using these things. He doesn’t say you must do it at certain set times each day as some religions claim. He simply invites us to do it.
How are we doing at answering God’s invitation? Some times are probably easier than others. Some times have less things going on than others. But then there are other times and everything seems to be happening at once. How are we to get our priorities straight? So many things compete for our time, and sometimes it seems like they’re all trying to schedule you for the exact same time! What should you do? How should you react? What would God your loving heavenly Father want you to do?
Perhaps today’s Gradual can help. We prayed these words from Psalm 120: “In my distress I cried unto the Lord: and He heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue.” How can these words help? They seem far removed from what we’re talking about today. They can help in this way: They pray God to rescue us from every attack Satan may make by distracting us and overscheduling us. It is the devil’s goal to take God’s Word away from us. That liar, that deceiver, is not above using the world to slowly take Christ away from us. That may not be in the world’s mind. After all, since it doesn’t love God it doesn’t understand, can’t understand, why Jesus is more important than it. That means it acts without considering what Christian faith needs and desires.
That’s the world. It doesn’t know and doesn’t care about what Jesus wants. Wittingly or unwittingly it serves Satan, not your God. It doesn’t know or care about sin or salvation. It only cares about self-gratification. It simply has a completely different set of values than you do. It doesn’t care about what you learned in Catechism Class, about what you hear from the pulpit, and does not value your Baptism, Jesus’ Absolution, or the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Do not be surprised then that St. John says the world hates you, because it hates your Savior too.
So what does a Christian value? You value God’s commands, because you know that when you follow them life works better – sin is what makes life miserable. You value Him above anything and everything. You value Him more than Pittsburgh sports teams, more than family and friends, more than jobs or the rivers or lakes or woods. You value Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. You value the Blood He shed when He died because it forgives your sins and gives you eternal life. You value the hope that you have, paradise of the blessed, so you realize that preparing for the life of the world to come is far more important than anything else in this world, and since that life is forever, you should prepare for it every day. You also value the gifts He gives us in this life, such as the marriage of man and woman and the children God provides them.
So what should you do when the world comes knocking? Respond with the hymnwriter: “Hence, all earthly treasure! Jesus is my Pleasure, Jesus is my Choice” (TLH 347:4). Make it your daily practice to read God’s Word and pray – using the green insert in the bulletin is one way to do it. If you can’t be in church, that sheet tells you what the next Sunday’s readings and sermon hymn will be. I post many of these things daily on social media too. At the same time, it’s always important to never give anyone the impression in any way, most of all our children, that anything might be more important than God. At all times we do well to live like we truly believe those words we sang during the Introit from Psalm 18: “I will love Thee, O Lord, my Strength; the Lord is my Rock and my Fortress.”
Are your priorities straight? Jesus is our chief priority, our daily priority. Work and play, family and friends are important, but don’t let them take Jesus out of your life. They can wait. He’s the only one who can forgive all your sins, because He died for you. He’s the only one that can give you eternal life, because He rose again for you. He’s the only thing you can take with you in your grave unto life eternal, because He alone is immortal. So be with Him. Listen to His Word and read it. Receive His Sacrament. Confess your sins to Him and hear Him tell you that you are forgiven. Don’t forget to pray to Him for His Spirit’s help, because we sinners can’t do this on our own. We need His help every day to keep Him our #1 priority every day of our lives. The Holy Ghost will help us have a perpetual fear and love of His holy Name.