Scripture: Luke 14: 15-24
Goal: exploring mysteries of God’s earthly kingdom
Title: Urge them to come, so My house will be filled!
From his parables, Jesus reveals God's kingdom mysteries. The major there we've encountered so far... addresses people being overly attracted to worldly interests.
So today, let’s consider what mystery Jesus’ parable of the Great Banquet has to offer.
Surely, we all know someone that Jesus is describing... people consumed by their house or property, their pets, family or career... each are worldly interests, as illustrated on your bulletin cover.
Sadly, most of my adult life was driven by... the worldly interests of accumulation and achievement. The notion of breaking bread in God’s Kingdom was the farthest thing from my mind. What’s worse... hearing today’s scripture reminds me of a gracious invitation that I dismissed. A very nice lab technician at a place I worked... invited six or seven of the engineers and their wives... to the Garden State Arts Center. This is a large outdoor theater, where his wife, a member of an ethnic dance group, was performing.
Charles was excited to provide the tickets and a cooler full of sandwiches and drinks... all the invited guests needed to bring was something to sit on. This was a loving gesture extended to a group of work friends... to see and meet his wife on a pleasant Saturday afternoon. The food was purchased, sandwiches were lovingly prepared, the table was set... the guests were invited... everything was ready! On Monday morning... as we all arrived back at work, Charles asked... why not one of us showed up to share in his joy. So, I engage today’s parable with great humility!
Today’s parable is part of a larger lesson that is too long to read. Before the Great Banquet parable, Jesus first describes appropriate kingdom conduct for hosts, for guests, and for the staff. These two parables encourage us to envision ourselves in all three roles.
Hosts in the kingdom... should recognize that they receive no special credit for inviting friends, relatives or anyone who can repay their hospitality. In God’s kingdom... it is more appropriate for hosts to invite people who cannot repay their hospitality. From America to South Africa... invitations to special events like banquets or wedding parties is left to the host, not their staff. It is not the custom to invite widows or orphans to special events, nor the town’s marginalized or outcast, nor... the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. So, this kingdom mystery reveals a new way of hosting... that extravagantly blesses the host... at the most beneficial time of their life.
Guests in the kingdom... should recognize their presence revolves around humility. Jesus warns guests not risk embarrassment by exalting themselves... for example by picking too prominent a place at the table. Rather, in God’s kingdom the appropriate conduct... is for guests to show humility... for example by choosing the lowest seat available, allowing the host to honor you in front of his or her other guests... by inviting you to sit in a more prominent seat.
Staff working a kingdom banquet... should recognize their participation is dominated by inviting others. The kingdom mystery behind banquet worker’s extending invitations... is doing our part in growing God’s kingdom. Staff extend kingdom invitations by sharing their personal faith experiences...and while we sleep... God will nurture our that with God's engagement... will hopefully bring sinners to repent and accept Jesus. In the kingdom, Jesus urges his followers... to go into the highways and byways inviting everyone... so the house of the Lord can be filled.
(Applying) Today’s Scripture...
reveals how the host of this Great Banquet... Jesus... would like all of us gathered in this chapel... to re-introduce our Munsonville neighbors to Jesus... especially those neighbors distracted by worldly interests. For me, the kingdom mystery is in how you and I imagine this Great Banquet.
If we see the banquet as a formal event... it makes no sense that the staff decides who to invite. But if we imagine this Great Banquet is more like Chapel by the Lake’s community breakfasts or the Congregational Church’s Ham and Bean Supper... it makes great sense... that the all-volunteer staff does the inviting... trying to fill each seat in the house of the Lord.
Urge them to come, says Jesus, so my Father’s house will be filled both here in Munsonville and later in God’s heavenly kingdom. We the staff for Jesus’ Great Banquet, our task is to urgently invite others, beginning with every marginalized person... and then everyone distracted from God’s kingdom, including friends, relatives and neighbors that we truly care about. While God would love to fill the heavenly kingdom... God leaves doubters, skeptics, and those consumed by worldly interests... with the freedom to accept or decline our invitation.
When Jesus returns to separate the repentant (wheat) from the unrepentant (tares), however, I Can Only Imagine Jesus inviting believers like us... to God’s Great Banquet. Then stationing His divine self at the banquet door, Jesus welcomes each guest by name... gives each guest a loving embrace and announces... we have both plain and blueberry pancakes.
But what about folks like me, who failed at least one of life’s trial runs... like I did with Charles’ gracious invitation. Do I have time to turn away from worldly concerns... and help to grow God’s kingdom? I am trying! As each disciple of Jesus invites prospective guests... hopefully prospective guests will realize there is no other way they can enter God’s kingdom. Making our invitations so critical in growing God’s kingdoms... here in Munsonville and the heavenly kingdom.
As the heirs of salvation... please stand and boldly sing Blessed Assurance UMH 369
Chapel by the Lake
Rev. Bill Taylor