TRINITY II – Factus est Dominus
Introit: (Ps. 18) The Lord was my upholder and he brought me forth into a place of liberty: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. Ps. I will love thee, O Lord my strength: the Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Saviour.
Collect: O Lord, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love: keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
OT Lesson: And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25.6-9)
Gradual: (Ps. 120) When I was in trouble I called upon the Lord, and he heard me. V. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
Epistle: Dearly beloved: Marvel not, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (I John 3.13-24)
Alleluia. O Lord my God, in thee have I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. Alleluia.
The Holy Gospel: At that time: Jesus spake this parable unto the Pharisees: A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. (St Luke 14.16-24)
Today’s Lessons are often interpreted as referring to Holy Communion, and a great many sermons on these texts will no doubt follow that theme. And there is nothing wrong with that. But this is Luke (and Isaiah), not John, and while a Eucharistic interpretation might be valuable for us, it would have had little or no relevance for the people to whom these words were first addressed. They were referring, rather, to the great ‘Messianic banquet’ in the Kingdom of God. This is made clear in the verse which introduces our Gospel reading (for whatever reason omitted from the pericope): “And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” (Lk 14.15)
“A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.” The first thing we must note in this parable is that the guests had already been invited and apparently accepted the invitation – they had “RSVP’d,” we might say. But when the time came, and the second invitation to “come, for all things are now ready” was issued, then the invitees began to send their regrets. And they are some pretty lame excuses. While they are technically legitimate, the timing, together with the fact that the invitation had already been accepted, makes it clear that this is a deliberate thumbing of the nose at the host. So no wonder he was angry, declaring that “none of those who were bidden shall even taste of my supper.”
This parable was aimed squarely at the religious classes of Israel: the Pharisees and scribes (who were laymen), and the ‘professional’ chief priests and Levites. But it has pointed implications for the Church, as well. Just because we are baptized and have our names inscribed in the church roster, just because we have been confirmed, or ordained, or consecrated, does not mean that we can sit back on our laurels and spurn God’s gracious invitation. “I have bought a field… I have bought five yoke of oxen… I have married a wife…” How often do our own priorities and the material and carnal things of life get in the way of our relationship with God? Or perhaps even worse, replace God, as we worship the ‘green dragon’ of environmental issues or social justice concerns, rather than the Creator of the world and Just Judge of all, “exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and worshipping and serving the creation, rather than the Creator” (Romans 1.25)? Or on the other hand, going through all the right motions, revelling in the pomp and pageantry, while ignoring the Reason for such extravagant precision, “Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3.5)? We all fall into these traps from time to time, but as St John reminds us in the Epistle: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed, and in truth.”
There are many people who consider Christianity a type of tyrannical religion—a series of rules, commandments, and ‘thou shalt nots.’ But Christianity is first and foremost an invitation—“Come and see!” The Gospel is not a commandment, but a gift—an invitation to share in the ineffable joy of the Kingdom of God. The great drawing power of Christ is in His invitation: “Come unto me.” When we come to Him, then we shall do certain things, not because we have to do them, but because we delight in doing them as an expression of our love for Him.
Come, for God is expecting you. He embraces the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame. He welcomes those who have spent their lives in the highways and byways of life. He invites all: “Come; for all things are ready.” As a shepherd scrambles over mountains and valleys seeking the lost sheep, as a woman gets down on her hands and knees with a candle to search for a lost coin, as a father waits longingly for the lost son to come home again, so God is ever seeking, calling, inviting: “Come; for all things are ready.” You who seek meaning in your life, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, you who falter under the burden of sin and guilt, you who are anxious and fearful, you who seek peace and fulfilment, come to Him.
The table is full-laden; feast ye royally.
The calf is fatted; let none go away hungry.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive the riches of loving-kindness.
Let none bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom hath been revealed.
Let none weep for his iniquities,
For pardon hath shone forth from the grave.
Let none fear death,
For the Saviour’s death hath set us free.
He that was held prisoner of death hath destroyed it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
—The Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom
“Come unto me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” Commenting on Our Lord’s words in Matthew 11.28, Chrysostom says:
“His invitation is one of kindness. His goodness is beyond description. ‘Come to me all’—not only rulers but also their subjects, not only the rich but also the poor, not only the free but also the slaves, not only men but women, not only the young but also the old, not only those of sound body but also the maimed and those with mutilated limbs—all of you, He says, Come! For such are the Master’s gifts; He knows no distinction of slave and free, nor of rich and poor, but all such inequality is cast aside. ‘Come,’ He says, ‘all who labour and are burdened!’ And see whom He calls! Those who have spent their strength in breaking the law, those who are burdened with their sins, those who can no longer lift up their heads, those who are filled with shame, those who can no longer speak out. And why does He call them? Not to demand an accounting, nor to hold court. But why? To relieve them of their pain, to take away their heavy burdens.”
When Jesus says “come,” He does not stand at the top of a long ladder, beckoning us to start climbing. No, He has descended the ladder to stand beside us, helping us to ascend. “For us men and for our salvation (He) came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man” (Nicene Creed). He came and dwelt among us. He came and died on the cross for us. He came and conquered the grave, swallowing up death in victory. He came to prepare the banquet of salvation for us. And now He sends His servants to extend His invitation: “Come, for all things are ready.” The invitation is extended to all. The good news is that you do not have to be perfect to come. Come with all of your sins and sorrows, weaknesses and failures, problems and anxieties. Come to the only One who can forgive you and heal you. Coming to Jesus is a way of life. It involves daily commitment, repentance, obedience, worship, prayer, Bible reading, and regular Communion. And it involves not only “Come!” but also “Go!” “Go, and do likewise.” “Go forth into the world and be my disciples.”
But, “I have bought a field… I have bought five yoke of oxen… I have married a wife… I cannot come… Have me excused.” This was the response. All too often in our lives we end up accepting the wrong invitations. We miss the banquet, the abundant life of Christ, and settle for the lesser, the material, and the fleeting. And Our Lord still laments, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23.37) None of us will ever know the glory of the resplendent banquet hall, the sumptuousness of the feast, and the joy of being a part of this blessed fellowship, unless we lay aside the excuses and accept the invitation.
Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah, my deare,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ sayes Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My deare, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ sayes Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
—George Herbert (quotation marks added for clarity)
Come to Him now, and be assured that on the last day He will say: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
“Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
“Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev 19.9)
Collect: O most loving Father, who willest us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of thee, and to cast all our care on thee who carest for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties; and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of thy love which is immortal, and which thou hast manifested unto us in thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.