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. Glory be … The Lord was my upholder …
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: In those days: 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: One of the Pharisees that sat at meat with Jesus said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then spake Jesus this parable unto them: 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)
“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.”
In Jesus Christ, the love of God is manifest: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That belief, that recognition of God’s love, is the starting-point of our Faith: “Hereby we know love, because he laid down his life for us.” We know love; and it is our vocation to be transformed by that love. Our recognition of God’s love is to be expressed in our lives with one another. Thus we are commanded to believe in Jesus Christ and to love one another.
During this long season of Trinity, the Church’s concern is our response to the invitation: “Come, for all things are now ready.” We are concerned with the nurture and cultivation of our new life, individually and institutionally. St John, in today’s Epistle, speaks of the signs of that life in us: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” The love of God in us is manifest in our love for one another – our active goodwill: not just in feeling, or superficial emotion, not just “in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Thus, our recognition of God’s love has its necessary expression in our love of one another, which includes sharing the invitation with them. Without that expression, we know our profession is counterfeit.
The incident in today’s Gospel occurs on a Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat at the home of a ruler of the Pharisees. Now we know that when Jesus eats with Pharisees on the Sabbath there is going to be trouble. And sure enough, Luke tells us that they were watching Him closely. First, He healed a man in their midst and silenced them with a question about whether or not it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Next, as He noticed how everyone at the meal was vying for the best places at the table, he told the guests that in fact they should take the lowest place so that then they might have the honour of being asked to move up, “for,” He said, “everyone who exalteth himself shall be abased, but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Then, Our Lord addresses the Pharisee who had invited them, saying: “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
When one of the guests heard these things, he exclaimed, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Of course, this man assumed that he, along with the rest who sat around the table with him, would be included in that group who would enjoy God’s end-time banquet. So Jesus told a parable. “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 had all accepted the invitation – they had “RSVP’d,” as we would say. The word “everything” indicates that the whole party was planned without the guests’ advice or contributions, and the word “now” means the timing was arranged without checking their schedules. None of this, however, ought to have come as a surprise; yet 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 let’s be honest, they are some pretty lame excuses. While they might be 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 taste of my supper.”
An invitation to dinner is something that we accept, not only to fill ourselves with all kinds of good food and drink, but there is more to the acceptance of the invitation. There is a bond that is established between host and guest, and it is really for this purpose that we would have guests for dinner: to share the intimacy of the family with the guest. Jesus used the example of an invitation to a banquet to teach us of the intimacy and fellowship which God desires with us.
Yet His gracious invitation is rebuffed. “I just bought some land and I have to go off and see it.” This man was so consumed with the accumulation of things that he didn’t have time for the intimacy between himself and his Lord. “I’ve just bought five yoke of oxen and I must go out and try them.” In other words, “I’d rather be ploughing rocky ground than eating a meal with you!” The third excuse, at least, could fall back on the Law of Moses. In Deuteronomy 24.5 it is written: “When a man is newly wed, he need not go out on a military expedition, nor shall any public duty be imposed on him [like a dinner?]. He shall be exempt for one year for the sake of his family to bring joy to the wife he has married.” All the excuses are patently bogus. No one bought land or farm animals sight unseen. A wedding would not be happening at the same time as a banquet because everyone would be going to only one event, and, despite Deuteronomy, being newly married shouldn’t prevent a person from attending a banquet. The excuses are in fact nothing short of a rejection of the host. Jesus is pointing out that this is exactly what the Pharisees are doing. They are rejecting Him, and by so doing, are rejecting God’s salvation.
They are God’s covenant people, they claim to be pious and faithful, and yet they refuse to believe in the One who brings the Kingdom of God into their midst. The invitation they have refused is the Word of God: the Books of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets. The announcement of the fully-prepared banquet is the Word made Flesh, and standing in their midst. Both the invitation and the announcement were identical: “The Kingdom of God is yours, for free, in Christ.” It is free because it has been paid for by Christ Himself, not with gold or silver, but with His own precious Blood, and with His innocent suffering and death. The Cross is the price of this banquet. As Martin Luther wrote: “It all was so prepared that it did not cost us anything; for the Father through Christ bore all its expenses, in order that we without our merit and assistance might enjoy His treasures…” But they do not want it to be free, or to feel as if they are in this Master’s debt. They still want to bring something of their own. But they may not. They can’t bring a hot dish; they can’t bring a bottle of wine, or an appetizer; and there will be no collection to defray expenses, either. So they refuse the generosity of the Master. They refuse His company; they refuse His invitation. They have rejected the Messiah, and the invitation to intimacy with God Himself.
Incensed by this rejection, the master tells the servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame” – people who cannot do or give anything in return. And you and I have to identify, not with that first group who rejected the invitation, but with this second group. We are those whom the servant was sent to find wandering about the streets of the city. We are the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame. We are those who can only receive, who have nothing to bring to the party … except a friend. That is why we are here, because God chose to call us. It is unmerited, undeserved; something that was impossible for us on our own. We have been brought in, and yet, the servant declares, “still there is room.” And so the master says, “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” Compel does not mean force: that is not how a gift works. Compel means to give a joyful, urgent and winsome invitation, with the Good News that the Kingdom of God is theirs for free, in Christ. And still there is room. So the Master sends us, His servants, outside the city to seek others and invite them to the banquet.
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. The excuses in the parable may be bogus, but they do point us to things that can also prevent us from attending the banquet. 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 today’s Epistle: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed, and in truth.”
There are many people who believe Christianity to be a joyless and 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, or refrain from doing, 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 unto Me.”
“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, St John 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 that ladder to stand beside us, then He invites us and helps 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 to take away our sin. 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.” In our various vocations and callings, God uses us to care and provide for others. Christ’s sacrificial love for us now sets us in motion to act in love towards those whom God has placed around us.
But, “I have bought a field… I have bought five yoke of oxen… I have married a wife… I cannot come… Have me excused.” All too often, we accept 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.
Come to Him now, and be assured that on the last day He will say: “Come, ye 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.