Good morning from lovely Wittenberg. The sun is out. The little rain we got, is long gone even as the clouds hang in there and the summer heat is not quite back yet. Like every morning the people walk their dogs, people open up their windows, the organists drives in on her bicycle to unlock St. Mary´s staircase to go through her routine and the pretty woman in bright colors and from the Far East does her round past St. Marys to start off another day in these parts.
My task is cut out. I´ve got the basics laid out. The chapel is cleaned out. The floors swept, the chairs straightened, and the many bookmarkers adjusted to the right place. Well, it´s all about our good Lord´s big and gracious invitation on this 2nd Sunday after Trinity. His huge banquet is prepared. He´s just so eager to welcome all his invited guests at his table. He´s done all and everything to make sure, that´s all is set for us and our salvation. His invitation has gone out – and he´s full of great expectations to see his house full and the party started and everybody having a ball. He´s burning with longing to have you as his guest and with him too. Now, that´s no surprise. He is like that. From the very start. The great prophet Isaiah puts this holy desire into words for our Old Testament lesson:
“Hey, all who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come!
Buy and eat!
Come! Buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?
Why spendyour hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing!
Enjoy fine food.
Pay attention and come to me.
Listen, so you can live.
Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you,
just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.
Look, I made him a witness to nations,Isaiah 55:1-5
a ruler and commander of nations.”
Look, you will summon nations you did not previously know;
nations that did not previously know you will run to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he bestows honor on you.
And we respond to this ancient goodness and godly pining with this Sunday´s Introit
O Lord, your loyal love reaches to the sky,Psalm 36:6-10
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your justice is like the highest mountains,
your fairness like the deepest sea;
you, Lord, preserve mankind and the animal kingdom.
How precious is your loyal love, O God!
The human race finds shelter under your wings.
They are filled with food from your house,
and you allow them to drink from the river of your delicacies.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
So far, so good. Everybody in his right mind would now agree and intone: “Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God!” No surprises there. That speaks for itself. And that´s the introduction for this Sunday´s gospel. Our good Lord Jesus Christ, however, points out, that there is unexpected and really very serious trouble. This is our fault – humankind´s sin in general. Something like original sin. Instead of taking this wonderful invitation seriously, we find all sorts of excuses, find better things to do than to follow the calling of our good Lord and get lost in all sorts of other business. It´s mind boggling and downright impudent. Imagine Your best friend hosting a huge celebration and you´re invited in good time, but you´re just not interested and stay away. Surely, this is unheard of. It´s just not done. It´s disrespectful, disloyal and just plain rude. However, that´s the message of his story retold in this Sunday´s gospel.
When one of those at the meal with Jesus heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will feastin the kingdom of God!” But Jesus said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time for the banque the sent his slave to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ But one after another they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please excuse me.’Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going out to examine them. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, and I cannot come.’ So,the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the master of the household was furious and said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ Then the slave said, ‘Sir, what you instructed has been done, and there is still room.’ So, the master said to his slave, ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled. For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet!’”Luke 14:15-24
Yes. It is quite understandable that the man got furious. But he´s no fool. Instead of ruining the feast, he goes on and makes it even better. The house gets filled. The party gets going and it´s a heavenly sensation and once in a life-time celebration – going on without end. However, not with the first choice, but rather with the second and third … smallest, most unlikely and very last groups, the outcasts and good-for-nothings. He says: ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And then, when that´s successfully accomplished and there´s still room: ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled.” In other places, he categorized these very last remnants and leftovers (“Allerletzten”) as “prostitutes and tax-collectors”! And that, because the first choice, the eldest brothers, the scribes and leaders, the crème de la crème – just wouldn´t come. Too proud! Too rich! Too self-satisfied, complacent and smug in their own little world to heed the call of God out of this passing world and into His coming kingdom.
So, our Lord passes out the invitation. It´s standing. It´s open – still. He invites all and every one: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Watchword from Mt.11:28) Who would not think of those, who are breathing heavily because of Coronna or of those, who are suffocating under the heavy knee of brutal force, racism, slavery, political discrimination and other terrible exploitation? Misuse of police authority and parental abuse comes to mind. Our Lord invites them, to come to him and find peace with him – solace there! He is the peace maker. He forgives sins and heals all our iniquities. Just as the epistle for this Sunday makes us recall:
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands— that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.Ephesians 2: (11-16) 17-22
Our good Lord himself rejoices in this salvation and heavenly celebration of sinners being saved, little children finding their heavenly Father and foreign strangers a new birthright and lasting citizenship in God´s family and Christian Church. The words for this Sunday´s sermon:
At that time Jesus said,“I praise you, Father, Lordof heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decidesto reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”Matthew 11:25-30
So, we confess with all the Christian Church exclaiming “My God is my rocky summit where I take shelter, my shield, the horn that saves me, and my refuge.” (Psalm 18:2) and sing joyfully as we gladly follow His gracious invitation:
Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne.
Refrain: We’re marching to Zion, Beautiful, beautiful Zion; We’re marching upward to Zion, The beautiful city of God.
The sorrows of the mind
Be banished from the place;
Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less.
Let those refuse to sing,
Who never knew our God;
But children of the heav’nly King
May speak their joys abroad.
The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
From faith and hope may grow.
The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.
Then let our songs abound,Isaac Watts 1674-1748
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.