"The master then said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways
and along the hedgerows and force them to come in. I want my house to be
full, but I tell you that not one of those invited shall taste a morsel
of my dinner.'"
Today, Jesus tells us a story about an invitation to a dinner party.
You and I have been invited to dinner many times and we know that an invitation
to dinner is something that we accept, not only to fill ourselves with
all kinds of food and nourishment (even though that does happen), but there
is something more to the acceptance of the invitation. There is a bond
that is established between host and guest. It is really for this purpose
that we would have guests for dinner: to share the intimacy of the family
with the guest. It is a time for great joy and happiness.
I will tell you a little story about myself that happened some time
back and it was very embarrassing. As a young priest, I was invited to
dinner to a couple's house. Before dinner we were visiting over a cocktail
about many things including various kinds of food. And, as you can see,
I like just about anything and everything. But I said, "There is one spice
that I just can't take. I don't like curry. To me, it tastes like soap.
I just don't like it." Saying all this to the couple beforehand, what do
you suppose was the entree that night? Curried chicken! I felt like an
absolute fool. There was a lot of backing and filling, if you can imagine,
in my conversation after that. Such statements as, "Oh, this is really
good curry. If I knew that curry tasted like this, then that's a whole
different thing." I don't think they believed a word of it! But I still
don't like curry. However, I didn't go there, to that house to eat curried
chicken or anything else just to fill my stomach. I did it because they
had invited me to share the intimacy of their family. That was most important;
not whether or not the curried chicken was good.
Because you and I understand what a dinner invitation is really about,
Jesus used an example. So often He tried to teach us about the intimacy
which God desires in His family. How often Jesus couches this teaching
in terms of a shared meal together.
Look at the different times that Jesus used a meal as a setting for
a teaching during His lifetime: He worked His first miracle at the wedding
feast of Cana - at a meal. He also did some teaching and some criticizing
of Simon the Pharisee about the behavior one should display in this new
kingdom that He had come to establish. Jesus shared with His disciples,
the night before he died, what was most important on His mind before he
would leave them. It's five chapters in John's Gospel! And, of course,
at that same meal He gave us His own body and blood as our food. After
the resurrection. He appeared to His disciples at a meal in the upper room.
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus came to know Him in the breaking
of the bread. Over and over again, there was this setting of a shared meal.
It is no wonder that Jesus would also use such a setting in His parables,
as He does today.
There is a parallel story that you are familiar with in Matthew's Gospel.
There was a king who gave a banquet for his son and he sent out invitations.
When all of the invited people failed to show, they were excluded. Then
he brought in anybody he could find, from the highways and hedges, to fill
the hall. There was also the added detail in Matthew's Gospel about the
man who wasn't wearing a wedding garment.
But Luke's story, our Gospel reading this morning, is much simpler.
This was just a man who was giving a dinner party and he invited many.
The excuses that they came up with are absolutely beyond belief. "Well,
I just bought some land and I have to go off and see it." I suppose that
individual was so consumed with the accumulation of things that he really
didn't have time for the intimacy between himself and his Lord. And then
there is the next individual. What a weak excuse that was! "I've just bought
five yoke of oxen and I've got to go out and try them." "I'd rather be
plowing rocky ground than eating a meal with you".
Now the third excuse I always thought was the lamest of all of the excuses.
But that individual at least could fall back on the Word of God, because
he was using something that was in the law of Moses to excuse himself.
You find it in the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy. I
think it's rather humorous: "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" (Deut. 24:5). At least he had a better
excuse than the others.
Each one of them had spurned the invitation to intimacy. When Luke gave
us the parable, he had in mind something much broader. The people who were
invited were the Jews. They had rejected the Messiah, the invitation to
intimacy with God himself. Now the invitation was sent out to anybody and
everybody. Jesus teaches us that His church. His kingdom, is not an exclusive
club, but rather He came in order to invite all of humankind to accept
the message of salvation.
I find it interesting to hear the kinds of people that the Master says
should be collected. He says, "Go out and find the blind, the beggars,
the lame people, all of the people that are the dregs of society. Get them
all in here. I want a full house. All the bums you can find!" Truly that
is what he was saying. You know that you and I have to identify, not with
those people that rejected the invitation, but with that second group collected
from the highways and hedges.
How many times are we really blind to God's teaching. We can't see the
woods for the trees. We can't see the love of God that surrounds us. We're
so blind. We're lame too. We're crippled by our sins that we repeat so
often that they become a part of us and that crippling effect over a period
of time leaves us in such a weakened state. We are beggars for we know
our poverty: the poverty of our own spirits without God. There isn't much
there until God fills us with Himself.
The banquet that you and I have been invited to this morning is a very
special one. Here we are collected from all kinds of places, assembled
in this little church, in order that you and I might share a special kind
of intimacy with our Lord and God. What a privilege it is! Here at this
time we do the most important thing that we could ever do this week. First
of all, we are privileged to offer ourselves, all that we are and have
- body and soul - to God our Father, through and with Christ our Lord.
But we are also privileged to receive in our hands the Lord of the universe
under such simple appearances. Here is the God-made-man, come to earth
wrapped in swaddling clothes. Here is the Healer, that if I could touch
but the hem of His garment I would be healed. And here He is, in our hand.
Here is the One who hung upon a tree in order to give us eternal life.
Here is the One who rose from the dead in order that we can confront death
and know that it isn't the end of things, but the beginning of life eternal.
What a gift our God has given to us. Talk about the intimacy of an invitation
to dinner! How much more intimate could our God be with us than to become
one with us as our food? Not only that, but one with one another in this
food? For one bread makes us one body in Christ (I Cor. 10:16). Christ
our Lord is not divided at communion time. It isn't one Christ for one
person, another Christ for another, and another Christ for someone in Ireland
and Christ for one in Australia and one in England. No, it is the same
Christ our Lord that each and every one of us receives this Sunday morning.
Are we one with them? Yes, we are. This is the communion of saints.
Is there anything that we could possibly do that would be more important
than to accept the invitation - to follow the mandate - of Jesus Christ
our Lord at that first Eucharist when He said to His disciples, "Do this
in memory of Me"?
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Dunstanís Church and Fr. Sisterman.