Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.
St. Luke xiv. 15
The liturgical season of Trinity tide is all about virtuous and godly living. In this season we are called to translate and convert our vision of Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life into habits of holiness and righteousness. In this season, we are called to apply what we know to our hearts. From our hearts, we must will the good of Christ, that teaches Christ teaches us through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. And the good that we are focusing on in this beginning of Trinity-tide is charity. On both last Sunday and this we have been called to contemplate God’s charity towards us, our reception and perfecting of it in our hearts, and then from its surplus profit to share it with all others. Last Sunday’s parable warned us of what happens in the hereafter when we do not share God’s charity here. Dives desired charity only in Hell. The absence of God’s love in the human heart spells eternal ruination. This Sunday’s parable warns us of what happens when we trifle with the charity of God. Perhaps we do not always reject the love of God like Dives, but then maybe we fritter away and squander our love on lesser things.
Every claim of God’s charity on our souls requires that with steadfast fear we submit to His rule and governance. God’s charity is far greater than any other kind of love we might experience in creation. His love is measureless, mammoth, monumental, and majestic. Jesus likens it not only to something in itself but something that is intended for others. God’s charity is unselfish and wholly benevolent. Jesus compares it to the bread that we shall eat in His Kingdom. He uses common images and situations to convey the meaning that He intends to impart. So, we read that A certain man made a great supper, and bade many…. The certain man is God. His supper is great because both its quality and quantity surpass our wildest imaginings. The supper is comprised of spiritual nourishment and fulfillment that will be the reward of those who sit down to eat with God in His Kingdom. God’s love is expansive and so He invites many. Many is a large number and shows that God intends to include as many as will accept His gracious invitation. The parable is given to us in the past tense since Jesus intends that we realize that the invitation has been made already. We have been invited to this feast of Grace from the dawn of time. It is a feast that is meant to begin now and continue until the end times. It begins in Christ’s Church and extends well beyond into Heaven. Beginning here and now, we can begin to be nourished and grown up into those who have accepted the invitation and intend to persist as guests at this great feast. If we accept the invitation, we are to begin to enjoy the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him. (1 Cor. ii. 9)
So, men in all ages have been invited by God, through Jesus Christ, to embrace the Spirit that invites us to the great supper of Heaven. Yet, how many refuse to come to this feast? Or, perhaps they come but are not really present. Being present in body is one thing but being attentive and focused in spirit is quite another. Those who are truly present at the great supper that Jesus has inaugurated must be awake, alert, and attentive to the nature of the feast and the feeding. So many through history have made excuses as to why they cannot come to the feast. The same excuses define the nature of those who are present but are not feeding truly on the spiritual fare that the Lord offers. Both groups’ minds and hearts are on other things. Whether absent or present in body, their souls are taken up with other loves and the happiness and comfort that they provide. They are moved far more by the riches of this world, busied with its cares, and enamored of its delectations and delights. There is room at the feast but no room in their hearts for the loving intention of the host and his provision. (The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, M. Scott, 154) And so they forfeit those greater and lasting riches that reveal God’s Divine charity and how it promises to keep us under the protection of God’s good providence. (Collect: Trinity II)
Notice, however, that the master in the parable or God does not waste His time with those who are careless and insouciant regarding heavenly and eternal munificence. We read that the master or God is angry. When rejected, God’s love is experienced as ire and rage. Abused mercy turns into the greatest wrath. (M. Henry, Comm.) Yet, God is depicted as turning swiftly to share His love with those who will humbly and gladly receive His charity and good providence. 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. (Ibid, 21) The great supper of the Lord is intended first for those who have been specially called to know and love God. Literally, the parable is first about the Jews, God’s chosen people and the apple of His eye. Then, the parable intends for us to think also of Christians who, having received the great fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ, nevertheless make excuses for not being present at the Lord’s Supper. In either case, should Jews or Christians stay at home or come with other intentions than embracing Jesus Christ in God’s Church, they will be dropped and damned. It is as simple as all that. They were invited to come and the implication is that they had knowledge of what had been being prepared.
The master in the parable -God, turns His attention to others. The parable takes a turn and twist for the purpose of emphasizing those who will brought to the supper. Note that now the servant bringsto the feast the poor, maimed, halt, and blind. (Idem) Those who should have believed and known the servant, Jesus Christ, the Father’s Ambassador and Emissary, and as their own Saviour and Redeemer, refused Him. They felt no need for Jesus Christ. Now those are brought who know their own frailty, fallenness, and alienation from both Divine and Human charity. They know their need and allow others to bring them to the supper. They may be literally poor, maimed, halt, and blind or they may be the equivalent in a spiritual and psychological manner. It matters not. The parable is for all ages and the temptation comes to all to think themselves too rich, too busy, or too happy to be made better. We cannot taste the supper until we have a taste for it. The penalty of refusal is rejection and our heaviest punishment will be what we shall miss. They, too, who have accepted the invitation, and have taken their seats at God’s board, must have a care that they really partake. (Scott, p. 155) To really partake, we must be spiritually poor, halt, maimed, and blind and thus in need of God’s loving in deed and in truth. (Idem)
To appreciate God’s loving us, in deed and in truth, we must realize that God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things. (Idem) So, we must become spiritually conscious that we are all poor, halt, maimed, and blind in order to discover our real need for the healing love that only God can give. Yet, there is more. What do we read next? Not only must we be in physical and spiritual need of God’s love and mercy. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. (Ibid, 22) There is room for a deeper felt need for what God promises to give us through His charity. Not only must we be self-consciously poor, maim, halt, and blind, but in addition we must more fully aware of our own unworthiness. 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. (Ibid, 23) Those bidden to come did not. Others have been brought gladly accepted the invitation through persuasion. Now the servant compels even others still. God’s charity calls His own, persuades others, and now compels more still. This word compel must reveal God’s passionate and urgent desire to ceaselessly pursue all men to the salvation supper. Of course, this compelling must mean that strong and earnest exhortation, which…Christ will address to [His] fellows. (Trench, Parables, Ch. xxi) This is that charity of God that persists in having all men at His Supper. This is that love that never counts the cost but always considers it the greatest treasure to have never ceased until Christ has found all His lost sheep and has them forever. The invitation must appear compelling to our hearts as we perceive the true nature of Divine Charity in Jesus Christ. Although we are unworthy of it, we must learn the compelling charitythat forever desires it. Then, we shall understand that loving Him means keeping His Commandments. 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. (1 John iii. 23)
Jesus says to us today:
All things are now ready, now is the accepted time; it is now, and has not been long; it is now, and will not be long; it is a season of grace that will be soon over, and therefore come now; do not delay; accept the invitation; believe yourselves welcome; eat, O friends; drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved. (M. Henry)
Christ has not left us for long. In fact, Christ is with us through the Holy Spirit now. The Feast has begun, and we should drink abundantly. We must not delay. We must be present. We must concentrate. The virtue with which the great supper feeds us begins here and now. We must be concentrated on the Giver and His gifts. The gift is His charity. His lover will fill us with the sanctifying righteousness that begins to yield great joy and mirth. The virtue of charity will fill us. The virtue of charity will move us to compel with urgency all others to come to the Feast and find salvation. Let us close with the poet’s discernment of God and His gifts.
How many unknown WORLDS there are
Of comforts, which Thou hast in keeping!
How many Thousand Mercies there
In Pity’s soft lap lay a sleeping!
Happy He who has the art
To awake them
And to take them
Home, and to lodge them in his heart. (R. Crashaw)
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons