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. We are called to apply what we know to our hearts. With our Collect, we must remember that God…never failest to help and govern those whom [He] dost bring up in [His] steadfast fear and love, through the protection of His good providence, if we ask Him to make us have a perpeptual steadfast fear and love of [His] Holy Name. The good that we are focusing on in this beginning of Trinity Tide is charity or the love of God. On both last Sunday and this we have been called to contemplate God’s charity towards us, the perfecting of it in our hearts, and then its natural outpouring for 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 too late in Hell. This Sunday’s parable warns us of what happens when we trifle with the charity of God. If we do not outright reject the love of God like Dives, perhaps we fritter away and squander our love on lesser things. The end result will be the same.
Every claim of God’s charity on our souls requires that with perpetual steadfast fear and love we petition His help and governance. God’s charity is far greater than any other kind of love we find in creation. His love is measureless, mammoth, monumental, and majestic. Jesus likens it to something unique, in and for Himself. God’s charity is unselfish and creative. Jesus compares it to the Bread of Life that we shall eat in His Kingdom. Such bread nourishes us inwardly and spiritually and is nothing other than the Love of God.
So, we read that A certain man made a great supper, and bade many…. (St. Luke, xiv. 16) The certain man is God. His supper is the chief meal of the day for the Ancient Greeks, and thus the essential supper of the Lord in spiritual terms. The supper is comprised of that spiritual satisfaction that will be the reward of those who sit down to eat with God in His Kingdom. God’s Love is forever expansive and so He invites many. Many is the word indicating that God’s Love includes all men. The parable is given to us in the past tense since God’s Love in Christ will be made for all future generations. God’s Love in Christ was established and intended from the Dawn of Creation. Come; for all things are now ready. (Ibid, 17) It begins in Christ’s Church, where the fact that Christ has died for the sins of the whole world, risen with healing in His wings, ascended to plead our cause and returned again in the Holy Ghost to establish His ongoing ministry to us, have all been established through His Love. Beginning here and now, we can begin to be nourished and grown up into those who have accepted the invitation and intend to be accepted forever as guests at God’s Great Supper. If we accept the invitation, we 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 them to the great supper of Heaven. Yet, let us see how men in all ages refuse this gracious invitation. Many men throughout history have made excuses as to why they cannot come to God’s Love Feast. The first cannot come because of what he has. (Trench: The Great Supper) Archbishop Trench remarks: Perhaps the first, who pleaded, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it,’ represents those who are elate of heart through already acquired possessions. (Idem) There are those who are satisfied and jealous of the property they possess, and so love what they have much more than what they stand to gain from God’s Love in Jesus Christ. The second cannot come because ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them.’(Idem) These cannot come because of the care and anxiety of [what they stand to gain] from earthly love of what they seek. (Trench, Idem) The first have and cannot love anything more than what they possess with pride. The second lust and envy for more. Both pray, have me excused. (Ibid, 18, 19) The third is adamant and insistent. I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. (Ibid, 20) According to the Levitical law, this would have been reason sufficient why he should not go to battle, (Deut. 24. 5;) but it is none why he should not come to the feast, (I Cor. 7:29) He, however, counts it more than sufficient. (Trench, Idem) Archbishop Trench remarks that this man’s cannot is sealed under the I will not, and believes that the marital bond is sufficient to overcome the offer of God’s Love. For all, 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 God’s Love persists unabated. We read that the master or God is angry. When rejected, Abused mercy turns into the greatest wrath. (M. Henry, Comm.) Yet, God is pictured here as turning swiftly to share His Love with those who will humbly and gladly receive it. 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 need God’s Love more than any other. Literally, the parable is first about the Jews, God’s chosen people, and the apple of His eye. Then, the parable is directed against Christians who neglect God’s Love in the Holy Communion. In either case, those first called prefer other loves to God’s Love in Jesus Christ. It is as simple as all that. They will go to Hell if they reject the invitation.
The master in the parable -God, turns His attention to others. The parable takes a turn and twist to picture those who will be brought to the supper. Now, the servant brings to 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 need of God’s Love. With all humility, they allow others to bring them to the supper. They may be poor, maimed, halt, and blind literally or spiritually. 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 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) We must become spiritually conscious that we are all poor, halt, maimed, and blind in order to discover our real need for God’s healing Love. Yet, there is more. What do we read next?
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. 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 who have been brought gladly accepted the invitation through persuasion. Now the servant compels even more still. God’s charity calls His own, persuades others, and now compels another lot! This word compel must reveal God’s passionate and urgent desire to ceaselessly pursue all men to come 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 Love of God that longs, by nature, to save all men by forgiving even those who first rejected or neglected the invitation but see how God’s Love pursues all other men. The invitation must appear more and more compelling through its unstoppable quest to find others for the Great Supper of Heaven. Although we have rejected it, we must see how God in Jesus Christ never changes. 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)
We have left Christ, but He never leaves us. In fact, Christ who invited us a first, second, or third time might find us still. The Feast has begun, and we should now be compelled to come. (Idem) We must not delay. Christ’s original invitation might be directed at others, but we too can follow as we find ourselves with the last and the least. God’s Love in Jesus Christ is discovered better late than never. Perhaps we have preferred other loves to God’s Love. Now we see the nature and power of God’s Unabated Love in Jesus Christ and we must not delay to accept the invitation to the Great Supper of God. We might have neglected it or not appreciated God’s Love. Now, with the poet, let us discover it anew.
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