How many of you are anticipating the standard sermon based on the idea that we have much to be thankful for so let’s spend some time reflecting on different ways we’re going to be thankful? It’s a very good idea to reflect on the different ways to be thankful for the much that we have to be thankful. But spoiler alert, this sermon isn’t going to be about that.
In the next couple of days many of us will likely be sitting around a large table with friends and family eating large quantities of some kind of poultry and perhaps various and sundry pork products. Plus a fair amount of starches and hopefully large quantities of desserts. That’s a good thing to be thankful for. Perhaps the littles will be at a card table in the kitchen, also a good thing to be thankful for. Both for the adults and for the kids, if memory serves. I don’t think we actually got away with screwing around at the kids table the way that kids at the kids table screw around but since we were out of sight and out of mind we didn’t get busted, either. Kind of a win win for everyone involved. Speaking of win-win, we’re having pie and desserts after worship tonight. Also something to be thankful for. Definitely a win-win situation we’ve got going on this evening.
Which begs the question about tonight’s reading. What in the world are these people doing? “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. “17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ “ Now to me, that’s the time to go get something to eat. And as a great dinner that might mean some really good things to eat. I’m not big on hanging out in the middle of random crowds and I’m not prone to driving back to town just for something to do. But if you’re giving a great dinner I’m showing up. Who misses out on the invitation for THAT?
Apparently in this particular instance, that would be all of the invited guests. Every one of them declines the invitation. What is up with these people? A perfectly good great dinner and they blow it off. They have ‘better’ things to do. They have new land to go out and see. Like the land going to change a great deal if they wait until tomorrow. I mean really, take a look at your place tomorrow and then again on Thursday. Unless you’re in the middle of a project or you have landscapers coming in, what’s going to change in the next 24 hours?
The next guy seems a little more pressed for time. He’s got 5 yoke of oxen he just bought that he wants to try out. That seems fair enough since livestock can’t be left to fend for themselves. Though I’m guessing he has slaves to take care of the oxen so the actual trying them out could have waited until the next day, too.
Now the third guy has at least some semblance of a reasonable excuse. He’s just gotten married and can’t come. This is an interesting cultural twist because today we look at it as, well that’s right. He’s a newlywed so he’s staying home with his new wife. Or perhaps we’re thinking why not take your new wife with you. But in that day and age that wasn’t done, men went by themselves it kind of sounds like. Which, and here’s the cultural twist, makes his excuse all the thinner. If you invite me in this day and age to something that I can’t take Lora to, I’m not coming but in that time it would be ridiculous to say you can’t come because you’re staying home with your wife. It sounds good to our contemporary ears but would have been ridiculous to Jesus’ hearers.
People, people, people. This isn’t complicated. There is a great meal going on. The invitations have been sent and the invitation is open. Please come, please come, the host says.
Oh, there it is. There it is, right there. Jesus isn’t telling some lame tale about lazy dinner guests with no real point. He’s using an allegorical device to get us to understand something, a very important something. A very important something that Jesus wants us very much to understand. That something is that WE are invited and WE are welcome to the table. In this context table certainly means the table we set communion up on but in a broader sense Jesus also means the kingdom of heaven.
Listen to what he says. Go get the other people so my house will be filled. Now, as we go to unpacking what this means we have to think about Jesus’ house. What house did Jesus have? Only his Father’s house. As in, the kingdom of God. How many people in his Father’s house? He wants it filled.
Jesus almost sounds like he is telling us that if we don’t respond to the invitation he’ll keep us from tasting his dinner. I think what he’s saying is that we hold ourselves out of coming to the dinner. It’s not Jesus keeping us away, we let ourselves get kept away. From the best meal on the planet!
Listen, this bread has been the body of Christ for 2,000 years. This wine has been the blood of Christ for 2,000 years. My granddad was born the same year the Wright brothers broke the bonds of this earth and ascended into the sky. My dad saw us enter the atomic age. I remember getting our first color TV. We’ve harnessed electricity, we’ve discovered penicillin, and we put people on the moon. Those are massive changes in our lives but one thing never changes and that is the great meal we have been invited to.
Whatever changes come at us rapid fire, and they will, it will be a tragedy if we let those changes distract us from the invitation that Christ has extended to us. An invitation to the table that Christ has set.
For that invitation we can be truly thankful!