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Second Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

Evening Prayer

Cherry Hill  June 1, AD 2008

 1 John 3:13-24    St. Luke 14:15-24

 

A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready. 

 

In these Sundays during Trinity season we are considering the stages of our sanctification in the Spirit - we are being brought step by step from our current darkness into the glorious light of heaven.  Today we are in one of the opening Sundays of this season of Trinity.  What would be the beginnings of our growth to maturity in Christ?

 

In the second lesson tonight, Jesus has been at a feast at the house of a Pharisee who invited him, and there is all sorts of tension at the table.  Imagine a table full of Pharisees who are trying to catch Jesus and he speaking to them in parables, very directly really, critiquing them in such a way that it is not understood immediately.  Our reading tonight picks up about halfway through the supper.  One commentator has suggested that one man, perhaps recognizing the incredible battle of words, was trying to cool down the tense situation (Matthew Henry’s Commentary), speaks of what he thinks might change the direction of the conversation, and be common ground among them all…

Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

 

Ah, the blessed life of heaven…where political disagreements do not exist; where there are no more power struggles; where we feast on the finest things with the company of heaven; where everyone loves their neighbour as themselves; where we are at perfect peace with God; where desire reaches out and is eternally satisfied; where there is no more fear.  Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.  Here is something we can all look forward to some day.

 

But Jesus says it doesn’t have to be some day in the future.  And it is not God who is holding people back from the Kingdom of heaven, but it is we who hold ourselves back from entering and feasting in the Kingdom. 

 

He tells another parable to the supper guests: 

A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready…all things are ready, now.

 

We needn’t wait until we die to feast in heaven…all things are now ready.

 

So how can we experience more of this heavenly feast even now?

 

Our readings suggest that it is either a lack of love or a lack of fear that prevents us from participating in the life of heaven even now. 

 

Love God and fear God and you will feast even now!

 

Let’s look first at loving God, then at fearing Him.

 

St. John’s says, We know that we have passed from death unto life (that is, entered the Kingdom of God), because we love the brethren. 

 

We love God if we love our brothers and sisters.   And the degree to which we do that, not in vain words, but in deed and in truth, is the degree to which we have entered the Kingdom.

 

Jesus has shown us what that love of our neighbour looks like, it is self-sacrifice:

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

 

It is not just if we feel like doing it, but a kind of decision of our mind, an obedience to a command, we should believe on the Name of … Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment – act in the way Jesus would act and does act – if we would love God and love like God loves.

 

And in the second lesson, God-like love is shown most clearly, when we show love for those who are undeserving of our love, who are not seeking to be loved by us: 

The Father in heaven invites the poor, the maimed, and the halt and the blind, that is us really, who have nothing to offer Him, who can’t draw near to Him on our own, who can’t see Him, who are undeserving of love – we were not the chosen people.  But the Father searches out the high-ways and hedges and he has found us, that his house might be filled.

To love like the Father we are to actively seek out people who are unloving to us, taking the extra step – going outside the bounds.

 

And as we do this we eat bread in the kingdom of God, we participate even now in the life of heaven.  We live the resurrection life and unexpectedly find ourselves repaid even now – filled with greater love, filled with God.

So love of our neighbour moves us into the Kingdom of heaven.

 

What about a fear of God?  How is that helpful?

Fear is normally what makes us run away or at least to freeze and not come closer.

But we are told again and again in Scripture that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God?  Why do we pray in today’s collect that we would have a perpetual fear and love of God’s holy name?

 

Well look at the Gospel lesson:

A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready.  And they all with one consent began to make excuse.  The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it; I pray thee have me excused.  And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused.  And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

 

Imagine if God tapped us on the shoulder in a dream, or sent an angel to confront us in the midst of our busy day and asked us to come to participate in the greatest feast and we said, maybe not, I’m kind of busy with other things.

Does that not terrify you a bit, that we could do that – be so sleepy, so much in the shadow of death that we could turn away from a Divine invitation? that we could turn down the Giver of Life?  Imagine the sleepy Pharisees sitting at table with Jesus and being unmoved, simply trying to see the one who is God incarnate slip up?

 

I know I have done that – and in fact I’m sure we have all done that – again, and again, and again.  Because God is daily knocking at our hearts, inviting us further into His kingdom to feast on love.

 

But if we turn away to our own pursuits to make our lives, no matter how noble we may think our pursuits are, if that activity is not in response to an obedience to the divine call, if our activity is not about the love of God and our neighbour, we will lose our lives.

For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Not because God is forbidding them, but as a statement of fact – they chose not to taste, not to heed the invitation.

 

So a certain fear of God also moves us into the Kingdom of heaven – a healthy fear of offending Him, a fear of the awesome power God has given to us to choose life with Him or death without.

 

Love God and fear God and we will feast even now!

Do neither and we will not taste of His supper.

 

We have a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who knows our frailty and so gives us these parables to wake us up to the possibilities of eternal life with God and danger of walking away.  He also gives the power to be forever alert to that danger, and the desire to draw near to Him in love.

 

Today we have heeded the Divine invitation to eat bread in the Kingdom of Heaven – we have come together to worship Him, to be strengthened by His Word – let us pray that we might be filled with a holy fear and a love of God.

 

O LORD, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love: Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

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