Trinity 2 Sermon, 2021

I need to talk about a term that’s used a lot but is not clearly defined. It means everything and nothing, whatever the user of the term desires, but never just one thing—and so it’s a meaningless phrase.

And the term is “high church” or “low church.”

I’m not judging you for using the term.

Use the term if you wish.

But have a clear definition in mind so that those who don’t understand, people like me, can be easily taught.

We must all become like children and learn together.

From the Proverb: “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:8-9).

Let’s begin with today’s Gospel lesson.

There is the kingdom of God, heaven, the faithful life, and the banquet.

And there are the excuses men give when the matter of faith and salvation is put to them: fields, farms, and land—for the first. Oxen, beasts of burden, and possessions—for the second. And a wife, children, and family—for the third.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a man who hasn’t used one of these as an excuse to get out of what God requires for entry into His kingdom—a living faith that hears the Word of God and does it.

After all, it’s God who’s at work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (cf. Philippians 2:13).

So there’s God—who’s occupied with His work to save and care for you.

And there’s you—who’s occupied with your work to earn a living or keep it.

Today, notice that what’s wrong in the Gospel lesson is, at first, commendable: each man has a very high view of his work.

If you work the fields, it’s commendable for you to have a high view of that work.

To know the importance of it.

To live as though your work really matters—as it certainly does.

That the first man has such a high view of his work is commendable.

Likewise, the second.

He has five yoke of oxen, integral to his work.

It’s commendable that he has such a high view of his responsibility as both worker in and steward of God’s creation.

And likewise, the third.

Marriage is an institution that survived the Fall.

A man does not leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife as a result of the Fall.

Rather, the two shall become one flesh because God created husband and wife to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. That was before the Fall.

Marriage is the highest of institutions, and the man in today’s Gospel lesson should be commended in that he cherishes his wife as he does.

Having a high view of the responsibilities God has given is commendable.

But what’s not commendable is having a low view of the kingdom of God.

This—and I’ll explain it more—this is why I put no stock in terms like “high church” and “low church.”

This is why I don’t use those terms.

God Himself miraculously comes to us, forgiving our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

He delivers us from death and devil by delivering to us the priceless treasure of Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Is that not the highest experience we can attain?

For God Himself to be with us and for our good?

Or—who has a low view of that?

For that matter, let’s apply the same descriptor to other institutions.

Who among you favor low marriage?

It’s tempting, isn’t it, to make of marriage no serious matter, to do whatever you feel like, to have no rules?

When that happens we’re not surprised at the serious harm that follows in the family, the church, and community.

Does anyone, with their marriage, truly aim low so as to avoid disappointment?

Who among you prefer a low family, with low children, and a low view of work or responsibility?

It’s certainly easier not to care, not to learn, not to teach, and all things are lawful—but not all things are beneficial (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:23).

“High Church” and “Low Church” are meaningless terms, because their definitions are either self-evident or not.

Regardless—perhaps we should think different.

St. Paul writes: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (cf. Philippians 4:8).

And today, I would add, we should have a high view of these things and expectations to match.

Jesus tells the parable of the banquet not because we’re supposed to have a low view of fields, farms, and families—again, it’s commendable that these men have a high view of what God has given them.

But Jesus tells this parable because we’re supposed to have a high view, also, of the kingdom of God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).

But “How are they to believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching” (cf. Romans 10:14) that “Now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by [that priceless treasure,] the blood of Christ” (cf. Ephesians 2:13)?

You’ve been brought near because you’ve heard—

You’ve heard because someone was preaching—

That the invitation is to all.

“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many [that is, all]. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room’ [because the Master had invited all, and He meant it]. And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet’” (Luke 14:16-24).

If Jesus Himself were a preacher in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, no one would like Him.

He ends that sermon there—with the condemnation of those who rejected His invitation.

He is not winsome.

The very next thing He says, verse twenty-five, the verse immediately after today’s Gospel lesson, sounds even worse.

Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25).

What’s He saying?

And does He mean it?

Are you His disciple?

Of course it’s commendable for you to care for your land, your field, your property and possessions.

We need more of that—not less.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Of course it’s commendable for you to care for the ox, the heifer, the calf, and sometimes on this list even the child.

We need more of that—not less.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

And of course it’s commendable for you to care for your wife, your husband, your children, your family, your house and home.

You should not have a low view of those things.

They are some of the most marvelous gifts of God.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

In a parable full of anger, concluding with condemnation, a parable seemingly devoid of any Gospel, there is yet real comfort for us sinners, because the invitation is to all.

Each of the three men had a high view of their responsibilities in life.

That is commendable.

But each of the three men had a low view of God.

They did not take Him seriously, nor His invitation.

They considered neither His anger nor His judgment.

And so, “None of those men who were invited shall taste [the] banquet” (Luke 14:24).

In the parable, the time has passed for them.

But today, for us, there is yet time remaining.

If you’re bound to the land, work the land, and God be praised for all that’s done through you.

But be bound first to Jesus Christ, the Lord.

If you’re bound to the beasts of the earth, care for God’s creatures, and praise God for the bounty of daily bread He gives to all of us through you.

But be bound first to Jesus Christ, the Lord.

And if you’re bound to house and home, child and spouse, consider the million monumental and minuscule tasks you accomplish every day, and rejoice that God has chosen to care for literally every human being through people like you.

But be bound first to Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Because it’s Christ, and Christ alone, who has died for you.

It’s Christ, and Christ alone, who redeems you from death and devil.

It’s Christ, and Christ alone, who feeds you, body and soul, and strengthens you to life everlasting.

Bind yourself to Christ and be brought near by the priceless treasure of the Blood of Christ.

That is the highest experience we can attain.

We should act like it.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 2, 2021
Luke 14:15-24
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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