Wednesday, 28 June 2017
Sermon June 25, 2017 2nd Sunday after Trinity
I am sure we have all heard this parable of Jesus many times in our lives. Indeed the Medical Mission Sisters made it quite well known with their popular hit in the 1970’s. Regular, life-long churchgoers have heard it many times proclaimed and many sermons preached on it. What then can we gain from hearing it one more time? Is there anything that we haven’t considered before in this lesson by Jesus, the great teacher?
The thing that struck me when I read it this time was not the missed opportunity by those who were invited to the banquet. Here they have a chance to attend a wonderful banquet. Of course we think of this as the heavenly banquet which is offered to each of us by Jesus Christ. I’m not positive but that is probably often the focus of sermons preached on this parable.
I want to propose another way of considering the parable. Let us look at the ones who received the invitation when the friends and neighbours excused themselves from the opportunity to attend.
The host was not dismayed or swayed from his purpose when everyone excused themselves. No, he decided he would invite those not normally included in a great banquet by a wealthy person in Jesus time; the poor, he maimed, the halt, and the blind. Indeed it is no different in our day—I cannot see Donald Trump or one of Irving’s or McCain’s or anyone of their ilk inviting people like that to one of their banquets. Of course it is easy to point the finger at them but when was the last time any of us did that? I can say that I have never done it—not that I have banquets, but I don’t invite them to dinner.
Lorna and I have helped out at community dinners at our former parish in London but never have we held a banquet or party for the local people on the edges of society. We may give generously to charity but doing things arm’s length is not the same as engaging the poor face to face.
This certainly is one of the messages that Jesus has given us. He tells us that blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. If we look at the set up for this parable we see that Jesus is telling his host that these are exactly who should be invited to a banquet.
He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’
There is a clear message of what we are to do; of how we are to live. We are to do all those things that don’t come naturally or easily to us. This is the counter-cultural Jesus speaking. We are to turn the other cheek; we are to go the second mile; we are to love our neighbours; we are to love our enemies. This is the Jesus who is asking us to live in a way that seem impossible and do the things that seem impossible.
Jesus does not ask us to do the impossible. So how are we to love our enemies or even hold a banquet for the poor and the halt and the lame? I don’t believe that Jesus expects us to do something which is impossible. We need to learn to crawl before we can walk much less run. So how do we take the baby steps that will get us to that seemingly impossible place of loving our enemies?
The principle that you can only change yourself is that one that guides us. Let’s look at those in the parable who are invited after the others refuse; those less than acceptable in society. What if we consider those people to be us? What does it mean if we are the ones who are the blind and the halt and the poor and the lame?
When it comes to living the lives that God intends for us that is truly who we are. We are blind to many aspects of ourselves that God created us to be. We want to avoid aspects of ourselves that are inconvenient or downright unacceptable. We are halt and lame when it comes to living the life that God want us to live. We may try to take those halting steps and find that we are lame because we have not used the muscles of charity and compassion that God has given us.
So what are we to do? How are we to follow Jesus and live the life he calls us to live? The way to do it is to take baby steps. You would not expect a new born infant to walk or talk much less read or write. We need to take small steps as we begin to live the lives that Jesus calls us to. We must above all not expect to do those big things right away or even in the near future. And most important we must be able to truly forgive ourselves when we do not always succeed. Jesus is the God who forgives us our sins; he forgives us our failures.
The message from the angels, the messengers of God is, fear not. Do not be afraid to try and to fail. All that Jesus expects of us is to try and when we fail try again.
Fear not, the Kingdom of God is open to us when we try.