The Invitation to An Abundant Feast
Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers
August 2, 2015 – St. Timothy’s United Methodist Church
Luke 14: 15-24
Luke 14:15-24 New International Version (NIV): The Parable of the Great Banquet
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’’
In a world full of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and starvation, eating has taken on a new spin in the world in so many different ways.
According to the Bloomberg Report, in March of this year, Americans spent more on dining out than they did on buying groceries. Americans spent more at bars and restaurants than they did in Harris Teeter, Lowe’s Foods, Publix, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s worldwide! Now, friends, that is a lot of eating out. Yet we don’t think twice about it as long as we are being fed.
Confession time for the preacher: I love to eat out! I like to cook, but I love to eat out! I love to eat out. Whether through advertisement, marketing, word of mouth about how good the food is and how nice the restaurant is, and then by verbal enticement, by invitation. I love fine dining! I love the ambiance that’s different; I like nice food presentations; I like rare types of food; but most of all, I love to be waited on! Now that’s a large confession but it’s true.
It’s true because I have been on the “other side.” I’ve been the one in the kitchen expediting food so it looked perfect, I’ve waited tables in fine dining, I’ve taught fine dining table service, and I know what it is like to be on the other side. Therefore, I can justify, that I like being the recipient of good ambiance, great table service, great food, and the experience of a great fine- dining treat. I like to be the recipient of the invitation to greatness.
It’s interesting when you’ve been on both sides. You understand the sweat and the joy of both serving and receiving.
So it is in our Gospel text this morning. In our parable today, Jesus tells us the story of “feast preparation.” Jesus tells this parable out of response to a man who pleads to have a seat at the table in the Kingdom of God. Literally, to have dinner with the Almighty.
Jesus tells the parable of the man who prepares a feast for all of his neighbors and friends, when it’s prepared and the invitation is offered, none of them came. They had some fairly lame excuses. They had bought land, sight unseen, who does that? They had purchased livestock that they were surprised they had to care for, and what newlywed couple would turn down an invitation to a meal they didn’t have to prepare? In short, they were preoccupied with the things in the world and failed to respond to the invitation. Upon re-entering and telling the master that nobody (none of his friends) wanted (or would) come, the master told the servant to go and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Once they had been invited, and some did come in, there was still room for more. Again, the servant was instructed to go out to the country and invite the foreigners, the dreaded nomads, and the truly outcast to come in and sit at the table of fine dining, to accept the invitation to partake in the ultimate dinner than can be offered!
Jesus ends the parable by relating the master’s determination that, “Not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” (v. 24)
Part of the experience of fine dining is accepting the invitation. It’s not just the food, it’s the reason we come to eat the food! It’s the reason we come to the table.
We have to step back for a moment here and look at the parable in its entirety. For the statement that prompted this parable is key. The man who, in verse 15, looks forward to dining in the Messianic Kingdom probably subscribed to the popular notion that only Jews would be part of that Kingdom. The parable Jesus tells is aimed at debunking that notion, as we understand the Master of the house is God, and the great banquet is the Kingdom, a metaphor that was suggested by the speaker at the table. The invited guests picture the Jewish nation. The Kingdom was prepared for them, but when Jesus came preaching that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17), Jesus was rejected. Echoed again in the Gospel of John, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).
The master in our parable has prepared a great feast, a wonderful banquet, yet he offered an invitation twice. Still barely filling the banquet hall.
How well do we fill our banquet hall? Have we done correct food preparation? Have we trained our servers in fine dining? Have we invited EVERYONE to the feast?
One of the things I noticed in our parable today was that the first invitation was given to those who were close to the master. When that failed, the servant was told to go to the streets and then to the far reaches of the country and extend the invitation to all to come and experience the banquet feast.
The master is not satisfied with a partially full banquet hall; he want every place at the table to be filled. John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles says this about the text, “God is more willing to save sinners, than sinners are to be saved!”
In the overall simplistic nature of this parable we are reminded as the community of faith to reach out and invite those around us to come and feast at the table of our Lord. The detail that the invitation is opened up to society’s maimed and downtrodden is vitally important. These were the types of people that the Pharisees considered “unclean” and under God’s curse. Jesus, however, taught that the kingdom was available even to those considered “unclean.” His involvement with tax collectors and sinners brought condemnation from the Pharisees, yet it showed the extent of God’s grace. The fact that the master in the parable sends the servant far afield to persuade everyone to come, indicates the offer of salvation would be extended to all, including the Gentiles and “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It has become the penultimate invitation to experience the great joy of dining together with our Lord, to enjoy the best in “fine dining.”
Those who ignored the invitation to the banquet chose their punishment—they missed out. Just like passing up that fine meal at that fine restaurant you always wanted to go to. The master affirms their choice by making it permanent: They would “not taste my banquet.”
One of my favorite parts of fine dining in a restaurant is to engage in conversation, not only with my guest, but with the wait staff. For they are the ones that make the invitation “come alive.” They are the ones engaged in the action of the meal; they are the true servers.
We as the gathered community of believers are the true servers to those whom we invite to our meal, to our conversation, to our interaction with each other. We, who have been here before, have experienced this wonderful meal and now we need to share it with the gathered community that surrounds us!!
We are challenged with this series of sermons to invite the world to our place of gathering, to our place of eating, to our place of Holy interaction.
We must remember, coming to the banquet feast is coming home! Coming home to fine dining that sustains us in our journey through life, through servanthood and through the darkness of our lives.
Come, my friends, to the finest table ever set for dining. When you leave, be empowered to invite others to join you. Come to the Table of our Lord.
AMEN and AMEN!