Sermon by Judith Sutcliff on Luke 14

I found drawing up the wedding guest list quite a challenge. It was very difficult to know how and where to cut off. Limited by numbers but not wanting to upset anybody and leave them out. We are both blessed with many wonderful friends. I had a reserve list and filled in places made vacant. Simon rumbled me and I got told off for not sticking to the list. It worked though!! The seating plan was even more fun to deal with as who was going to sit with who, where did we place our families and friends who are of equal value to us, to try and fathom out who wasn’t talking to who. In fact we nearly weren’t talking to each other afterwards!

Our readings today are about humility, especially for those in high places. There’s a key phrase which ties in with the gospel reading ‘everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Jesus criticises who push themselves forward and try to engineer their way to the top table as that’s not the way to gain honour in God’s kingdom as God confers honour on the humble. It is also about the most amazing invitation from God.

Those first invited referred to the Jewish leaders. They deemed themselves to be privileged, superior to other Jews. They knew the scriptures and the words of the prophets predicting the coming of the messiah. But, when he came, they did not see him; they were too busy caught up in their own laws. God then sent his messenger, John the Baptist to call them to the banquet, but they were too busy to answer the invitation. They didn’t hear or see. Luke lists the excuses issued, bought new oxen, just married. They were too tied up in their own worlds and in them selves

The invitation was widened; there was more room at the masters table. The servant was told to invite all, outcast prostitute’s tax collectors the blind lame the poor and marginalised. They all came and accepted the invitation, though many could have offered feeble excuses too.

The imagery of the parable is amazing. Jesus has been going around Galilee summoning people to God’s great supper. The messiah had come but they knew him not and would not taste the banquet with Christ, but the disadvantage the humble and meek would celebrate the banquet with Christ. The expected guests are Jews, waiting and waiting for the Kingdom, only to find that when it arrived, more pressing matters occupy them. And instead, the Master sent for all kinds of unexpected people to join the party – not just Gentiles, but people with every kind of moral and immoral background, different in culture, social status, race and ethics.  Jesus’ invitation is to all and sundry. It transcends the social, economic, ethnic and ethical barriers that the world considers acceptable and comfortable. As Gentiles who have been invited to the Great Banquet, we are expected to become party hosts in return.

How ready are we to accept this invitation from Christ? We are called in humble service to Christ and to each other. God wants his house filled; there is food for everyone who will accept. Jesus told this story to show God’s desire to have a right relationship with all people. The supper means a place in God’s kingdom. He sent the prophets to invite his people to come in. But very many of them would not accept that invitation. Now in Jesus, there is the invitation for all to come in. He sends Christians to bring in people from all nations. They must bring all types of people. No person is beyond the reach of God. The good news of Jesus is for all people. God will receive all who come to him. But when people refuse God’s invitation, that invitation may not remain open to them.

May we be part of the Christian feast, and may we continually invite others to join in this feast with us. Amen