Second Sunday After Pentecost: When A Blessing Becomes A Curse
But he said to him: A certain man made a great supper, and invited many.
17 And he sent his servant at the hour of supper to say to them that were invited, that they should come, for now all things are ready.
18 And they began all at once to make excuse. The first said to him: I have bought a farm, and I must needs go out and see it: I pray thee, hold me excused.
19 And another said: I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them: I pray thee, hold me excused.
20 And another said: I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
21 And the servant returning, told these things to his lord. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant: Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the feeble, and the blind, and the lame.
22 And the servant said: Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.
23 And the Lord said to the servant: Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
24 But I say unto you, that none of those men that were invited, shall taste of my supper. (Luke 14:16-24)
As I was studying for my sermon, I began to see a theme. That theme became the title for todays' sermon, which is, “When a Blessing Becomes A Curse”
Our gospel reading today begins with the word "but".
Odd word to begin a reading with. "But He said to him." Why "but", and who was the 'him' Jesus was talking to? So I looked at the text surrounding the gospel reading for today. It turns out that Jesus was at a dinner hosted by a Pharisee, and Jesus was talking about humility, because as He watched those at the dinner, He was seeing just the opposite in the others invited to the same dinner. All of a sudden, one of those listening to Jesus talk about humility, pops up with this pious pronouncement, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." This was a wonderful statement in and of itself. Who would argue with the idea that eating bread in the kingdom of God is a good thing? It is better then the thought of being in Hell, crying out for mercy, asking for someone to “dip the tip of their finger in water, and cool the one in hells' tongue; because he was tormented in flames.” It is this pious outburst that Jesus responds to - and Luke begins the description of the response with these words, "But He said to him."
Jesus' answer to the man's comment was the parable in our Gospel reading of the dinner to which no one seemed to want to come. They all had their reasons. One had to inspect some newly purchased real estate, another had to try out some new John Deer Tractor which in those days were - five yoke of oxen - and the third had just gotten married. The day of the big dinner comes, and no one wants to take the time to take part.
Of course, it struck me that the reasons they were skipping out on the banquet were all the abundance of the blessings given by God. (James 1:17) says that, “Every best gift, every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.”
Was there anything wrong with owning new land? No, God from the very beginning “called the dry land, Earth... and saw that it was good.” He told Man to “have dominion over...the whole earth.” Was there anything wrong with owning 5 yoke of Oxen? No, God said in Genesis chapter 1, "Let the earth bring forth....cattle after its kind....and He saw that it was good.” Was there anything wrong with being married? (PAUSE....THINK REAL HARD) No, God said that he looked on Adam and Eve and said, “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth...” and then God looked upon it all, including Adam and Eve, and said, “It was all very good”! The problem was not the good that God had blessed them with. The problem was they were too successful, too rich, and too happy to take time for the dinner that was prepared for them. They, like in the days of Noah, were to busy and wrapped up with the good things God blessed them with on earth. They had no time for the God who had given them the blessings. And so as (Malachi 2:2) says, because they would not hear Gods voice and because they have not laid it to heart, “I will curse your blessings, yea I will curse them”
In Israel at the time of Jesus, no one had to even guess what the parable was about. The host of the dinner is God. The dinner is described in Matthew 22:1-14 as the heavenly wedding supper of the Groom Jesus. It was made all the more clear by this being spoken in response to someone talking about the blessedness of eating bread in the kingdom of God!
Jesus was telling the man who spoke so boldly about the blessedness of being a part of the feast in heaven that none of them were going. This wasn't the "none" in the absolute sense that no Jew was going to go to heaven, but the "none" of 'very few, and probably none of those present at the meal' because the nation of Israel as a race had turned away from God. Jesus was judging them for having taken the rich and abundant blessings of God in their lives as the excuse to forget God and reject His invitations. Those who would not be apart of the dinner were those having received the blessings of God, and accepted the blessings He bestowed, that when He came, and invited them to the feast, they preferred the blessings over whatever it was that God was offering them.
The blessings that God had given them had become a curse to them for ignoring God. “I will curse your blessings, yea I will curse them”
What about us?
Understand that that same invitation to the dinner has come to us. Many of us, as Christians have found that we are quite comfortable with our lives here on Earth. There is things in our life that they would rather pursue then being in communion with God our Father. There are too many blessings in the world to be enjoyed to take time to attend the banquet of the One who gave us all our blessings. There is too much wealth, too many toys, too much we could be doing instead, to take the time to hear and accept the invitation of the Lord. Some leave the table because they did not have the commitment they understood that being a Christian required – they did not count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Others don't really say why they leave the table. Others wanted their old friends back more than they wanted the seat at the banquet. Some have allowed the blessing of having a family to get in the way of being at the table. Their family...their blessing, has become a curse. They put their family ahead of God. That's what it means when, just a few verses down from our gospel readings, it says, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) Sometimes it is not easy putting God before your family. But Luke goes on to say, "And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27)
When we walk away from God and faith and commitment for the same reasons as the men in parable, do you imagine that we do not fall under the same judgment of God?
The possibility exists for every one of us, to get so wrapped up in our blessings that we do not realize that we actually stepped away from the table.
Think of Demas, a fellow worker with the Apostle Paul. He is mentioned three times by Paul; first in Colossians, where Paul includes Demas among those sending greetings to the Colossians, then in Philemon, where Demas is also among the workers who send their greetings, and finally in Second Timothy, where Paul writes, "for Demas, having loved this present world, has forsaken me and gone to Thessalonica." If it could happen to Demas, who worked side-by-side with Paul, none of us is immune. So we need to exercise care.
We need to examine ourselves to see what kind of a grasp we have on the blessings on earth. We need to consider the possibility that there are things that threaten us by being too attractive, or too important, or too demanding in our lives, or in our minds. Nothing is worth the loss of this one thing, for what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, and to lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give for his soul?
We have Christ and all His blessings by grace through faith. We receive Him through His Word preached, and we receive Him through the Sacrament of His body and blood. But how easy it is to begin to depend on, and place our trust in our own resources, our doctors, our health and strength, our income, our own dreams and ambitions for our lives - or what is left of our lives.
Thousands of former Christians who do not put their trust in Jesus Christ, and no longer believe, are unaware of it. They remember believing. They don't feel any different. They seamlessly make the transition from genuine faith to something else without realizing it until it is to late.
The man who could not come to the dinner because He bought land did not say He did not want to come - he was just busy. He got distracted, and had a schedule conflict, and had to make a choice. Some of the people who leave the table, left for a flashier table that was more exotic looking. When they leave to escape the Church, to avoid the Word that is clearly preached, and to run from their baptismal promises to renounce Satan, his works, and all the things he has to offer, that suggests that they got distracted, lost sight of what was going on, and made choices that placed the priority of the invitation to the great dinner behind the business or the pleasures of life in importance. It was like sending a note, "Please, consider me excused."
Have you done that? I hope not! But it seems appropriate to do an examination of conscience, and to look and see if there is anything that might be distracting you, or something that is rising up to take the place in your heart which only Christ and the Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation should hold. Forewarned is forearmed, they say.
God uses the preaching of His Word, and the gifts He gives in the Sacrament. to help us keep Him first at all times. You make choices every day. Some turn you toward the faith and toward depending completely on God, and some tend to lead you away. You want to consider what the things you do and the choices you make mean, and where they may lead you, and endeavor to be deliberately and faithfully live out the Christian life by Gods grace.
Let us be acutely aware of our need for His guidance, and strength, and blessing. Do not allow the blessings in our lives to become a curse.
All the good things, all the blessings, that are in our lives ultimately come from God. Use them to draw you and others in a closer relationship with Jesus. Other wise God will “curse your blessings” and you will find yourself as those in the parable, “that none of those men that were invited, shall taste of my supper.”