What Is It You Really Believe?

Second Sunday after Trinity

June 10, 2018

Luke 14:15–24

You know what you believe. But did you know that you may not believe exactly what you think you believe? You may be able to put it into words what you believe. But did you know that your actions may tell a different story? If you say you’re going to do something and it’s really important to you but you never get around to actually doing it, what is true, that it’s really important to you? Don’t your actions tell a different story?

In the Gospel reading Jesus responds to a person there who is eating with Him. Jesus had been invited by a ruler of the Pharisees to a meal. But the Pharisees had ulterior motives. They were trying to trap Jesus. The Pharisees were the kind of people that you looked to as an example of being a religious person. They were moral. They always went to church. They obeyed God’s commands. They went above and beyond in being good people.

But Jesus saw behind all of this. What they were really concerned with was themselves. They were convinced of their own goodness, because, well, they were such good people. And because they were such good people they believed that they earned the right to be honored above others. Even though Jesus had been invited to their meal He called them on their hypocrisy. He denounced their high view of themselves and called them instead to humility. Instead of preening in their own righteousness they ought to look to those who were outcast, who were in need, and invite them to their meals.

In so doing, Jesus said, they would not be able to repaid by them but they would be repaid beyond compare in the resurrection of the righteous. This is where our Gospel reading picks up. One of the Pharisees said, “Blessed is the one who will feast in the Kingdom of God.” So here’s the question, What did this man believe? He knew what he believed. We cannot look into his heart, but we can see his actions. He longed for the eternal glory of being with God in heaven. How did this belief play out in his life? He longed for the future Kingdom of God in heaven while not recognizing that the Kingdom of God was in his presence, in the flesh to be exact. He longed for something he believed he would receive because of his good life and good works. He didn’t even see that the one who brings the Kingdom of God to people was right there.

So Jesus told a parable. A man held a great banquet. He pulled out all the stops. He invited all the people you would expect to be invited. All the ones who could themselves throw their own party and invite people. But they would not be able to match this one. This man had everything at his disposal and would serve up a banquet that would be talked about again and again. The invitees would be crazy not to come.

When the time arrived he sent his servant out to remind them. But they had these other things to do. Mind you, they were important things. The one guy had just bought a field and he had to check it out so he could get started using it. Another guy had just bought five yoke of oxen and he had to inspect them to make sure they were ready to go. Yet another guy had just gotten married and so he had new responsibilities to take care of. These were good people. They were not shirking their duties. They had important things to do and so they had to excuse themselves from this gracious invitation. 

The man who held the feast might have been understanding. You can’t do everything. And sometimes important things come up that you just can’t get out of. But when the servant reported all these excuses to the master he was angry. He told the servant to go quickly into the city and find all the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. He should bring them so that they could enjoy the feast. When the servant had done so he told his master that there was still room. So he told him to go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come and enjoy the feast. The ones originally invited, on the other hand, would never partake of the feast.

The master may have been important to all those people. He may have been a good friend. But they had all these other things to do. Surely he would understand. He understood very well actually. And that is why he was angry. What you say and what you think you believe is one thing. What you do either confirms that or denies it.

So what do you believe? And do your actions support this? Or by what you do are you actually showing what you really believe? 

Your Lord invites you to a rich feast. He lays it all out before you. You say you believe in Him. Do you live in your Baptism? Do you recognize that each day you need to be renewed? Do you repent daily of your sins and live in new life? Or do you go back to your old sins and think they’re compatible with your new life in Christ?

Do you actually come to church? Or have you convinced yourself that being a Christian is much more than just attending worship and so you don’t need to be here every week. That you can pray to God anytime anywhere. That how you live your life is much more important than being here for the ritual of worship. And if you are here every week, perhaps you are just going through the motions. Do you take to heart what you are taught in the liturgy? Are you recognizing that you are here not simply for yourself but also your brothers and sisters in Christ, that they receive encouragement when you are here? When the Scriptures are read do you hear them as God’s Word to you in your life, that it is what you need to hear? Do you listen to the preaching of God’s Word as just a message or are you listening to it as what it is, God’s word to you to kill you and make you alive?

You long to be in heaven and free from the troubles of this life. Do you recognize that God brings His Kingdom to you right here and now in this very place at this very altar? Do see you the Supper our Lord has prepared for us as a ritual that we Christians do? Or do you recognize what those Pharisees failed to see, that the Lord and, in His person, the Kingdom of God is present in our midst? That in bread and wine Christ Himself is given to us and in giving himself to us we are actually feasting in the eternal Kingdom of God? You believe you are going to heaven. Do you believe that He brings heaven to you on earth in the meal of our Lord which is a foretaste of the Feast to come? 

You believe in God because you hold to the Bible. Do your actions bear that out? How much time do you actually spend reading the Bible? Do you make a concerted effort to read it and learn it and take it to heart? Do you desire to learn more and more of the Word of God? Or do your actions tell a different story? Christians need to be together in the Word. We need time personally to meditate on God’s Word and time together to study it and wrestle with it and grow in it. 

What is it you really believe? What you say and what you think is one thing. But your actions, how you actually spend your time is what tells the true story. When it came to time participate in the feast, the people who were invited all made excuses. In the final celebration they were shut out. The Pharisee who said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will feast in the Kingdom of God,” expressed the longing. The longing is true longing only if your actions and your life follow suit. Otherwise you are a Pharisee, a hypocrite, and you will be shut out of the Kingdom of God on the Last Day.

Jesus is harsh in this regard. While at a meal He has been invited to He doesn’t remain the polite guest. He takes His host to task because He can do no other. He came to save sinners. When sinners are unrepentant He will call them to account so that they can see their eternal peril. But to those who are weak, who recognize they are sinful and that their actions belie their words, He invites them to His Banquet Table. Here they will find rest. Here they will be forgiven. Here they will be in the Kingdom of God, dining with Jesus Christ Himself. 

At the Passover Meal Jesus shared with His disciples He gave them something new. They would no longer be eating just bread and just wine, they would be feasting with and on Himself, His body given for them, His blood shed for them. The rich feast God prepares for you is nothing else than giving you the Lamb who was slain, His own Son. The Lamb who was slain has been raised and longs to share His eternal feast with you, giving you Himself in so many ways. 

You have many important things to do. You should not shirk your responsibilities. In fact, God Himself has called you to carry them out. Love those God has entrusted to you. Help people not because they can help you but because you can serve them in their need. At the end of the day, though, in fact, at the end of life, how you spent your time, what you actually did, will tell the story of what you actually believe. Nothing must come before God and how He comes to you. Spending the time in God’s Word and in God’s House will bring you into communion with Jesus Christ Himself and His Church and enable you to carry out all those many other things you need to do and that you will see are a joy to do. Amen.