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Good Things Are Given by God
Second Sunday after Trinity
Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
June 25, 2017
Luke 14:15–24
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus helps us consider the things in our life. Think about the things in your life. There are many. You have family and friends, the many things you own, the responsibilities you have. All of these things are yours. And they are good things. These things are all good and are all yours because God has given them to you.
The First Article of the Creed teaches us this. In the Catechism we confess this: I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
To the list of the specific things mentioned could be added many more. God is the creator of all things and this means that “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” We not only can but should make use of the things God has given us. We may freely enjoy all the good gifts God has given us.
Now, in the parable of the great banquet in our Gospel reading the people who were invited to the banquet were making use of the good gifts God had given them. They were attending to their responsibilities as God would have them do. What was the problem then? Why did the master who had invited them end up saying that they would never partake of his feast?
It wasn’t that they were attending to the things they owned. It was that they were putting them before the one that was greater than all of them: the great banquet. The feast. They knew the importance of the things they were taking care of—a field, animals, a newly married spouse. The problem is that they attached more importance to these things than they did the invitation of the master who sought to give them something even greater. This feast was not in place of all their things and responsibilities. But it did come before them. The problem wasn’t that they had things and were making use of them. The problem was that they put those things first.
God is the giver of good gifts. The gifts He gives are not greater than He is. When we use the things He gives us and forget that He knows what is best for us then we begin to see the things of this life as the greatest things we need. They are good, but they do not serve our greatest need.
For this we look to the Third Article of the Creed and see there that in the “Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” Without this forgiveness, what is any value of the things we own? What help would the greatest wealth do us if we were lost in sin?
This was the central question of the Reformers in the Sixteenth Century as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire sought unity among Christians as they were about to be attacked by a pagan and foreign enemy. The Lutheran Reformers sought this unity also, but only as it comes from the Word of God. And therefore on this date in 1530 they confessed the faith they held to as the Bible teaches it. The crown of this confession, which is known as the Augsburg Confession, is Article IV of the Augsburg Confession:
It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21–26 and 4:5.
This, dear Friends in Christ, is the rich feast that the Master, our Lord Jesus, lays before us. It is the forgiveness of sins and the salvation that comes with it. Think about everything you have in life and then see how none of it does you any good as you stand before the holy God. There is no reason God the Father would have sent His Son into the world to suffer and die if there were anything we could do to save ourselves from our sin and guilt. The reason God became flesh and dwelt among us, took upon Himself the sin of the world, rose from the grave, is that we are unable to spring ourselves from the eternal torment of hell. Salvation is by pure grace.
All those things in your life are good and also the result of grace. But they don’t come first. They are grace upon grace. It is because of grace that we are saved by Christ that we may also receive and enjoy the things we have in this life. And it is by the grace of salvation given to us that we are also able to see that things we have in this life are really not for our own personal use but for our enjoying them to the glory of God and in serving others.
Those in the parable had the right idea of attending to the things they owned and the responsibilities they had, except for one thing. They didn’t see that these things were gifts, good gifts given by God. They didn’t see that when you put the greatest gift first you then are entrusting all those other things to Him and He will guide you in your making use of them and carrying out your responsibilities.
How can you see the things in your life as the good gifts they are and use them in the way God gives you to? With your property and possessions you work hard in upkeep and taking care of them. You treat them with care because they are from God and they will provide for your needs if they are kept up. You can better take care of your family if the things and the place where you live is in good working order.
You can see that as your Lord loves to use what is His to serve you that you may also use what He has given you to serve others and enrich their lives. When you serve others you are not just helping them out in their temporal needs. You are loving them as Christ has loved you. If you put God first in your life then you are able to truly love them. Always remember the words of the Epistle reading: “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us.” It is always the one thing that God gives us that not only supersedes all other things but gives life and meaning to all the other gifts He gives.
That is why John can go on to say in the Epistle reading when he says, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” It wasn’t a grudging sacrifice when our Lord laid down His life for us. When we lay down our lives for others—loving them, serving them—it is yet another blessing our Lord gives us. This is why we need to keep hearing the Gospel preached, because our God the Holy Spirit richly forgives our sins through this gracious gift. This is why we need to keep receiving the gift our Lord gives us of His Holy Supper, because in it He strengthens us in body and soul to life everlasting.
This is the banquet, the feast, our Lord prepares. It is ready, it is for us. It is forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.
Pastor Paul L. Willweber
Lutheran Service Book Lectionary: One-Year, Gospel
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, San Diego, California