St. Luke's Anglican Church
Traditional Anglican Service from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer
Sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity, 2019
June 30, 2019
David J. Kapley, Priest
St. Luke's Anglican Church
Bowling Green, Kentucky
"I pray thee have me excused." The Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 14, verses 18 and 19.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be alway acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my Redeemer. Amen.
When I was a little boy, my Mom told to me this saying: a place for everything and everything in its place. This proverb was commonplace in America in the mid-20th century. This proverb helps us to understand the Gospel reading for today, which contains the Parable of the Great Supper.
Jesus told this Parable late in His public ministry. The Parable of the Great Supper sheds light upon what God expects of us in the Christian life. We are all walking along the path towards that Heavenly Country. I hope and pray that we all get there. Today's Parable provides some vital information concerning how we can make the successful journey.
Only St. Luke records this Parable. St. Matthew has a similar parable, the Parable of the Marriage Supper. Today we will concentrate on the Parable of the Great Supper.
You can understand a great deal concerning the Parable of the Great Supper if you know the circumstances when Jesus told the story. Jesus was invited to a dinner by a prominent Pharisee. The scribes and the Pharisees were scoping out Jesus; Jesus, however, was scoping out them as well. The Parable explains something concerning the saintly life that leads to the Heavenly Country. Remember, we are not going to Heaven unless we are - - - or become - - - Saints of God.
Here is an important rule for interpreting the Bible. Sometimes we can learn a great deal about a passage in the Bible by reading in the Bible both before and after the passage that we are trying to understand. Our understanding of today's Parable will be enhanced if we do just that.
Jesus is at the supper. Read in the Bible just before Jesus gives the Parable. Someone at the supper cries out with this comment: "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." St. Luke 14:15. Now what this man says at this supper is absolutely true. Anyone who resides in Heaven with God and participates in the Mystical Supper of God will be truly blessed. In fact, the 1928 Prayer Book describes our belief in the Communion of Saints, which is described in the Apostles' Creed. Today we just recited the Apostles' Creed with Deacon Mike during Morning Prayer.
But Jesus does not praise this man concerning the truthfulness of what the man says. Instead, Jesus tells the Parable, which describes three characters who are excluded from the Great Supper in the Kingdom of God. This is because the Great Supper in the Parable is a symbol of the Great Supper that the Saints of God will enjoy in Heaven.
We must study carefully the fatal flaws of every man in the Parable. We do not want to be kept out of the Kingdom of God.
The first man has purchased land and wants to inspect the land. The second man has purchased five oxen and wants to prove or try out the oxen. The third man has married and wants to stay with his wife.
The three men have excuses - - - activities in the world which they believe are more important than attending the Great Supper. The third man is recently married and is the bluntest: he simply says he is married and will not attend the supper. Both of the other two men recite a sentence that in ancient Greece was a way that people could excuse themselves from attending the supper: "I pray thee have me excused." The Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 14, verses 18 and 19.
What you and I must understand is that the end result for these three men is the same. The first two men who make an effort to politely decline---but they end up in the same predicament as the one who bluntly or impolitely declines. All three men are excluded from the Kingdom of God.
There is nothing wrong with owning and inspecting land. There is nothing wrong with owning and proving five oxen. There is nothing wrong with marriage. God Himself ordained the institution of marriage. Why were these three men kept out of the Kingdom of God?
Some people regard the comment of Jesus concerning these three men as harsh, especially considering the First Lesson in Morning Prayer this morning, which is from Book of Deuteronomy. In that passage from Deuteronomy, God allowed the Israelites of the Old Testament to have certain excuses from going to war if they had recently purchased land or recently been married, for instance.
If you think Jesus sounds harsh in the Parable of the Great Supper, wait until you hear the next comment of Jesus right after this Parable. Saint Luke, a physician, I believe did not hesitate from giving unpleasant information to his patients. And here Saint Luke records a comment from Jesus that will make cringe the modern and post-modern Christian.
Right after the Parable of the Great Supper, Jesus turns to a crowd who is following him and delivers this statement: "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." St. Luke 14:26.
What is Jesus trying to explain to us? St. Basil the Great in the fourth century interpreted this Parable. He explains that the problem with these three men is the same: worldliness. They pursue the things of the world more than they pursue God. The first man values the land more than he values the Great Supper. The second man values the oxen more that he values the Great Supper. The third man values his wife more than he values the Great Supper.
St. Basil explains that when people are so consumed with the things of this world they cannot contemplate the things of God. If our eyes are always turned downward toward the earth, we cannot lift up our eyes to contemplate Heaven.
St. Basil is right. And my mom is right: A place for everything and everything in its place. There is room for land, for oxen, and for marriage. But our relationship with God must come first. Remember the words of Jesus: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." St. Matthew 6:33.
What about hating your mom, your dad, your spouse, your children, your brothers, your sisters, yes, and even your own life? The Biblical Greek word for hate in this comment of Jesus refers to how we order our allegiances in life. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Our discipleship of Jesus is to come first.
Good King Wenceslaus was a central European nobleman in the early Middle Ages and a devout Christian. He would not renounce his Christianity even though his brother and his mother were pagans - - - and even though they conspired to murder, and did murder him.
“A place for everything and everything in its place.” The 19th century biblical scholar and Church of England Bishop Charles John Elliott explains it this way: "Self-renunciation, pushed, if necessary, to the extremist issues, is with Jesus the one indispensable condition of discipleship. He asks for nothing less than the heart, and that cannot be given by halves."
This principle highlights the tragic flaw of so many of the Pharisees. They were worldly. They loved the world more than they loved God. This is why they did not understand the Parable of the Great Supper.
To be Heaven-bound, we must be Heaven-focused. How can we do that? Believe on the Lord Jesus. Receive the grace and the love of God the Father, of God the Son, and of God the Holy Ghost. Live the Christian life. Become more like Jesus. Pray, no, pray earnestly. Read, no, study, no, become immersed in the Bible. The Bible is the word of God, which tells us of the story of the Word of God, the Son of God born in the flesh to save us. Come to Church. Participate in the Sacramental Life. Fast. Do the good works that God has given us to do. Follow the Ten Commandments. Follow the Three Great Commandments. Pray for forgiveness and repent when we miss the mark, when we sin.
Forty five years ago today, June 30, 1974, was also a Sunday. A 69-year-old Christian woman was the organist at her local church. She was a shy woman who liked to stay out of the limelight. She had some joy that morning because she was going to play on a new organ that the Church had purchased. Early in that service on that Sunday morning while she was playing the Lord's Prayer a young man ran down the aisle of the Church. He was armed with two revolvers. He shot and killed a Deacon at the Church, as well as that woman, the Church organist.
What could have prompted this horrible act? I will let this young man speak for himself. He said: "all Christians are my enemies."
The woman was shot to death less than 100 yards from where her son was buried. Her son is a famous American. That woman is Alberta Christine Williams King; her son, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was named after the most famous figure of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther.
Martin Luther was named after a famous Christian Saint of the fourth century, St. Martin of Tours. As you know, in many Anglican traditions St. Martin of Tours is remembered this week, on July 4, Independence Day. It is St. Martin of Tours who made this comment that will help us understand the lesson of today's Gospel: "Allow me, brothers, to look toward heaven rather than at the earth, so that my spirit may set on the right course when the time comes for me to go on my journey to the Lord."
What of us at St. Luke's, today, June 30, 2019? Where did we put our time, our interests, our energies, our treasures in this last week? Are we more consumed with the things of this earth, or the things of God? If God were standing in front of us, right here, right now, what would God say?
Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.