Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God. (St. Luke xiv. 15)
The liturgical season of Trinity is all about virtuous and godly living. In this season we are called to translate and convert our vision of Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life into habits of holiness and righteousness. In this season we are called to apply what we know to our hearts. From our hearts, we must will the good that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, teaches us. And the good that we are focusing on in this beginning of Trinity-tide is charity. On both last Sunday and this we have been called to contemplate God’s charity towards us, our reception and perfecting of it in our hearts, and then from its surplus, our impartation of it to all others. Last Sunday’s parable warned us of what happens in the hereafter when we do not share God’s love here. Dives began to love only in Hell. The absence of love for our brothers is an absence of God’s love in the human heart. This Sunday’s parable warns us of what happens when we trifle with the love of God. Perhaps we do not always reject the love of God like Dives, but then maybe we fritter away and squander our love on lesser things.
Every claim of God’s love on our souls requires that we submit to His rule and governance. God’s love is far greater than any other kind of love we might experience in creation. His love is boundless, limitless, colossal, monumental, and stupendous. Jesus likens it not only to something in itself but something that is intended for others. God’s love is unselfish and wholly benevolent. Jesus compares it to the bread that we shall eat in His Kingdom. But He uses common images and situations to convey the meaning that He intends to impart. So we read that A certain man made a great supper, and bade many….The certain man is God. His supper is great because both its quality and quantity surpasses our wildest imaginings. The supper is comprised of spiritual nourishment and fulfillment that will be the reward of those who sit down to eat in the Kingdom of Heaven. God’s love is wide and so He invites many. Many is a large number and probably intended to include as many as will accept His gracious invitation. The parable is given to us in the past tense since Jesus intends that we realize that the invitation has been made already. We have been invited to this feast of Grace from the dawn of time. It is a feast that is meant to begin now and continue into the future. It begins in Christ’s Church and extends well beyond into Heaven. Beginning here and now, we can begin to be nourished and grown up into those who have accepted the invitation and intend to persist as guests at this great feast. If we accept the invitation, we are to begin to enjoy the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him. (1 Cor. ii. 9)
So we, along with the rest of the world, have been invited by God, through Jesus Christ, to embrace the Spirit that seats us at the great supper of Heaven. Yet, how many refuse to come to this feast? Perhaps, even, we are not really present. Being present in body is one thing but being attentive and focused in spirit is quite another. Those who are truly present at the great supper that Jesus has inaugurated must be awake, alert, and attentive to the nature of the feast and the feeding. So many make excuses as to why they cannot come to the feast. The same excuses define the nature of those who are present but are not feeding truly on the spiritual fare that the Lord offers. In both cases, they are really pre-engaged to another feast and its earthly fare. Whether absent or present in body, their souls are taken up with other loves and the sustenance that they provide. They are moved far more by the riches of this world, busied with its cares, and enamored of its delectations and delights. There is room at the feast but no room in their hearts for the loving intention of the host and his provision. (The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, M. Scott, 154) And so they forfeit those greater and lasting riches that will make earthly life and its rewards pale in comparison.
Notice that the man in the parable or God does not waste His time with those who are careless and insouciant regarding heavenly and eternal verities. We read that the master or God is angry. When God’s love is rejected it will be felt and perceived as wrath, ire, and rage. Abused mercy turns into the greatest wrath. (M. Henry, Comm.) Yet, God quickly turns back to being Himself and thus to share His love with those who will humbly and gladly receive His affection. Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. (Ibid, 21) The great supper of the Lord is intended first for those who have been specially called to know and love God. Literally, the parable intends for us to think of the Jews, God’s chosen people and the apple of His eye. Spiritually the parable intends for us to think of Christians who, having received the great fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus Christ, nevertheless make excuses for not being presently alert, awake, and attentive to the services of the Church and the means of God’s Grace. In either case, should Jews or Christians neglect to cultivate the love of God in Jesus Christ in their hearts and in the Church, they will be dropped and damned. It is as simple as all that.
The master in the parable -God, turns His attention to others. The parable takes a turn and twist for the purpose of emphasizing those who will be called and rewarded. Note that those who end up at the feast and staying for eternity will be the poor, maimed, halt, and blind. (Idem) Those who should have known Christ, accepted Christ as the Father’s Ambassador and Emissary, and as their own Saviour and Redeemer, refused Him. They had no felt need for Jesus Christ. And so now those will be invited who have a clearer view and experience of their own weakness, frailty, fallenness, sinfulness, and alienation. They know their need and are ready to come. They may be literally poor, maimed, halt, and blind or they may be the equivalent in a spiritual and psychological manner. It matters not. The parable is for all ages and the temptation comes to all to think themselves too rich, too busy, or too happy to be good. We cannot taste the supper until we have a taste for it. The penalty of refusal is rejection and our heaviest punishment will be what we shall miss. They, too, who have accepted the invitation, and have taken their seats at God’s board, must have a care that they really partake. (Scott, p. 155) To really partake, we must be spiritually poor, halt, maimed, and blind and thus in need of God’s riches, motion, health, and illumination!
The pride and business of the world or the pleasure of earthly pastimes might prevent us from coming to the Lord. What it amounts to is the undue love of earthly things. And so we must become spiritually poor, halt, maimed, and blindin order to discover our real need for the healing love that only God can give. Yet, there is more. What do we read next? Not only are those who come those in physical and spiritual need of God’s love and mercy. Notice what the parable says: And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. (Ibid, 22) There is room for a deeper felt need for what God promises to give us through His love. Not only must we be self-consciously poor, maim, halt, and blind, but in addition we must more fully aware of our own unworthiness. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. (Ibid, 23) We must be compelled to come by the love of God. What this means is that God must beseech, intreat, and urge us to come to the supper. This word compelmust mean to desire passionately for our inclusion in this healing feast of God’s mercy. Of course, faith cannot be forced. And so this compelling must mean that strong and earnest exhortation, which…Christ will address to [His] fellows. (Trench, Parables, Ch. xxi)This is that love of God that forever desires our communion with Him. This is that love that never counts the cost but always considers it the greatest treasure to have one more man in everlasting habitations. This is the love that will die so that we might live with Him forever. The invitation must appear compelling also to our hearts as what alone can ensure our presence at that feast whose sustenance brings joy without ceasing. Although we are unworthy of it, we must learn the compelling need for it and then the desire to ensure that it shall inform our thoughts, words, and works all our days
Jesus says to us today:
All things are now ready, now is the accepted time; it is now, and has not been long; it is now, and will not be long; it is a season of grace that will be soon over, and therefore come now; do not delay; accept the invitation; believe yourselves welcome; eat, O friends; drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved. (M. Henry)
Christ has not left us for long. Christ will not leave us for long. In fact, Christ is with us and for us through the Holy Spirit now. The Feast has begun and we are called. We must not delay. We must be seated. We must be present. We must concentrate. The virtues with which the great supper feed us begin here and now. We must be concentrated on the Giver and His gifts. The gift is His love. His lover will open us to a world of sanctifying righteousness that begins to yield great joy and mirth. The virtues of Love will fill us. The virtues of Love can be shared with all others so that they too must come to the Feast and find salvation. Let us close with the poet’s discernment of God and His gifts.
How many unknown WORLDS there are
Of comforts, which Thou hast in keeping!
How many Thousand Mercies there
In Pity’s soft lap lay a sleeping!
Happy He who has the art
To awake them
And to take them
Home, and to lodge them in his heart. (R. Crashaw)