In the Parable of the Great Banquet found in Luke 14.16-24, Christ describes how entrance into heaven will take place. For many of those who have been invited, heaven will be refused using a variety of excuses. Instead of the banquet being empty, the master Who is God, commands His servants to go and find everyone else in town to fill His House saying, “For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.” (Luke 14.24) Those who will enjoy the banquet didn’t do anything other than accept the invitation from God. Those who were locked outside did nothing more than make a bunch of excuses. We have all been invited into Heaven by God. It would be a shame if we refuse the invitation.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you, and will inspire you to re-dedicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
What if I were to tell you that when we all die, we're all going to the same place? What if I told you that when we all die, some of us are going to experience that place as heaven, and some of us are going to experience that place as hell? And what if I told you that the chances are better that we might not want to be there if we think we're supposed to be? You see, one of the confusing elements in our Christian journey, my brothers and sisters, is fully appreciating what God has called us to in our life. What really has God desired for us? Many Christians in today's world, they think that the Christian life is nothing more than a series of moral expectations. I even hear people say things like, "That atheist is a better Christian than me." And I think to myself, "How can that be, if being a Christian includes believing in God? How can we even say the sentence that an atheist is a better Christian than I am?"
And it's because, my brothers and sisters, I fear that many of us have boiled down the Christian life to the good things that we're supposed to do. We are supposed to take care of the poor. We are supposed to visit the sick. We are supposed to clothe the naked. We are supposed to, etc., etc. We know the teachings of Christ. However, in this morning's gospel, we get a slightly different perspective of who's going to be in heaven and who's not going to be in heaven, the parable of this great banquet.
Now we have to remember that this series of parables that Christ is sharing in the gospel at this point are all parables of the kingdom. And so, we must hear this parable as a parable of the kingdom of heaven. And so, with that in mind, let's just remind ourselves of the overtones, the basic element of this parable. Someone puts on a great banquet. Who's the someone? God. What's the banquet? Heaven. Who said that? Hopefully everybody. Heaven. And what is heaven, my brothers and sisters, but the communion with us and God? Being in heaven is being in communion with God, and wanting to be there. You see, wanting to share in the banquet of God is what gets us into heaven, so to speak.
We continue in the parable. "He sent his servant at the supper time to say to all those who were invited, 'Come for all things are now ready'" and they all began to offer excuses. One buys some new land, one buys a bunch of oxen, and always my favorite, "I have married a wife, I cannot come." Doesn't even bother to say anything else because everyone knows that a husband and a wife, especially a new husband, must obey his wife, and he has to do exactly as she says. So he says, "I'm sorry, I cannot come." But what happens? The master who is God, he says to the servants, "Go out quickly into the streets, into the lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.
And so the servants go out and bring everyone from the poor parts of town. Had they done anything originally to be invited to this banquet? They haven't, so to speak, done all the things that Christian is supposed to do. They haven't done anything but merely, they were there. And God says, "Go and bring them in." And the servants come back and says, "Look, Lord, we've done that and there is still room." Now keep in mind, everyone who had been invited is still out doing their thing. The one guy is at the field, the one guy is testing out his oxen, and the other guy is with his wife. And so, the master says, "That's it. I've had it. Go out and get everyone else that you can, so my house is filled."
And then this is the part that should get us to the bone. He says, "For those who were invited shall not taste my supper." You see, my brothers and sisters, we have been invited to enter into the kingdom of God. And yet, in our daily life, we continue to bring the excuses, don't we? Admittedly, we're here today and I have to give everyone compliments for being here today. But if we're honest with ourselves, have we really taken up God in his invitation? He has invited us into heaven, to live in communion with him, to be forever and eternally without end united to him. And we have that opportunity at every divine liturgy. And yet, even sometimes we come to church, and we reject the invitation, and we do not receive communion. We do not join ourselves to God.
You see, my brothers and sisters, there is this tricky thing called free will with God. He won't force any of us to join him but he invites all of us. And if we continue to come up with excuses of why we have something better to do than to spend time with God, and I'm not just speaking about coming to church on a Sunday. Coming to the church on a Sunday is only part of our Christian journey. It is living every day in communion with God. It is desiring to be with God and desiring to have God as part of our life.
When we wake up in the morning and we look at our list of to-dos, how many of us on our to-do list include, "Say our prayers"? How many of us on our to-do list includes "Read the scriptures", "Open our Bibles"? It's so easy today, especially those of us who have smartphones. There's even an app to read the readings for the day. And yet, most of us come up with something that on the surface sounds totally legitimate. "Sunday's my only day off. I have to get some rest." Ironically, the TV is normally on during the football game in those times. But at that moment, we've made an excuse. Again, it's not just Sunday. Are we living like we are truly united to Christ? Do we encounter every human being as if they are a child of God? Remember, it's not a list of things that we have to do. It is a desire to be with God.
And so as Christmas is quickly approaching, the frenzy of our preparations is going to begin, if it hasn't already begun for you. If you're like me, I still have a few boxes of decorations waiting to be put up. But don't allow all of those frenzied things become excuses to your daily life in Christ. Don't rationalize in your mind what seems like a totally legitimate reason to not choose that moment to live with God. Because some day, God is going to call us home. Some day, we're going to find ourselves outside the door because we've chosen to wait, we've chosen to offer excuses. He's invited us. Now let's go in. And let's enjoy the banquet with God. Let's enjoy that life with him.
I'm not suggesting we don't go to work. I'm not suggesting that a bunch of new oxen have to be let to run wild and not know what they're doing on the fields. I'm not suggesting that a new husband is not obedient to his wife or older husbands too. But what I am suggesting is that when it comes to being with God, enough is enough. No more excuses. No matter how reasonable we think they are, that's exactly what they are. Unless we're sick, unless we are physically stopped and prohibited but that's something beyond our control. The rest is up to us. Glory to God for all things.
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