We celebrate with food. Jesus tells a story with a purpose in today’s scripture. The story centers on a banquet. A party. The meal is compared to the Kingdom of God. The kingdom is like a feast/party.
The book of Luke, as all the books of the Bible, is written with purpose. Luke is not telling us the story of Jesus just so we can know facts. He writes to persuade those who hear to make a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ ~ to be disciples. the problem. It’s what I am calling a 2nd Generation Problem. Luke is writing to people who did not see Jesus when he was in the flesh. Luke 1:1-4….
But then comes the next generation. It’s always a problem to recapture the enthusiasm. How do you do it? Luke tackles the 2nd generation problem. The passion of the first generation always has problems transferring to the 2nd generation.
15 years ago my family and I spent a week on Copper Island…. a Christian Camp for First Nations Youth. The Camp was not in session so no youth, but I learned a lot from the adults. I had never heard of the controversial attempt of the Canadian government to systematically wipe out the First Nations people in order to accommodate the expansion of settles to the west ~ some say it did not exist while others are convinced the government attempted genocide: some were passive measures like not attacking a tuberculosis plague among First Nations people. The adults I spoke to were most passionate about what took place in the 1960’s ~ the Canadian government forcibly removed First Nations children from their families to send to other families in order to break up the community and water down the bloodlines. That was the past. The generation that lived through “the sixties scoop” as they called it, had a new mission: to pass on the lessons of what happened to their children. The problem: All the young people are a generation removed. It is only a story from parents and grandparents. The present generation did not care that much
The second generation problem happens in the Christian community. The parents have an incredible transformation in their life when they found God. Now they are dedicated to raising the children in a Christian home, but the enthusiasm, the newness in Christ does not translate, and the children may be in danger of lacking the same passion.
God always wants us to be enthusiastic, to serve with passion and conviction: 1 Cor. 15:58: So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
God wants more than us to believe him with our logic, he wants our passion. Imagine if parents worked hard to save money, plan for a once in a life time trip to Disneyland. The day comes when the parents reveal their plans to their children: “Guess What! We’re going to Disneyland.” And the kids yawn, “that will be fun, hope it doesn’t take away too much of my time to play videogames.”
Rom. 12:10: Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
Henry Ford describes enthusiasm: “…the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” George Adams: “Enthusiasm is faith set on fire.”
In American Church history the Puritans faced the 2nd generation problem and came up with a crazy solution. In the 1660’s they developed “The Half-Way Covenant.” In order to be a member of the Church you must have a dramatic conversion story to faith in Christ and be zealous. As the first-generation settlers were dying out, their children and grandchildren often expressed less religious piety, and more desire for material things. They were not as passionate and did not have the same conversion experience because they were raised in Christian homes; they were not allowed to become members of the church because they were not as outwardly zealous. The answer: a half way covenant. The children & grandchildren could become half members if they confessed Christ but didn’t have the same dramatic conversion experience.
What do you think? Shall we create a half Christian category of faith? I suspect half of America would want to join the half way church. Luke says NO. Jesus Christ wants fully committed disciples that are enthusiastic about following him. Parents, Pastors, Teachers, Leaders, Christians who are enthusiastic must have as part of the goal to pass on the same heart felt convictions of faith. Enthusiasm is faith on fire.
Let’s look at Luke 14:15-24 again in light of the 2nd generation problem: The scripture is set at a party that includes Jesus when a guest muses how good it will be to eat at the Feast in the Kingdom of God (Luke 14:15). Luke decides it is time to drive home the point of how Jesus who make Jesus a priority, followers who follow Jesus even when it is not convenient….Many try to follow Jesus halfway. The truth: it does not work to follow Jesus halfway! You cannot sit on a fence forever. You are either moving towards Christ or you are moving a way from him.
Two reason in this scripture why people might stay away from the banquet:
1) Excuses and 2) they don’t feel worthy
The comedy of this scripture is the dopey excuses for not going to the banquet. Luke 14:18 the guy says he’s bought a field and has to go see it. Really? It can’t wait? It’s a flimsy excuse. Same with the oxen in Luke 14:19. Apparently the guy bought a team of oxen and needed to go try them out. Really? I would never buy a car without seeing it. It’s an excuse. I had a crazy excuse given to me when I was in H.S. I had no intention of ever going to the prom, but I was the junior class president and had to go (then you had to have a date). I asked a random girl at least a month ahead of time that I really didn’t know ~~ she said yes. Then a few days before the prom she called and said she could not go because “you didn’t give me time to make my dress.”
Excuses keep us from fully committing to God. BTW, the excuses are always about the disciplines of the Christian faith. I am fully committed to God I tell myself, but I don’t have time for church/prayer/ to serve. How easy to not read the bible because I am busy... I can come up with a 1000 reasons to not attend church~~ when the children get older, when my life changes…. I like the old joke of the man who didn’t want to get up to go to church. His mother came and said it’s time to get up. But I’m tired. It’s just no fun, no one likes me… finally, in exasperation the mother said, “But you’re the pastor.” I need to go inspect my field, my oxen, I was just married and we are getting our life together… It is easy to convince ourselves we are fully committed to Jesus Christ, we just don’t have time for the disciplines of faith…. In my opinion, people who try to half way follow Christ are more difficult to reach for Christ than those who outright reject Him. Luke 14:24 is sobering. READ. The implicit message: do not make excuses. easy to say “tomorrow” I will change my ways, but somehow tomorrow never comes….
Excuses is one way people put off following Christ with enthusiasm. The other: they don’t think they are worthy. I think this is a much bigger problem in the Christian community than we realize. It’s a hidden fear that stymies many people. I may not be Catholic, but it is amazing how many people want to confess their sins and share their fears with me.
After the invited guests turn down the request, the Master tells his servants to go to the streets and extend the invitation to “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21). Many of you will remember Patrick. He used to sleep outside in our Christmas manger. As a community we did our best to befriend him and provide food. He did not like coming inside. When I read this scripture I think of Patrick, inviting him in on Potluck…most of the time he ate outside….once in a while we got him into the kitchen…
This scripture is not about a banquet. The banquet is a symbol for the Kingdom, the reign of Christ. Some folks do not feel worthy of Christ. Their sin is too great. Their lives are a mess. Spiritually they are like the blind, the lame, the dirty, the messy that are not normally high on the guest list of the rich man’s banquet. But Christ is not like a typical rich man. Christ invites us in.
It is striking, everyone who accepts the invitation could come up with a valid reason for not going to the banquet. The poor man could say, “I don’t have anything to wear.” The crippled man could say, “I can’t get anyone to carry me.” The blind could say, “I can’t see to find my way.” The lame could say, “It hurts me too much to walk.” But they all accepted the offer because the servant convinced them. There are many in our society who don’t feel welcome….in the name of Jesus Christ, let’s welcome them.
Luke is attempting to overcome the 2nd generation problem of people who lack enthusiasm for Christ, people who did not see/experience what the first generation saw, yet Christ wants their heart too. Some make excuses and keep their distance from Christ, other’s are spiritually poor, crippled and don’t feel worthy. There song could be the words of the hymn, Pass Me Not: “Pass me not O gentle savior, hear my humble cry, while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.” That is the song of a 2nd generation Christian, the person who sees other with incredible faith they want for themselves but they don’t feel worthy. These folks (me and you?) need an invitation, people to not give up, to go where they are….
The servant who went to those who felt unworthy didn’t run a background check on the people he invited to the feast. He didn’t get a promise they would behave and show proper manners at the dinner table. The invitation was based entirely on the host. Anyone is welcome to the feast of the Lord because he accepts YOU.
Luke 14:22 ends with the words, “There is still more room.” I think even if the first people on the guest list had not made excuses and accepted the invitation to the feast, the servants would have been sent out anyways and compelled people to come. “There was still room.” As long as we are alive on this earth, there is always more room at the table. The message of this story: Jesus Christ thinks you are something. You are worthy of joining him at the great fest. It’s not based on what you think, but what he thinks!
The truth is 2nd generation Christians don’t exist. As the saying goes, “God has no grandchildren, only children.” Faith is not passed on to the next generation. Parents influence, encourage, model the faith, but each person must make their own decision. Every person needs a first hand experience and must make a personal commitment. Every person needs to find the joy, the enthusiasm of knowing Christ directly. The day of excuse making is over. And since Christ accepts you as you are, your sense of unworthiness is not enough to hold you back.
The invitation has been sent. It’s time to enter the Kingdom, celebrating with enthusiasm. Jesus Christ throws the best party of all. Amen.