Sermon for Sunday December 8, 2019
Passages: Isaiah 37:14-22, 33-38; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12; Luke 14:12-24
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!
As a child growing up, perhaps we can all remember in part, whenever there was a dinner party such as birthdays, baptisms, Thanksgiving or Christmas, everyone gathered together at someone’s home or perhaps at a restaurant hall. And when it came time to eat, separation ensued as the adults sat at the main table and the kids sat at a smaller and much less decorated children’s table. I remember always feeling frustrated whenever I had to sit at the kid’s table, even as a kid. Now this may have been in part to do with the fact that I was a “bigger” child and those tiny chairs were never comfortable or maybe because the ages range at the kid’s table from 3 to almost 17 years old. Regardless, sitting at the kid’s table was always somewhat lesser. Sure, we were surrounded by our friends and people our age sometimes. But all the good food, all the meat, rice and cheese boregs were on the big table within grasp. Yet, the kids table got individual plates. And if you went back for more food, more than once especially or took a lot of one thing, all of a sudden you could feel moms piercing eyes on the back of your neck staring. Needless to say, the adult’s table seemed so much better. Perhaps the adults were talking politics, religion or sports and you understood nothing – but being there was about rank and acceptance. You had graduated to the upper class; you are now “mature” and higher than the children at the kid’s table. Being invited to sit at the bigger table was about social statues, which brought with it a number of benefits, such as being closer to the better food, being invited to partake in the conversations, and all the splendors that came with that table. Perhaps some of us can remember the first time we were “allowed” or even “invited” to sit at the adults table. It was exciting; You were being called.
Today, Christ teaches us about being called to that adult table. In a parable, a man throws a banquet and invites several guests. Yet, when time comes to attend, each one of his guests finds an excuse not to. I’m busy, I have work, I got married, I’m tired, etc. And so at the time of the banquet, we read that not only do they refuse to go but because of their excuses their invitations are rescinded and given to others. They are no longer invited to partake – they can’t change their minds. Ultimately, the master tells his servants if those people aren’t going to attend, bring others “until my house is filled”. For the Jewish audience hearing this parable was very powerful. Because in Judaism, much like in any of the traditions of ancient people such as us Armenians, gathering around and being invited to partake of a dinner table was very sacred. You didn’t share a meal with everyone and anyone. You didn’t just invite random strangers. And by teaching this, Christ is likening the banquet table to the Holy Table, to the Altar of God. For Jews this was even more impactful, because the great banquet table was inaccessible. The Holy table in the Temple, on which the sacrifice was placed and offered to God was only for the high priests to enter and only once a year. So to be invited or called to gather, an invite to be open to every at such a table was beyond words. Yet, unfortunately the Jews listening did not understand that what Christ is teaching is in fact the invitation itself, to gather and to sit at the Holy Table. An invitation that was given to those listeners and an invitation that is given to each of us.
Before we became Christian, before our hearts, minds and souls were illuminated by the light of the knowledge of God, we were children. We sat at the kids table. As St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians – “when I was a child, I walked like a child, I spoke like a child…” We were not allowed to sit at the big table. But through Christ Jesus, we each are invited to the adult table, to sit and partake and be in arms reach of the great banquet before us – this great banquet on the Holy Altar.
Yet, now that we have been invited, how many of us finds an excuse? We’re too busy, we’re tired, Sunday is my one personal day, I don’t have time for Church etc. And when something horrible happens and we feel isolated or in the dark, what’s the first thing we often say? Where is God, why does He let bad things happen? My dears, where are we? We are the ones who have rejected His invitation. An open invitation to sit, to pray, to commune with God. To be in His Divine presence in good and in bad times. An invitation that is not limited to Sunday mornings from 10:30 to 1 or to certain Church hours. God’s invitation is constant and always and yes, it begins at this Holy Table from which we are personally called to eat from, but it then extends from here. If you’ve ever been to an Armenian, Greek, Italian, Jewish etc. dinner, food rarely stays around the table. Sharing of a meal extends from the table to the kitchen, the grill and to the rest of the house.
My dears, we live in the house of God. All creation is His domain and yet, we need to ask ourselves: 1. Are we making excuses when God invites us? and 2. If we have eaten from this Holy Table, where and how are we also taking that which we received to the rest of the world? Because my dears, if we are rejecting this invitation, there will come a time, when that invitation is rescinded, when we can no longer change our minds. And when that day comes, we will be cut off.
The images of Heaven and Hell can be described several ways and that is a topic for another time – much more deeper than merely a short sermon. But we see from the words of St. Paul today, those who reject God “These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified…” Depending on how this text is translated but suffering the punishment of eternal destruction, of Hades or hell is to be separated from the presence of the Lord.
My dears, God our Heavenly Father through Christ Jesus has invited us each to sit with Him, to Commune with Him from the Holy Table. What is our answer to His invitation? Through the Holy Spirit at our baptisms, we graduate from the children’s table and are called to sit at the adult table, where all of God’s Divine blessings are within our grasp. How will we answer His invitation? And having received and eaten of the life giving bread and wine – the body and blood of Christ Jesus – we are called to then go forth and be a light to the rest of this world so that this house of God may be filled. What is our answer to His call?
“Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” This, my dears is where the Kingdom of God begins, where we are invited to eat, to drink, to commune. Blessed are we and all humanity and creation by our Father in Heaven, now and always, forever and ever. Amen!