Enjoy the Present Moment at the Gospel Feast
Our sermon is on the gospel feast banquet parable in Luke 14:15-23. It gives us the invitation to remember to enjoy the present moment, for we have been invited to the great feast at God’s table. Today we come to the joyful conclusion of our sermon series, Don’t Just Go Through It, Grow Through It! We’ve applied the rich agricultural metaphors in Jesus’s teaching to our times to find how we can grow spiritually. We’ve talked about soil and seed and fertilizer and weeds and waiting for the due season and pruning and labor and harvest and distribution of food. And now finally the rewards for it all, the great banquet.
The Reward in Life
Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a great feast, a banquet thrown by God. When he talked about the kingdom, he was talking about heaven, yes, but more so, about life on earth. Remember he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
What he wants us to enjoy the present moment in this life. We are at the feast of life, the party, the good stuff of life, to participate in the fullness of what we have been working toward.
Jesus frequently used the metaphor and image of a great feast to communicate how we are to engage with God. For example, he called himself the good shepherd. Remember the 23rd Psalm. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Last week we talked about the superabundance of the feedings that resulted in the 12 leftover baskets. He compared God to the father who upon the return of the prodigal son says, “Kill the fatted calf. Let’s have a feast!” His first miracle was to keep a wedding party going by turning water into wine. When he walked by one of the most reviled people in a city, he invited himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ house. There is food and eating everywhere in Jesus’ teachings. That’s why we have donuts and food at the church all the time.
Can you enjoy the present moment when there is pain?
The images Jesus used were joyful, celebratory. He was talking to people going through hard times. And told them that there is still goodness in life. There is still joy to be found. Let’s share and feast and enjoy each other, enjoy the present, enjoy the goodness of God’s earth, enjoy food and drink.
Yes, there is a time for mourning, for solemnity, for feeling the weight of the human experience and all the horrible things people do with their free will. But we are Easter people. At its heart, our faith is about joy, about this defiance to
That means you can celebrate even in the midst of it all. That’s what worship is, that’s what church should remind us of.
No Gloomy Religion
Just think of this image–this great party where everyone is invited. Jesus had no use for gloomy religion. People used to accuse him of having too good of a time eating and drinking with the disciples and prostitutes and degenerates. He didn’t care that they made fun of him. He said this is what it’s about. Enjoy goodness, enjoy life, enjoy each other, enjoy the fruits of this earth.
So much of his ministry was spent in protest against the very things that so many people think of when they think about Christianity. For example, some of the words they associate with us are: Moralistic, purity police. Guilt. Shame. Judgmentalism. Obligation. Taking one’s self too seriously. I always think about the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, monks chanting Latin hitting themselves in the head with boards. That’s not the stuff of the kingdom that Jesus came to usher in.
One Excuse Away from Losing Out
Jesus said the kingdom is like a party where the host invites people but they made excuses. They were so consumed with their property and their possessions and trying to produce more wealth that they just couldn’t pull themselves away to enjoy.
One by one, however, they all began to make excuses he says. Those who had much were preoccupied with themselves that they sent their regrets, they stayed at home. What’s your excuse? Why aren’t you enjoying the things of God to their fullest? Are you so caught up with trying to do more, make more, protect what you’ve got that you refuse to enter into the joy God has for you?
God doesn’t force anyone into the party, but will allow you to be just as miserable as you want to be. You can make excuses, but please know this God isn’t interested in you being miserable. As a result, we are freed up for joy.
I know you’ve got problems. You worry and you are all too aware you haven’t lived perfectly. Perhaps you feel like you are an imposter or at the fringes of faith. You are busy. But none of that matters to God. God wants you in all your imperfect glory—the relationship, to bring you peace and strength, to help make things better.
No Excuses to Keep You from Joy in the Present Moment
Jesus said I came that you might have life and live it abundantly. In other words, every moment of every day you are invited to taste the fulness of God’s love and grace in this world.
The joy, however, isn’t just for after you die, though joy is in the afterlife. This is about what we can experience in the here and now. Enjoy the present moment.
In other words, we are all just one excuse away from distancing ourselves from the faith, the church, the source that can help us feel energized, connected. That’s why it’s so important to stay connected even when it’s a challenge. You make it a habit so that it is just built-in and there when you need it.
You’re Invited despite it All
In the parable after the A-listers refused to come, the man said, go out and invite the lame and the blind. Go out and invite the people in the streets, the people struggling to get by. In other words, people with problems. What that means is that you don’t have to wait until your life is perfect to experience the joy. You don’t have to be morally perfect, or some super-holy saint who has it all figured out. You are invited just as you are, right now. Therefore, whoever you are, and wherever you are in life’s journey the table has been prepared for you.
Similarly, there is an invitation, God has sent to you. All you have to do is show up. Have you ever shown up at a party that you didn’t want to go to but you went anyway and by the time you got home you said, “O man, am I glad I went?”
Show up! Don’t forget to show up for life!
It’s a Feast. Not Dining Alone in Your Car
Everyone comes together for this great feast. It is a mishmash of people. Therefore, no one gets to feel smug and superior to anyone else. The image of the feast is the great equalizer. And as we pray, “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” it is on us to put some feet to our prayers and do our part to make it happen, to embrace that equality, to make it happen in our society in our relationships with each other.
Think about the best meal you’ve ever had. I’m guessing you weren’t alone when you ate it.
I served a church where we had a big fundraiser and brought in one of the most celebrated chefs around. His specialty was pork chops. People made reservations and would stand in line for hours to taste them. As he grilled chops for our event, I asked him about his secret to making them so tasty. He said, “You are going to think I’m kidding, but what makes them so good is the expectation, the sharing–look at all these sides, people made with love and the celebration that is going on right here. The result is people who are glad to be alive, strangers meeting, laughing, connecting, enjoying each other. Thus, my little seasoning isn’t that much, the magic is in the people.”
Experience the Magic of Community
That’s the magic, the miracle, the joy. We each do our part the best that we can. We connect and learn to forgive and accept differences. Thus, we support each other, we can even trust that we are somehow in connection with those who have gone on ahead into the next life ahead of us. Consequently, we find our lives filled with joy.
That is to say, the banquet is the symbol of so much that Jesus talked about. You’ve been invited. Make it a priority. Put aside your excuses and join us. Now, let’s eat. As the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Amen.
The Gospel Feast presented to Bay Shore Community Congregational Church (UCC) in Long Beach, California.
Luke 14:15-23, July 12, 2020