December 16, 2018

Sermon- Sunday of the Holy Forefathers 2018

Preacher:

PASTORAL SERMON
The Eleventh Sunday of Luke – Sunday of the Forefathers
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
December 16, 2018

During the period from December 11-14, the church commemorates the Holy
Forefathers of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today and next Sunday are the preparatory Sundays
for the birth of Christ. Next Sunday we will remember the ancestors of Christ in the reading
of our Lord’s genealogy. Today we commemorate the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets
and righteous men and women—the Holy Ancestors of our Christian faith. On both of these
Sundays we are reminded of how God worked great signs and wonders through special men
and women who responded to his call upon their lives. They were men and women with
devotion, anticipating the coming of the Messiah.

Who were these men and women? According to the hymns heard yesterday and today
we can hear the following names mentioned: First, persons of the earliest biblical period,
some of which include: Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, and Enoch. Second we hear of the
patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s twelve sons who were also known as the twelve
patriarchs. This is followed by women such as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah,
Esther, Ruth, Judith and others. Then come the prophets: Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Daniel, Zechariah, Malachi, down to the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist.
There are also special figures of the Old Testament that include: Melchezedek, Job, David
and others. Then there is the three young men—Shadrach, Mishak, and Abednego who were
rescued by God from Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. These men and women were all
known for their steadfast faith. Their lives reveal to us a lot about what it means to be
committed, to honor God and shun idolatry, to be honest and truthful. They are examples of
what it means to be righteous. They are our ancestors.’

All too often, we are inclined to dismiss these ancestors as irrelevant pre-Christian
Hebrews. The fact is they comprise an important part of our Christian heritage because their
lives were lived in a manner that was totally dependent upon knowing God as an ever present
reality. Their lives were not compartmentalized or secularized. They all lived with the very
same needs that we know, but their day to day choices were deeply rooted in a realization
that one’s life is not his own, and that our entire life is in the hand of God who is the Source
of every blessing, and that we live in a fleeting moment of this created world.

In today’s parable, the man who prepared the great banquet had invited many guests,
as was the custom, and then at the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who
had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready’
(verses 16-17).

The first invitation, the Fathers of the Church say, was the centuries-long preparation
of the Hebrew nation for the coming of the Messiah; the second was the Good News (the
Gospel) that He had come. The image of a banquet is a figure of the feast of God’s presence
among His people, both in the Kingdom on earth—in the Church, which finds its fullest
expression in the Eucharist—and in its fullness in the world to come.

In order to more fully understand the parable, it is important to understand that a
relationship exists between the host of the banquet and the invited guests. In fact, the initial
invitation implied this relationship.

We hear beginning with verse 18: And they all alike [one by one] (or “with one
consent”) began to make excuses.
The word “consent” in the verse implies that the excuses
were contrived; more accurately it means that the invited guests all-together, or all at once (in
unison) made excuses. They demonstrate identical selfish preoccupation with personal
matters that took precedence over everything. They could have arranged their affairs so that
they could respond to the Lord’s graciousness. Instead, they chose to not just decline from
attending, but gave excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see
it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my
way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t
come’
(verses 18-20).

All three rather contemptuously disregard the generosity of the host, who cares for
them and values their friendship. Their responses might be paraphrased, “Oh, I intended to
go, but something more important to me has come up.” The three excuses expressed in the
parable are meant to typify human concerns and priorities that, important as they may be in
daily life, are nothing in comparison to God’s love and care. The invitation and the response
illustrate man’s neglect of what is of infinitely greater value to him—salvation and life
eternal with God—than his earthly, perishable and temporal concerns.

We never enjoy obligations. Each of us would love to be a host. Where our
relationship to God is concerned, none of us should have a sense of obligation or a feeling of
having to do what we don’t really want to do. God does not intend to force any one of us to
do anything. But He really desires a relationship with us. One that He hopes we desire as
well.

The Jewish people had been prepared for a final invitation by the events of their own
history and by God’s speaking to them through the prophets. But since the prophet’s
message it did not offer any improvement upon what mattered to them, they rejected their
invitation. You may recall from the reading of the Gospel heard on Easter: He came to that
which was His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:11).

In the continuation of today’s Gospel lesson we are told that when the servant
reported these things, the owner of the house became very angry and ordered his servant to
‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the
blind and the lame’
(verse 21). The host began extending his invitation to outcasts: those in
the “streets and alleys of the city.” When the servant told him that this had been done and
that there was still room, he ordered him to go out to the roads and country lanes and make
them (compel them) to come in
that the house might be filled (verse 23). And so, we learn
from the parable that not only are those who were initially considered unworthy to be
accepted as guests, but also even the Gentiles (all people) must be compelled to accept His
invitation. The warning in verse 24—that not one of those who were invited will get a taste
of my banquet
—refers to the last judgment: those who have rejected God’s grace will have
no part in His Kingdom.

In conclusion, the Church does not give us this lesson from the Gospel in order that
we may despise the Jewish people for their rejection, but for our own instruction, so that we
may not fall into the same error. Christians are the new people of God, the New Israel, and
have learned that they must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew
6:33). We, however, can be guilty of the same rejection in many ways. We often place our
physical health before our spiritual health, worldly learning before the knowledge of God,
future material security before preparation for eternal life. And we, like the Jews of old,
fashion our righteousness to suit our priorities. There is perhaps no better way to summarize
this parable’s meaning for us than to remember that we too can be replaced.

The Gospel concludes with the verse with the commentary: Many are called but few
are chosen (Matthew 22:14).
Being the “chosen” is contingent upon our identification with
God by the sincerity of obedience. Everyone is called, however, not all respond in the same
way. The notion that God would discriminate and choose, or that He would favor a
particular race over another, is totally preposterous.

Hear the words of the Apostle to the Hebrews: We must pay more careful attention,
therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by
angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how
shall we escape, if we ignore such a great salvation?
(Hebrews 2:1-3).

In terms of today’s Gospel lesson, you and I can also very easily find excuses to avoid
our Lord’s banquet. Let us not ignore this sacred banquet prepared for us with excuses or
replace it with any earthly banquet. It would be easy for us to simply explain how the Jews
were those who denied Christ without seeing the ways that we could also deny Him as the
Lord of our life.

Prayer
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the
fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, grant us courage in obedience that we may truly be
the inheritors and heirs of your Kingdom. Keep us ever in your watchful care and protect us
from the Evil One, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. A-men.

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