Second Sunday after Trinity 1855
Some bidden guests said to the king's servants, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, therefore I cannot come. " Luke 14: 19
We hear from these words what excuses some of the sorrowless have, of why they do not want to make true penitence so that they would become partakers of God's grace. They are so firmly attached to the world, that the Spirit of God is not able to tear their hearts loose from the world. They love their oxen more than God. And although the sorrowless say, "We do not keep our oxen as a god," nevertheless it appears from all aspects of the matter, that they do keep these natural things as gods, since they love them so much that because of them they cannot make true penitence and repentance. The sorrowless think and fear that the natural work will cease if they go to church or school several times. The sorrowless people do not think that they spend more time in dancing, card playing, liquor drinking, and other vain pastimes than in church and school. He does not think that he spends more on finery and beauty than what the awakened give to the schools. If, therefore, some servant of God calls him back from the road to destruction, and encourages him to a better lot and life, that he would become a partaker of God's grace and of that blessedness which God has promised to the believing ones, then he says, "I have bought five yoke of oxen and therefore I cannot come." Another said, "I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come." Here the Saviour has placed the excuses of the sorrowless before their eyes. Some think they will become poor through Christianity, and some fear that they will not get a wife if they would begin to become too delirious. So also sorrowless girls fear that they will not get a husband if they become penitent. They must then give up their finery and adultery if they would begin to sincerely become penitent and make repentance. And just because of this matter many have ceased from being penitent and have fallen from grace. Because of adultery and finery many have ceased to follow the sorrowful disciples of Jesus, and through that the name of Christ has been blasphemed among the heathens. Now truly a bid has come to all, that the heavenly supper is ready, but those bidden guests have so many excuses, they have so much to do with the world, they have no time. Some have oxen and horses in mind, some have marriage on the mind, some have finery on the mind and in the heart, therefore they postpone their penitence from year to year and from day to day. Finally death comes to squeeze their hearts, and Just then their eyes are opened to see on one side the foolishness of the world which they have loved, and on the other side eternity opens before their eyes. Then they would take back those precious moments of grace, which they have wasted here in this world in vanity of the world, drinking, lewdness and pleasure, but those moments of grace will come back no more. And then they will begin to condemn themselves. They will begin to cry out to the mountains, "Fall on us," and to the hills, "Cover us." All of the people in this congregation know what an unfortunate death has come to those who have despised that heavenly voice, which has cried out repentance to the hardened ones. All mortal ones have had to confess the Christianity to be right, which they formerly in their blindness have judged to be wrong. Not one of those mortal ones who have left the world in these recent years has been able to testify that this Christianity is wrong, but they are many who have had to condemn themselves because they have not taken heed of what a dangerous condition they were in, how blind they have been, who have fought against this Christianity. Take heed now of the cry of repentance, you blind, halt, and maimed, you deaf and dumb. Who knows how long this time of grace will last? Soon that time will come that all despisers, all scoffers, all opposers, all enemies of the cross of Jesus can cry out, and no one will answer; they can knock and no one will open; they can howl and the walls of the abyss will answer. But may that great Keeper of the Supper, who has called many, although few have come to that great Supper, open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, lead the halt, carry the maimed and feed the poor, that they too would reach that great Supper before the doors will be closed. Hear Thou Keeper of the great Supper, the sighs of the halt, blind, and maimed ones. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 14: 16-24
According to our holy gospel we must, through God's grace, consider why the bidden guests do not want to come to the wedding.
The first consideration: Why does the tiller of the ground not want to come to the wedding? The second consideration: Why do the cattlemen not want to come to the wedding? The third consideration: Why do the marrying men not want to come to the wedding? Our hope is that although the great guests do not want to come, the poor, the halt, the blind, the maimed nevertheless come, no matter how slowly they travel.
The first consideration: Why do the tillers of the ground not want to come to the wedding? The first said, "I have bought a piece of ground, I pray thee have me excused." In this parable the Saviour has shown that the excuses of the sorrowless are all the natural tasks, through which sin is committed, and all those matters to which he is attached with his heart. A piece of ground is of itself allowable, but it becomes dangerous to his soul, since he thereby does not labor in the field of God. He seeds the natural field, but the heavenly field remains unseeded. This happens often in that land where the field is man's best possession. The Jewish grainmen gather the harvest grain for a lean year, as they say, but raise the price of the grain so high that the poor are not able to buy it. How would such till that heavenly field, who put both the strength of the body and soul upon the natural living and are not able to raise their thoughts or lift up their hearts to some higher intention. They dig the earth with their fingernails and they think they will find a treasure trove there, but when it comes to light, it is nothing more than a charcoal pit. If they would only till the ground, but they spoil the ground, they spoil God's grain, that it is no longer fit for food for the swine. Do dogs lap up liquor? Do swine eat devil's dung? Not one creature is so lewd and filthy as man, who was in the beginning created in the image of God. He has now changed into a spiritual swine and is rather like the devil than like God. His countenance has changed like Cain's countenance, ugly and awful. And with such a countenance he now wants to come before the face of God and the angels, but all unrepentant and unconverted ones will be cast out. Since, in the time of grace, they are called to true penitence and repentance, they give their excuses: "I have bought a piece of ground and I must needs go and see it."
The second consideration: And another said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen and I go to prove them." Here now, all the sorrowless can now hear why they despise God's merciful calling to repentance. They say, "I have bought five yoke of oxen." Although the sorrowless say, "They are not in the heart, we do not keep the oxen as gods," but it sounds now from the Saviour's own mouth that the oxen and horses are suitable to the slaves of the world for gods, as the pagans in Egypt kept the ox as a god and served it, in the same manner as the children of Israel made a golden calf in the wilderness. The daughters were certainly ready to give their rings to Aaron. They were certainly ready to jerk off the earrings from their ears when they heard that from them would be made a god. But when they should have given a quarter for the school or for the poor, then they are lacking in every respect. Not only are the oxen and horses the sorrowless people's gods, but also fancy clothes, beautiful homes, painted sleighs and whatever might be dear and precious to them. Luther says that a person's god is that which he loves the most and keeps to be his possession. The rich love their possessions and the poor their rags. It is a terrible and pitiable matter, that the enemy has so imprisoned his slaves and wound his web that it is impossible to tear oneself loose, no matter what. When the servants of God encourage the sorrowless to penitence, they answer, "There's no time, there's no chance. I must live in the world, I must till the ground, I have bought a piece of ground, I have bought five yoke of oxen, I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come." Are these excuses of the sorrowless such a necessity that because of them they cannot come to the wedding? Yes, they are, in the minds of the sorrowless people, so necessary and so imperative, that the slaves of the world cannot free themselves of them. They cannot be without them no matter what would be. Although he knows that the ox cannot help him in eternity, all the same he is fastened to them and must go to destruction because of them. No matter what happens to the soul, the body must live. The earth and the dirt must be dug. The possessions of the world trust be gathered, beautiful clothes must be prepared, oxen and horses must be bought. And this is such a great hindrance to the sorrowless that because of them they cannot have concern over their souls. The word of God is despised, and because of them the worship of God is forgotten. All that pertains to repentance and upbuilding of the soul is neglected because of the natural things and being busy. And just then when death comes, those imperishable possessions which are needed in eternity are dug for. This sorrowless life is so awful and terrible before God, that because of this ungodly life the Son of God began to tremble and shudder with horror. But that blind wretch cannot see that he is so terrible, but he thinks that others are no better than he.
The third consideration: Why the marrying men do not attain a state of penitence If the buyers of land do not care to be saved, and the cattle men have such excuses that they cannot attain a state of penitence, then surely the marrying men have an even greater excuse, for those former ones had diligence, and love of the world was so great, that they could not separate themselves from them, but the marrying man has lewdness and pleasure so strong that he cannot attain a state of penitence at all This is the greatest hindrance for the youth. First, they dress themselves beautifully and attractively to the world. Finally they begin to commit adultery and, as in Noah's time, began to marry. Women were taken and given to the men, so also in the time of the Son of Man. And if they married like people, but some begin from the wrong end: they marry like animals in the mating season, and after that the other devils come to keep the wedding. Some do not enter into matrimony, but commit adultery, and such beautiful beings are now in the world, who bear the name of a Christian: and commit adultery. The meek pagans, before times in the world, have rebuked those who commit adultery, but now no one else rebukes except the awakened ones and Christians. And because of that rebuking, they are hated and persecuted. Now in Christendom they live like the Turks, and the pagans live according to that faith and doctrine in which they have been taught and brought up. But they, who have been baptized in Christ, do not even begin to live according to that doctrine which they have been taught, but they live just contrary to the Word of God. They are godly in the church and ungodly behind the church, they are meek in the church and whore behind the church, they bless in the church and curse behind the church, they drink from the Lord's cup and the devil's cup on the same day, and that they do from year to year and from day to day. And when death comes and the eyes are opened, then they see what road they are on. Surely then distress comes. They call for a pastor to absolve themselves. Then they would surely wish that the Christians, whom they have formerly mocked and hated, would come to talk to them. Then the foolish virgins begin to beg of the wise and say, "Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out," but they have nothing to give, since they lie together. Then the sorrowless begin to pray to the awakened, that they would forgive them their foolishness, and the grace thieves pray to the Christians that they would pray for them, but the time of grace is ended, the sun of grace is setting, the life cord is breaking; soon the life will leave, and then there is no more time of penitence, but they must go into eternity and there they can ragret eternally. Now you have heard what the best excuses of the sorrowless are. They are fields, oxen, and women. The tillers of the ground cannot bear to leave their fields and come to the heavenly wedding. The cattlemen cannot bear to leave their oxen and come to the wedding, for the oxen are dearer to them than the kingdom of heaven. The marrying men do not come to the wedding, for they must commit adultery first before they go to destruction, so they would not be left without a share in all the joy and the pleasures. Therefore no others come to the heavenly wedding than the poor, the halt, the blind and the maimed. What a poor group of wedding guests the King of heaven has! Into such a group an honorable peasant does not dare to come, let alone a lord of the world, not at all. Therefore the King of Heaven becomes well blasphemed because of that poor and despised group of wedding guests which are there. It is altogether different with the prince of the world, who has wedding guests like ashes, namely the best tillers of the field which are in the world, and the best cattlemen which are found in the world, the best marrying men which can be found in the world, namely the fine and the beautiful men and women in serge clothing, silk kerchiefs, gold rings, gold earrings, gold hearts. There they drink, there they curse, and there they dance and there they laugh and blaspheme the poor wedding group of God, who are the halt, the blind, and the maimed, the deaf and mute, the needy and poor. And these blind, halt, and maimed, which are so greatly despised, can sit in the wedding of the King of heaven and eat manna. They receive wine and milk without money and without price, and the bridesmaids can dance on the golden floor like deer and sing the new song to the King. Amen. Hallelujah!