A sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
Isaiah and Jesus are using the image of a feast and banquet to talk about the Kingdom of Heaven or God’s action in the world. Isaiah describes the ‘wonderful things’ of God: a refuge for the poor, the needy and the distressed. Isaiah matches up the Kingdom of Heaven with people’s experience of suffering.
I meet people who are deep in financial debt. Tens of thousands of pounds of debt. Debt brings debt, once the spiral starts it continues. But financial debt is not sin, the ten commandments do not say: “Thou shall not have an overdraft”, this was never one of God’s commandments… and yet financial debt seems to be something that causes people embarrassment. The devil whispers in our ears, “you have failed where others have succeeded”, but God says, “blessed are the poor”. What do we really believe, are the poor blessed? Are those in debt blessed? Or are they only blessed when they stop being poor when the debt is cleared? Who are we listening to? God declared “Blessed are the poor.”
I meet people who are poor, in need and distressed. But you are not surprised at this because you meet people who are poor, in need, and distressed. Indeed, you are not surprised to learn that among us there are people who are poor, in need and distressed.
When Jesus talked about who was blessed, he talked about those who are poor, those in need and those who are distressed. Jesus recalls the words of Isaiah and affirms them. So, remembering that Jesus is the Son of God in the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, One God: God Almighty… it is God who says, “blessed are… the poor, the needy and the distressed”.
If the Kingdom of Heaven is like a banquet and everyone is invited, then the poor the needy and the distressed are among those who are invited. More than that, Jesus explicitly invites them. How do you think it feel to be invited to the Wedding Banquet of God if you are poor, needy and distressed, when the invitation says, “To: the poor, the needy and the distressed” you will be looked after. Where every tear will be wiped away. Where the death shroud covering creation is removed. Can you imagine the joy, the release of emotion, the tears of relief to know that God loves you, and counts you as worthy and important enough to invite to the Kingdom of Heaven’s wedding banquet? I emotionally well up just thinking about the people I know who would cry tears of joy to learn this good news.
We are, as a church thinking about growth. The growth we’re thinking about is in our relationship with God and in the extent to which the people we meet know about God. Who do you think the good news of Jesus is going to appeal to the most? Imagine the emotional reaction to the invitation: who is most likely to respond to the Good News Jesus brings? Those who respond will be drawn to us here in church and God lays upon us, his servants, the responsibility of welcoming all his children to his feast.
Will we see those who walk through our doors as an answer to prayer? More than that, are we able to seek out the poor, needy and distressed and offer them the good news? As we understand God and the good news more – we will become more invitational and more welcoming. We cannot do this out of selfish ambition or greed. We can’t invite people to make ourselves look better – we don’t have the strength to do that… the strength to love comes from God and it is the strength of God’s love and invitation which will help us grow in every way.
Jesus said, blessed are the poor the needy and the distressed.