258. Second Sunday after Trinity. I.

Lord, give us grace to follow thy heavenly call. Amen.

Gospel Lesson, Luke 14, 16-24. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

“All things are now ready”; we have only to come. Everything needful for our salvation is prepared; we are only to receive it, and give thanks to God. The Savior is come, the sacrifice is slain, the blood has been carried to the altar, atonement has been made for sin, and eternal righteousness has been provided. And all this is offered and given to us in the word of God and in the sacraments. The Lord himself is there with his death and his life, his righteousness and his love. The Spirit is come, and has arranged the ministration of the gifts of life in God’s household, keeps the house supplied with an abundance of the heavenly good things, and invites all with the urgent call of grace. He who accepts the invitation receives righteousness, peace and joy freely. Here is exactly what we need, that for which the heart hungers and thirsts. Here is fellowship with the only true God; here is holiness, and love, and liberty; here is comfort, and joy, and strength; here is the fountain of life, and here is the spring of salvation. Our paradise could not forever be lost. There must some­where be a haven of rest for the troubled human soul. Here, in the church of Christ, here at the great supper, is the home of the soul. Here is the remedy against sin and death; here life and salvation may be found. “Come; for all things are now ready.”

They who were bidden first, however, made light of it. The Jews refused to believe in Christ. They wanted a worldly Savior; and so they rejected Jesus, with the gifts of the Spirit and the life eternal. God then sent the call of grace to us gentiles; but many of us do as did the Jews. They mind the earthly, and make light of the heavenly things; seek their happiness in the world, in fields and oxen, or in merchandise and money; in luxury and sensual pleasures, or in sci­ence and art. But he who chooses these things, and disdains the king­dom of heaven, loses both. Let us learn wisdom of the Spirit of God, and choose that good part, which shall not be taken away from us. Follow the call of God, give him your heart, repent, and believe in Jesus, accept his grace, and let the Holy Ghost pour out the love of God in your soul; then the heart is set free from the world; you no longer sacrifice it to the idols, and you are no longer the slave of cor­ruptible things. For he who finds the treasure of heaven sells all things in order to possess this pearl. He who knows Jesus loves him of his innermost heart, and belongs to him with life and soul and all that he has. In return he receives all things as new and precious gifts from the heavenly Father’s hand; and as the child of this Father he owns the bodily and spiritual, the earthly and heavenly things. Your secular affairs need not in any way shut you out from the kingdom of heaven; quite the reverse. It is the devil who thus turns everything upside down. When your work or business does not leave you time to turn to the Lord, this is as foolish and meaningless as though a poor man had no time to accept a valuable inheritance, because his time was fully occupied in begging and consorting with drunkards. — All things are ready; God sends us an earnest invitation, and gives us strength to accept it. None who stays away, and is lost, has any excuse. — And at all events, the house of the Lord shall be filled. If you will not take your place, he shall find another to fill it; and then there shall be no room for you.

Lord, draw us to thee, and give us part in the kingdom of heaven. Lord, thou knowest what power the things of this world have to stand in our way, and how easily we are deceived. Have mercy, and help us; help us to obey the call, and do not abandon us. Turn thou us, and we shall be turned; save us, and we shall be saved. Amen.

God calling yet!—and shall I give
No heed, but still in bondage live?
I wait, but he does not forsake;
He calls me still: — my heart, awake!

Ah, yield him all: in him confide:
Where but with him doth peace abide?
Break loose, let earthly bonds be riven,
And let the spirit rise to heaven!

259. Second Sunday after Trinity. II.

Help us, O God, to give heed to thy word concerning love. Amen.

Epistle Lesson, I John 3, 13-18. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whoso­ever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

“We know that we have passed from death unto life.” Is there anything better which we could have done? We were the captives of death; this is now a thing of the past, and we have eternal life. My heart shouts with joy! Death is the greatest of evils; life is the high­est good. Death is something most terrible, which I hate and dread with my innermost soul; while life is something most beautiful, on which my deepest desire is fixed, — and now I have passed from death unto life. What a blessed change it is! We know that this is true, says Saint John. He here teaches that God wants us to be sure of our new birth. It is the will of our heavenly Father that we shall be of good cheer, enjoy the life of love, and become rich in deeds of charity; but then we must know of a certainty that we are the children of life. He who feels uncertainty on this point is weak and vacillating, minds the things of the world, and is not willing to stake all on the Lord. — How, then, may we know that we are born of God? The answer is: Because we love the brethren. True life is love. It is love which is poured out in the hearts of the faithful; and they love that which God loves. He so loved us that his only begotten Son died for us. But in giving his life for us he gave it to us; and whosoever believes in him receives this life. We then love all men; but we find delight in the holy brethren, and are one with them in God. The hearts of the Christians are united in the love of Christ. If you have this brotherly spirit, you surely are one of the children of life. The natural man, who is dead in sin, may love his own, — in so far as this can be called love; — he may love his own kin, of those of like mind with himself; for this is to love one’s self. But to love all men, with willing heart to do good to one’s enemies, to pray for them, and bless them of one’s innermost soul, and to love the children of God for the reason that they are the children of God, to love them because they love Jesus; in short, to “love the brethren,” this is something which none can do, except he be born of God. — Now, if this love have be­gun in you, then do you practice it; and it shall increase, and with it your cheerfulness and peace shall increase also. Should hate and anger still stir in your soul, overcome them with prayer and the word of God, with the body and blood of Jesus; with intercession for your enemies, and with deeds of kindness toward them. Your heavenly Father will help you to do this. When you feel urged to do good, do not postpone it; follow the promptings of love, deny your indolent flesh, and live the life of the Spirit. Thus you make your sonship sure.

Alas, we poor fools; we boast of our knowledge; but where is our love? Our speech is fair, but our hearts are cold. Woe be to us, if death reign in us after all!

O thou God, who art rich in love, give us this most blessed gift of all, that we love one another. Thou who didst give us this gift in thy Son, pour it out in our hearts, that we practice it in our conduct, and that thy Spirit may give us the assur­ance that we have passed from death to life. Amen.

Whatever, Lord, we lend to thee,
Repaid a thousand fold will be;
Then gladly will we give to thee
Who givest all,—

To thee, from whom we all derive
Our life, our gifts, our power to give;
Oh, may we ever with thee live,
Who givest all!

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