Sunday, September 12, 2010

What God Has for Dinner

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 12, 2010
Luke 15:1-10

You really can’t get a handle on God. The only way we know about Him is that He has made Himself known to us. God, as He makes Himself known to us in His Word, is spirit. He doesn’t have flesh and blood as you and I have. Except, He has become as one of us. He is above us and yet has come down below. He is almighty and yet laid aside His glory to become a man, just as you and I are men and women, human beings.

God doesn’t need anything. He has everything. Everything has come from Him. We, on the other hand, need a lot. There’s a lot that goes into our very survival. We need air, water, sleep, food. There’s no need to ask what God needs, He needs nothing. There’s every reason to ask what we need, we need everything.

Everyone has an opinion on God. Whether they’re atheists, people of different religions, or people of different denominations in Christianity, everyone has a take on God. They think He’s this way or that. They think He’s benevolent or taking us for a ride. They wonder what He’s up to or if He’s around at all. They believe He’s a loving God or doesn’t even care about us.

The thing they all have in common is that they all want to get a handle on Him. Whether they believe in Him or not, like Him or not, understand Him or not, trust in Him or not, they all want to be able to say, This is who God is, I have Him all figured out. And if I don’t understand something about Him, then I should be able to. Our natural inclination is frustration at not being able to have a handle on Him.

But God is God. We don’t know Him except that He has made Himself known to us. He is above us, apart from us, unable to be put in a box. The thing about God, though, is that He becomes a man. He needs air, food, water, sleep. And if we thought we couldn’t get a handle on Him as the Almighty Lord what do we do with Him when He’s a baby resting in His mother’s arms? Or eating a meal with ordinary people like you and me? Is this the kind of God that is supposed to help us understand Him better? Do we now have a better way of relating to Him?

Everybody has a different take on God, everybody’s trying to get a handle on Him, and now we’re not only trying to deal with a God who is up there and above us, but a God who actually comes down here and becomes as one of us. What do we do with that? Normally, if you were talking about God, you wouldn’t be asking questions like, What does God need? Where does God go when He needs some peace and quiet? What does God have for dinner? He doesn’t need to eat, doesn’t need food, and for that matter, He’s God, He’s got everything—He has no needs.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us of a need He has that we all share. Every day around dinner time, guess what Jesus did? He ate dinner. Yes, it’s pretty amazing that He tells us that He’s like that shepherd who leaves the whole flock to find the one so that he’s no longer lost. It is definitely great that He’s like that woman who turns her house upside down so that she can find that one lost coin and that when we realize that we’re like that coin, we have an amazing God.

But those stories He told weren’t just so that we could get a better idea of what kind of God we have. They were told to tell us who He is. He’s not just God—up there, saving us, seeking us, doing everything in His power to rescue us. He’s also God who is down here because He comes down here. He’s above us and yet eats with us. He has everything and yet shares a meal with us. What does God have for dinner is actually not that bad of a question after all. When it was time for dinner He ate what was served. He, though God, ate actual food, because He became an actual flesh and blood person.

But God didn’t do this just to say, Hey, I’m really like you after all. You can trust Me. You can know that you can relate to Me because I became like you. The point of Jesus becoming a man wasn’t just so that He could be like us. He could have gotten a TV dinner every night and ate by Himself. But He didn’t. He ate among people. With them. He came down to us to be in solidarity with us. God up there can tell us He loves us but that ends up being only so much words. God down here, among us, with us, having dinner with us, means that He is in fellowship with us, He is in a relationship with us, He wants to be with us. It’s not just what God has for dinner, it’s that He has dinner with us.

The reason it’s so remarkable that God will go to any lengths to reach the one lost sheep, to search for the one lost coin, is that this is the God who doesn’t just become a man for the sake of identifying with us but for the very sake of us. Jesus doesn’t just eat food, and He doesn’t just eat with certain people, He eats with sinners. This was the trouble the religious leaders had with Him. If He’s really God what kind of a god is He really? If He’s God, and therefore holy, He wouldn’t be defiling Himself by eating with sinners. But that’s exactly what the holy God does. He eats with sinners. He communes with them, identifies with them, reaches out to them, seeks them where they’re at. He joins in solidarity with them.

This is sinners. Not the big shots. Not the ones who are worthy. Not the ones who are the really strong Christians. The ones we would say Jesus has no business dealing with, let alone having a nice meal with them. You can’t get a handle on a God like this because you will never be able to comprehend a God who says “Be holy as I am holy” and then asks you to pass the salt as He receives you into His Kingdom and dines with you. No meal with Jesus is just a meal. What God has for dinner is not just food but a feast. What God desires to share with you is not just some enjoyable moments around the dinner table but the very Marriage Feast of the Lamb. That eternal and glorious feast that celebrates the Lamb who was slain. The Lamb who took upon Himself fallen humanity’s sin and sinfulness and guilt and attempts at boxing Him in. The Lamb who is one with the Father and yet a man in every respect that we are except without sin. A man who is blameless and yet was imputed with the unrighteousness of our fallen nature.

When you are Baptized you are a new creation. You are a child of God. You are in solidarity with Christ, the living God. You are promised a mansion in the eternal glory of heaven. And as long as you draw breath in this life you are a sinner. But don’t ever think that takes away from God’s love for you, from the promises of new and eternal life, from the fact that you are a new creation. It’s just the opposite. It shows you the greatest truth of all. You are the one Jesus receives and eats with. It was a horrifying fact to the religious leaders that Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. It is the greatest Gospel for you. He receives you. And when He has dinner, it’s not just a meal, it’s a feast. You are welcome at His table. You are fed at His eternal banquet.

There’s no need to get a handle on God. No matter how hard you try, you wouldn’t be able to. There’s no getting around the fact that God is God. He is above you and incomprehensible. What’s more, is that He is forever merciful and wants to dine with you at His feast. You can try to figure this out, mutter at what kind of god would do this, or simply rejoice that it is His eternal will and pleasure to welcome you to His eternal feast. Amen.


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